Tatiana Volosozhar, Maxim Trankov

Top Russian pairs skaters not fazed by impending Olympic pressure

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DETROIT — Russian figure skating isn’t what it once was: a nation responsible for 14 medals over three Olympics in the 1990s — and 12 straight pairs golds from 1964 and 2006 — may win one skating medal at the Sochi Olympics.

The best hope is the pairs team of Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov, the reigning World Champions who reset their short program and free skate world records at Skate America in Detroit last weekend.

The Moscow-based skaters are motivated and not deterred by the immense pressure.

“We only have pressure for each other — we push each other every day,” Trankov said. “I think it’s most important to keep working. You never know, especially with the Olympics, what will happen. You cannot plan these competitions. You just work and hope that everything will be OK.”

It wasn’t OK for the Russians at the 2010 Games, when — for the first time since 1960 — no Russian (or Soviet) pair landed on the podium. Trankov was eighth with a different partner and Volosozhar, then competing for Ukraine, was ninth. China’s Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won gold.

“There is an old tradition for pairs skating in our country,” Trankov said. “The last Olympics were won by the Chinese, but they skated like Soviet pairs skaters; they were good and were champions. The way they skated was kind of Russian. We just want to win back a medal for our country in pairs.”

Volosozhar and Trankov can win a second medal with the debut of the Olympic figure skating team event. Trankov thinks he and Volosozhar will do the short program and give another Russian pair the opportunity to sub in for the free skate.

Volosozhar explained further, noting the turnaround from the team event free skate (Feb. 8) to the start of the pairs competition (Feb. 11).

“We want to skate,” she said. “We just don’t understand why it is before the main competition. Because for pairs, we start way earlier. There are only two days between the team competition and the main one.”

Volosozhar and Trankov are confident that the Russian team can win a medal — if not gold — particularly if they have three-time Olympic medalist and 2006 Olympic champion Yevgeny Plushenko. The U.S., Canada and Japan are considered medal favorites along with Russia.

Plushenko has battled injuries since winning silver at the 2010 Olympics and hasn’t competed since January. Russia earned one men’s spot at the Games. Plushenko is thought to be a lock to receive it if he proves healthy.

“He said he wants to skate for the team event for sure,” Trankov said. “He will skate both programs, and we’re very to happy to have him on our team. It’s a really good chance for us to win a medal.”

The Russians have a respectable team in Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev in ice dancing, bronze medalists at the World Championships in March, and Adelina Sotnikova, ninth at Worlds at 16.

“Maybe not gold, but we for sure we can win a team medal,” Trankov said. “We have good girls and pairs and not bad ice dancers. I think we’ll do it. If Evgeni will help us, that will make it even better.”

And the eight years since a pairs gold in Russia?

“That helps us a little bit,” Volosozhar said. “Because we want to win a medal for Russia.”

Quad quandary for top U.S. men

Bradie Tennell ready to show off more hard work

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For the first time in several years, Bradie Tennell is healthy for a full season – and it’s paying dividends.

She seemingly came out of nowhere to win a surprise bronze medal at the Skate America Grand Prix over Thanksgiving weekend. Then, she won a gold medal at the national championships in January and was named to her first Olympic team.

She debuted in PyeongChang for Team USA in figure skating’s team event. She competed her short program – set to a South Korean film soundtrack – and earned a bronze medal already in PyeongChang. But just being at the Olympics an accomplishment in itself, she said.

Read the full preview at NBCOlympics.com

The ladies’ short program is Tuesday, February 20 in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com and the free skate is Thursday, February 22 in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com.

Winter Olympics late night: What to watch/stream

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It looks like the Olympics are getting into more serious territory, with four medal events being covered tonight as well as the last games in the round robin phase of the curling tournament.

Among those competing for a medal tonight are the Finnish women’s hockey team, who were decimated by the Americans in the semifinals. They take on OAR in the bronze medal game.

Elsewhere, the American men and women have one more game to sneak into the curling knockout rounds.

Continue reading below for full coverage of tonight’s events on NBCOlympics.com.


Curling

The round robin phase finally wraps up tonight, and there’ still work to be done for a handful of teams. For the men:

Men’s Tournament

USA vs. GBR Stream Live Here 12:05a.m. EST / 9:05p.m. PST

DEN vs. CAN Stream Live Here 12:05a.m. EST / 9:05p.m. PST

SWE vs. NOR Stream Live Here 12:05a.m. EST / 9:05p.m. PST

KOR vs. JPN Stream Live Here 12:05a.m. EST / 9:05p.m. PST

Women’s Tournament

SWE vs. USA Stream Live Here 6:05a.m. EST / 3:05a.m. PST

SUI vs. JPN Stream Live Here 6:05a.m. EST / 3:05a.m. PST

OAR vs. CAN Stream Live Here 6:05a.m. EST / 3:05a.m. PST

KOR vs. DEN Stream Live Here 6:05a.m. EST / 3:05a.m. PST

Hockey

Both of these teams were just minor obstacles for Canada and United States, but both performed well to get to the bronze medal game.

The fact that all four teams from the semifinals were all in Group A is a testament to just how tough that group really was. Aside from their losses against Canada and the USA, Finland have outscored opponents 12-3. They also took the first game against OAR 5-1.

Women’s Tournament

Bronze medal game: FIN vs. OAR Stream Live Here 2:40a.m. EST / 11:40p.m. PST

Cross-Country

Is there any doubting the Norwegians at this point? Johannes Klaebo clinched the gold for the men during the 4x10km relay, making it seem easy along the way. Not to mention, the man is a natural sprinter in cross-country and his presence will be a huge lift for the Norwegians.

On the women’s side, Norway will have some competition with Sweden as Charlotte Kalla and Stina Nilsson can both put up impressive times. The Americans have an outside chance at a minor medal, having a very respectable performance in the women’s individual sprints.

Men’s and Women’s Team Sprints Stream Live Here 3:00a.m. EST / 12:00a.m. PST

Speed Skating

The U.S. face a tall task ahead of them when they challenge Netherlands in the women’s team pursuit semifinals. Led by Heather Bergsma, the USA started out very strongly but ended up sliding into fourth place. A bronze medal is a more realistic expectation for this group.

Men’s and Women’s Team Pursuit Finals Stream Live Here 6:00a.m. EST / 3:00a.m. PST

Bobsled

Women’s bobsled concludes in the early hours on Wednesday with a battle between Germany and USA for the medals. Germany hold the gold and silver medal positions, while the USA holds the silver and fourth. Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs set the start record on their second run, but a sluggish middle section pushed them into second place. Only .07 seconds separate them from the German team with two runs remaining.

Nigeria and Jamaica will also be making their final two runs tonight.

Women’s Runs 3-4 Stream Live Here 6:40a.m. EST / 3:40a.m. PST

Figure Skating

The Olympic Ice crew recap the ladies’ short program.

Olympic Ice Post Show Stream Live Here 12:05a.m. EST / 9:05p.m. PST