Alex Ovechkin

What to watch on Day 8 of Sochi Olympics

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Here’s a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Saturday, Feb. 15. A complete list of every Saturday event can be found here.

WHAT TO STAY UP LATE FOR …

Women’s super-G, 2 a.m. ET — CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This is the final women’s speed event of the Olympics and possibly Julia Mancuso’s last really great shot at an Olympic medal.

Mancuso won bronze in the super combined and finished eighth in the downhill. A medal in the super-G would give her five total, matching Bode Miller’s record for U.S. Alpine skiers.

This has been Mancuso’s best discipline since the Vancouver Olympics yet one she has not won an Olympic medal in. Mancuso was the No. 3, 2 and 2 super-G skier the previous three years before her noted struggles on tour this season.

Her biggest competition will come from Olympic super combined champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch, downhill gold medalists Tina Maze and Dominique Gisin and bronze medalist Lara Gut and Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, who was on crutches earlier this week.

Men’s hockey, Slovakia-Slovenia, 3 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

These two similarly sounding yet not bordering nations will play at the Olympics for the first time, both looking to recover from opening-day defeats.

Slovenia, which features Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar, is coming off a 5-2 loss to Russia on Thursday. Slovakia, which finished fourth at the 2010 Olympics, was trounced 7-1 by the U.S.

Both teams are likely to feed into the “qualification playoff” round rather than an automatic quarterfinal berth out of group play.

WHAT TO WAKE UP EARLY FOR …

Short track speed skating, men’s 1000m final, 7:20 a.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

J.R. Celski looks to improve upon his fourth-place finish in the 1500m here, should he make the A final. He finished eighth in the 1000m at the 2010 Olympics and earned a third at a World Cup event in Kolomna, Russia, in November.

The biggest threats will be similar to the 1500m — Canada’s Charles Hamelin, Russia’s Viktor Ahn and any South Koreans.

The women’s 1500m final will take place 13 minutes before the men’s 1000m, but no Americans are expected to be a part of it. US Speedskating has yet to win a medal at these Olympics.

Men’s hockey, U.S.-Russia, 7:30 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This is probably the biggest event of the Olympics without a medal at stake. The U.S. and Russia (or the Soviet Union/Unified Team) will play an Olympic men’s hockey game for the sixth time since the Miracle on Ice and for the first time on Russian ice.

Here are their results since 1980:
1988: Soviet Union 7, U.S. 5 (group play)
1992: Unified Team 5, U.S. 2 (semifinals)
2002: U.S. 2, Russia 2 (group play)
2002: U.S. 3, Russia 2 (semifinals)
2006: Russia 5, U.S. 4 (group play)

Jonathan Quick will start his second straight game in goal after stopping 21 of 22 Slovakian shots Thursday.

The winner of this game goes into the driver’s seat for an automatic spot in the quarterfinals. The loser still has a shot, too, but it will be tougher.

Speed skating, men’s 1500m, 8:30 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Shani Davis looks to rebound from a startling eighth-place finish in the 1000m Wednesday, an event in which he had won 2006 and 2010 Olympic gold.

Davis is the two-time defending silver medalist in the 1500m, the reigning world silver medalist and the 2013-14 World Cup leader.

Yet this is a fairly open race among Davis, the Netherlands’ Stefan Groothuis, Kjeld Nuis and Koen Verweij and Russians Denis Yuzkov and Ivan Skobrev.

The Dutch have won all three men’s speed skating golds so far and will be favored in the final two events, the 10,000m and team pursuit. Only the U.S. in 1932, Norway in 1936 and Eric Heiden in 1980 have swept all the men’s speed skating golds, but there were five or fewer events at all of those Winter Games.

Men’s skeleton runs 3 and 4, 9:45 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

A U.S. man will likely win an Olympic skeleton medal for the first time since Jim Shea’s gold in 2002.

John Daly and Matthew Antoine are in third and fourth, respectively, after two of four runs Friday. Russian Aleksander Tretiakov leads Latvian Martins Dukurs by .56 of a second.

Dukurs, the World Cup champion each of the last five seasons, is staring at his second straight Olympic silver medal after he was upset by Canadian Jon Montgomery in 2010. He is .56 of a second behind Tretiakov.

Daly, who was 17th at the 2010 Olympics, is 1.03 seconds behind Dukurs and .26 better than Antoine. Daly has never won a World Cup or World Championships medal, so this could really be the race of his life.

WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS DURING THE DAY …

Men’s hockey, Sweden-Latvia, 12 p.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE | Switzerland-Czech Republic, 12 p.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

These are the final games in Group C. Sweden has already booked a spot in the quarterfinals with 4-2 and 1-0 wins over the Czech Republic and Switzerland. Latvia is the minnow of this group and should pose no threat, even with Henrik Zetterberg out of the Olympics.

The winner of the Swiss-Czech game has a chance at an automatic quarterfinal spot. The Czechs beat Latvia 4-2 on Friday behind two goals from Jaromir Jagr, 41. The Swiss have played two 1-0 games, losing the latest to Sweden on Friday.

