Around the Games: Day 0 - 2014 Winter Olympic Games

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.

Marc Leishman will miss Olympics due to wife’s health, Zika

Marc Leishman
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Australian golfer Marc Leishman will miss the Rio Olympics due to his wife’s health.

“Many of you may know that last April my children and I almost lost my wife, Audrey, to toxic shock syndrome,” Leishman said in a statement. “Since then Audrey has been prone to infection and is far removed from 100 percent recovery of her immune system.

“We have consulted with Audrey’s physician and due to her ongoing recovery from toxic shock and potential risks associated with the transmission of the Zika virus, it was a difficult yet easy decision not to participate.

“I missed playing in the 2015 Masters tournament to be at her side when she was originally stricken and I cannot risk placing her health in jeopardy.

“The Masters and the Olympics are the two biggest tournaments to which a golfer can be invited; however, my family will always come before golf.”

Leishman, 32 with one PGA Tour win, joined the projected Olympic field when countryman Adam Scott said last month that he would skip Rio.

World No. 1 Jason Day is assured one of two Olympic spots for Australian men when the 60-man field is determined based on July 11 world rankings.

With No. 7 Scott and No. 35 Leishman out, the next-best Aussie is No. 63 Marcus Fraser.

Three more major champions — Vijay Singh, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel — also said in April they would not compete in Rio.

Golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.

MORE: Australia Olympic legend blasts Adam Scott

Rory McIlroy worried Olympic golf may be done after 2020

Rory McIlroy
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Rory McIlroy believes golf may not remain in the Olympics after 2020 following a string of major champions announcing they will skip the sport’s return at the Rio Games.

“Because of how [Olympic golf is] being approached in golf circles … I’m not sure if we’re going to have another opportunity to win a gold medal after [Tokyo 2020],” McIlroy said ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday.

In 2009, the International Olympic Committee voted to re-add golf and rugby to the Olympic program for the 2016 Olympics, with a review in 2017 if they would remain for the 2020 Olympics.

In 2013, Tokyo was elected host city for the 2020 Olympics with a plan that includes golf.

Beyond 2020, golf does not yet have a place in the Olympics. Its chances for the 2024 Olympics could come into focus when that host city is chosen in September 2017.

McIlroy, ranked No. 3 in the world, has repeated he will play for Ireland in the first Olympic golf tournament since 1904 in Rio in August.

Fellow major champions Adam ScottLouis OosthuizenCharl Schwartzel and Vijay Singh said last month they will not play in the Rio Olympics.

MORE: Golf Channel’s Olympic broadcast schedule