Mikaela Shiffrin

Who are the skiers to watch at the Sochi Olympics?

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Lindsey Vonn‘s announcement that she will not compete in Sochi leaves a major Olympic void on the U.S. Ski Team.

However, a few standout U.S. skiers have excelled in her absence on the World Cup tour since she first crashed at the World Championships in February.

Here’s the quartet that will be the focus in Sochi Olympics, followed by international stars:

Mikaela Shiffrin

The 18-year-old is the reigning world champion and World Cup champion in the slalom. Yes, she’s been called the next Vonn, simply because they share the same nationality (and Colorado hometown of Vail) and sport.

But Shiffrin is very different from Vonn. She is a technical event skier — slalom and giant slalom — whereas Vonn is a speed queen — downhill and super-G.

Shiffrin has won two of four World Cup slaloms this season, but she’s now facing a challenge from one of her idols, Austrian Marlies Schild. Schild, 32, has also won two slaloms this season after coming back from tearing right knee ligaments on Dec. 20, 2012.

Schild won Olympic silver in 2010, World Championships gold in 2011 and four of six World Cup titles from 2007 through 2012.

Shiffrin has improved mightily in giant slalom over the last year to the point where she is now a medal contender in the event with second- and third-place finishes in World Cup races this season.

Ted Ligety

Vonn’s injury at the World Championships did not overshadow Ligety’s accomplishments in Schladming, Austria.

The 2006 Olympic combined champion became the first man in 45 years to win three gold medals at single World Championships, sweeping the super-G, giant slalom and super combined.

Ligety, 29, won the first two giant slaloms this World Cup season and seemed poised to be a heavy Olympic gold-medal favorite in the event. But Austrian rival Marcel Hirscher won the last two, setting up a sweet Sochi showdown.

Expecting multiple medals from Ligety in Sochi may be a bit much, though. He had never won a World Cup or World Championships race outside of giant slalom before that World Championships breakthrough.

He has not made a podium outside giant slalom this season, but Ligety has proven a big-event skier.

Bode Miller

Miller, 36, is the most decorated Olympic skier in American history with five medals, including one of every color at the 2010 Olympics.

He missed all of last season after knee surgery but has returned encouraging early results, including taking second behind Ligety at a giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Dec. 8.

Miller, now married to beach volleyball player Morgan Beck, looks to be the best U.S. medal hope in men’s downhill and super-G with a top-10 in each but no podium finishes this season.

Julia Mancuso

Mancuso has been silent on the World Cup tour this season with a best finish of 12th.

But she, like Ligety, is a proven star on the biggest stage. She won the 2006 Olympic giant slalom and took silver in the 2010 Olympic downhill and super combined.

Mancuso, 29, steps in for Vonn as the most notable American in the speed events of downhill and super-G. She’s the reigning world bronze medalist in the latter, having finished in the top three in World Cup super-G standings the previous three seasons.

International Women’s Stars

Maria Hoefl-Riesch, Germany

Vonn’s longtime friend and rival leads the World Cup overall standings and steps in as the Olympic downhill favorite, having won both downhills in Lake Louise, Alberta, in December when Vonn made her return.

Hoefl-Riesch was actually more successful than Vonn at the 2010 Olympics, winning gold medals in the super combined and slalom.

She’s won World Championships medals in downhill, super-G, super combined and slalom and could win four medals in Sochi if she’s in form.

Tina Weirather, Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein, a landlocked European country of some 40,000 people, has won nine Winter Olympic medals, all in Alpine skiing, but none since 1988.

Weirather has emerged as an all-around threat with podium finishes in downhill, super-G and giant slalom this World Cup season. She is the daughter of four-time Olympic medalist Hanni Wenzel.

Lara Gut, Switzerland

Gut shot out of the gates this World Cup season with wins in three of the first four races. She has cooled a bit since but looks like a medal threat in super-G and giant slalom.

She was 17 years old when she won two silver medals at the 2009 World Championships and looked like a major threat to Vonn’s dominance in the downhill until she suffered a hip injury in a September 2009 crash that kept her out of the 2010 Olympics.

Tina Maze, Slovenia

Maze put up the greatest campaign in Alpine skiing history in 2012-13, but the Slovenian singing sensation has been nowhere near that form this season and not won any races.

If Maze finds her spark over the next month, she could win a medal in every Olympic Alpine skiing event. If she doesn’t, she could leave Sochi empty handed.

Olympic goalie mask includes actual gold

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