Ski jumping, men’s large hill, 12:30 p.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Poland’s Kamil Stoch, who won the normal hill Sunday, flew a field-best 136m in training Friday from a lower gate position and appears to be the favorite again here.

Swiss Simon Ammann, the four-time Olympic champion, posted a 132m jump in training after finishing 17th in the normal hill.

U.S. Olympic Committee to hire infectious disease specialists for Zika

Christ the Redeemer
AP
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The U.S. Olympic Committee will hire two infectious disease specialists to advise potential Olympians who are worried about the Zika outbreak in Brazil.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun sent a letter Wednesday to all possible Olympians, acknowledging the growing worries over the virus.

“I know that the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is of concern to many of you,” Blackmun wrote. “I want to emphasize that it is to us, as well, and that your well-being in Rio this summer is our highest priority.”

The letter goes on to spell out much of the information that’s already been relayed by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. About 20 percent of those infected display mild symptoms, including body aches and rash. But pregnant women and those considering getting pregnant have greater reason for concern because the virus can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this week, U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo said if the Olympics were being held now, she wouldn’t go.

Blackmun told The Associated Press that Solo’s comments “made us realize we need to provide concise and accurate info for our athletes.”

At least one of the two infectious disease specialists will be a woman, Blackmun said.

In addition to those two hires, the USOC will post updates to its website at USOC.org/RioTravelUpdates.

The USOC’s decision to hire the specialists was first reported by USA Today.

The letter, addressed to prospective members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic delegation, says “no matter how much we prepare … there will always be risk associated with international competition. Each country, each venue and each discipline will present different risks and require different mitigation strategies.”

Blackmun said the USOC is monitoring the frequent updates regarding Zika. The letter makes note that “rapid testing to determine if an individual is infected is expected in the near future.”

“First and foremost, we want to make sure our athletes have accurate information because they’re concerned,” Blackmun said. “Based on what we know now, the primary threat is to unborn children.”

MORE: Zika won’t stop Olympics; only war has done that, historian says

Alex Morgan scores 12 seconds into U.S. Olympic qualifying romp (video)

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Alex Morgan wasted no time igniting the U.S. women’s soccer team’s Olympic qualifying campaign.

The striker scored the first of her two goals 12 seconds into the Americans’ CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament-opening 5-0 rout of Costa Rica on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.

It’s believed to be the fastest goal in U.S. Soccer history, according to U.S. Soccer.

“I think we shocked Costa Rica’s confidence a little bit,” Morgan said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “We’ve been working on that play, so I’m glad that we executed it perfectly.”

Crystal DunnCarli Lloyd and Christen Press also scored for the Americans, who are ranked No. 1 in the world. Costa Rica is ranked No. 34.

“Overall, we brought the fight,” Lloyd said on Live Extra. “We’ve got to put this one to bed and move on.”

The first three goals came in the first 15 minutes.

GOAL VIDEOS: Dunn | LloydMorgan’s second | Press

The U.S. is in one of two CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament groups with Costa Rica, Mexico (ranked No. 26) and Puerto Rico (No. 108).

It plays Mexico next on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra. Mexico crushed Puerto Rico 6-0 earlier Wednesday.

The top two nations per group will advance to the tournament semifinals, and the Feb. 19 semifinal winners advance to the Rio Games in August.

The U.S. is heavily favored to qualify for Rio, where it would go for its fourth straight Olympic title. The next-best North American team is ranked No. 11 (Canada, which is in the opposite CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament group).

If the U.S. and Canada win their respective groups, they would not have to play each other to qualify for the Olympics.

The U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying includes 13 of the 23 players from the World Cup, led by Olympic champions Morgan, Lloyd and Hope Solo, who blanked Costa Rica on Wednesday.

All 15 matches of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra.

MORE: No Olympics for Messi, but another Argentine star striker possible

2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule

Frisco, Texas – Toyota Stadium
Houston, Texas – BBVA Compass Stadium
Times U.S. Central (U.S. Eastern in parentheses)

FIRST ROUND
Group A: USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana

Wednesday, Feb. 10 (Frisco)
Mexico 6, Puerto Rico 0                                 5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA 5, Costa Rica 0                                    7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 11 (Houston)
Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago                  5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guyana                                           7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Frisco)
Costa Rica vs. Puerto Rico                              12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
USA vs. Mexico                                                 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) NBCSN at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Houston)
Guyana vs. Guatemala                                     12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
Trinidad vs. Canada                                          3 p.m. (4 p.m.)

Monday, Feb. 15 (Frisco)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica                                       5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Puerto Rico                                          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) LIVE on NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Houston)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana                         5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guatemala                                      7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Feb. 19 (Houston)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up          4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) ***
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) ***

FINAL

Sunday, Feb. 21 (Houston)
Semifinal winners                                            4 p.m. (5 p.m.) NBCSN at 11 p.m.

***USA’s semifinal, should the USA advance, will air LIVE on NBCSN