Preview: Kikkan Randall hoping to give U.S. first gold in cross-country skiing

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EVENT SCHEDULE
Tomorrow – Women’s skiathlon, 5 a.m. ET
Sunday – Men’s skiathlon, 5 a.m. ET
Feb. 11 – Men’s/women’s individual sprint, Session One at 5 a.m. ET, Session Two at 7 a.m. ET
Feb. 13 – Women’s 10km classic, 5 a.m. ET
Feb. 14 – Men’s 15km classic, 5 a.m. ET
Feb. 15 – Women’s 4x5km relay, 4:50 a.m. ET
Feb. 16 – Men’s 4x10km relay, 5 a.m. ET
Feb. 19 – Men’s/women’s team sprint, Session One, 4:15 a.m. ET and Session Two at 6:45 a.m. ET
Feb. 22 – Women’s 30 km mass start, 4:30 a.m. ET
Feb. 23 – Men’s 50 km mass start, 2 a.m. ET

TV SCHEDULE
Tomorrow – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. ET)
Sunday – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 2 p.m. ET)
Feb. 11 – 5 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET)
Feb. 13 – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN
Feb. 14 – 5 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN
Feb. 15 – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET)
Feb. 16 – 5 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET)
Feb. 19 – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET)
Feb. 22 – 4:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. ET)
Feb. 23 – 2-6 p.m. ET, NBC

MORE: NBCOlympics.com video – Inside the intense cross-country training

U.S. OUTLOOK
The Americans’ best opportunity for success is on the women’s side. Two-time World Cup individual sprint champion Kikkan Randall (pictured) is a threat to become the first American, man or woman, to win Olympic cross-country gold. Jessie Diggins, who teamed up with Randall to win the 2013 team sprint world championship, could also make an impact in her first Olympics.

As for the men, Simi Hamilton and Andrew Newell are solid sprinters but will have to work hard just to keep within striking distance. Noah Hoffman faces the same scenario in the distance events.

INTERNATIONAL OUTLOOK
Four years ago, Norway took the most overall medals (nine) and gold medals (five) in cross-country skiing. That may occur again in Sochi. Marit Bjorgen and Petter Northug are their main stars, with Bjorgen looking to continue her bid to become the most decorated Winter Olympian ever and Northug itching to add to the two golds he won in Vancouver. Their toughest competition may come from within their own team – such is the depth of the Norwegians.

Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk could challenge but is dealing with a foot injury, while Switzerland’s Dario Cologna is working his way back from tearing a ligament in his right ankle last November. Both won individual golds in Vancouver.

Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37