One day before the Opening Ceremony, competition got underway at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games.
Thursday’s biggest event was the start of the inaugural Olympic figure skating team competition. And on home ice, Russia had it almost perfect, scoring 19 out of 20 possible points in Day 1 (men’s and pairs’ short program) to take the lead.
Nine of Russia’s 19 points came from Yevgeny Plushenko (pictured), whose runner-up performance certainly felt like a winner. Meanwhile, the U.S. finds itself on the bubble going into Day 2 on Saturday (women’s short program/short dance/pairs’ free skate) after having mixed fortunes.
Another new Olympic discipline, snowboard slopestyle, also made its debut today sans Team USA’s Shaun White and Norway’s Torstein Horgmo (broken collarbone). But it wasn’t an easy day for men’s gold medal favorite Mark McMorris of Canada, who failed to make the final and will have to advance there through the semis. As for the women, two Americans – gold medal threat Jamie Anderson and Karly Shorr – locked up spots in their final.
American freestyle moguls skier Hannah Kearney began her Olympic title defense in style by qualifying first into Saturday’s final. The Vermont native has taken her training to another level going into Sochi, and today, it looked like it paid off. But she’ll still have to watch out for her three main rivals from Canada, the Dufour-Lapointe sisters, who all made it into the final as well.
Training also took place in several sports, including Alpine skiing. Five-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller of the U.S. led the first session for the men, while training was pushed back for the women after multiple competitors complained about a treacherous jump on the course. After some changes, women’s training got going, with American Julia Mancuso logging the third-fastest run at the end of the day.
In hockey, Canada replaced one Tampa Bay Lightning star – the injured Steven Stamkos – with another – the Lightning’s captain, Martin St. Louis. Meanwhile, Slovakia has a big hole to fill after finding out they won’t be able to count on Marian Gaborik (broken collarbone) for the Olympics. Ditto for Sweden, which will be without Henrik Sedin.
We also had a scary moment take place as Nashville Predators and U.S. Olympic hockey general manager David Poile was hit by a puck before the Preds took on the Minnesota Wild today; he was subsequently taken to a local hospital. We’ll keep you posted on his situation.