Sochi Olympics Figure Skating

Sochi Olympic Daily Recap: Day -1

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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.

WATCH: How did Tea USA fare on Day -1?

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.

Kayla Harrison begins MMA career

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12:  (BROADCAST - OUT) Judoka Kayla Harrison of the United States poses for a photo with her gold medal on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Two-time Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison has joined mixed martial arts promotion World Series of Fighting as a commentator, brand ambassador and potentially a fighter, but she isn’t 100 percent committed to competing and won’t set a first bout for at least one year.

“All signs point to a yes, but everything has to work out,” Harrison said. “I haven’t booked a fight.”

Harrison, 26 and all but retired from judo, has been asked time and again for years about her interest in pursuing MMA. That’s in part because of former training partner Ronda Rousey‘s overwhelming success after she switched from Olympic judo.

Harrison will serve as a commentator and brand ambassador before potentially getting into MMA competition. Her commentating debut will be at WSOF 34 in New York on Dec. 31 on NBC.

Harrison has taken boxing and jiu-jitsu lessons as far back as 2013, which should boost her MMA potential.

To compete in MMA, Harrison will require a weight cut from her Olympic judo class of 172 pounds.

Rousey competes at 135 pounds, the heaviest women’s weight class in UFC. WSOF, which has no women’s weight classes, plans to develop a women’s program as Harrison readies for a potential debut.

Harrison expects that if she fights, it will be at 145 pounds.

Harrison laughed about people tweeting at her to fight Brazilian Cristiane Justino, a former 145-pound title holder who is set to face Rousey, should Rousey win her comeback fight.

“I’ve never fought MMA before, so my first fight is not going to be for a belt,” Harrison cautioned. “I’m going to MMA 0-0, not as a two-time Olympic champion. People need to remember that.”

Harrison said she last conversed with Rousey one or two months ago. Rousey, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, congratulated Harrison on her second gold medal and told Harrison she was available if she needed anything.

Harrison said she might reach out to her former training partner early next year, after Rousey’s comeback fight, to pick her brain about MMA.

“And be like, hey, what do you got for me? Tell me everything,” Harrison joked.

MORE: Ronda Rousey sets comeback fight

U.S. men’s gymnastics program undergoes changes

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 25: Members of the U.S. Men's National Gymnastics Team gather before day two of the 2016 Men's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at Chafitz Arena on June 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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U.S. men’s national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika‘s contract will not be renewed at the end of the year as USA Gymnastics makes changes after missing the men’s team podium at a second straight Olympics.

Mazeika was the U.S. men’s head coach at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, where the U.S. men earned team medals at a non-home Games for the first time. He then served as national team coordinator from 2009 through this year.

The U.S. men finished fifth at the last two Olympics.

USA Gymnastics will replace the national team coordinator role with a high-performance director “focused on sustained international success.”

“The coaches, committee members and staff did a thorough review of the existing structure and results, and then took a hard look at what is needed to prepare our athletes for success heading toward Tokyo and beyond,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a press release.

MORE: U.S. women’s national team coordinator named