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What to watch on Day 11 of Sochi Olympics

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Here’s a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Tuesday, Feb.  18. A complete list of every Tuesday event can be found here.

WHAT TO STAY UP LATE FOR …

Women’s giant slalom, 12:30 a.m./4 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH FIRST RUN | SECOND RUN

At last, Mikaela Shiffrin makes her Olympic debut. The 18-year-old Vail native begins with her secondary event, but one she could definitely win a medal in, potentially gold.

She finished sixth at the 2013 World Championships and has taken two giant slalom podiums and four top-10s in five starts this season.

This race is missing 2013 world champion Tessa Worley and contender Tina Weirather due to injuries. The favorite may just be Austrian Anna Fenninger, who won the super-G here and has been top five in the giant slalom each of the past three World Cup seasons.

Slovenian Tina Maze dominated giant slalom during her record-shattering 2012-13 season but ranks ninth in the discipline this season. Swedes Jessica Lindell-Vikarby and Maria Pietilae Holmner are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 this season and looking for their first Olympic medals.

2006 Olympic giant slalom champion Julia Mancuso is also in the field, but she’s better suited to speed events.

Men’s snowboard cross, 1:30 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This event was postponed Monday due to heavy fog and will now skip seeding races and begin with elimination rounds.

A new Olympic champion will be crowned at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. The only men’s gold medalist the event has ever known, American Seth Wescott, did not make the Olympic Team.

The U.S. sends four other men, including Nate Holland, who was fourth at the 2010 Olympics, Nick Baumgartner, Trevor Jacob and Alex Deibold.

The top international contenders include Australia’s Alex “Chumpy” Pullin, who has played in a reggae band named “Love Charli,” and Austrian Markus Schairer. They were the top two finishers at the 2013 World Championships.

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

The winner of this No. 8-9 matchup gets top overall seed Sweden in the quarterfinals. Neither Austria nor Slovenia has ever won an Olympic hockey medal and both went 1-2 in group play, not posing a threat to the power nations.

In fact, Slovenia is in its first Olympic hockey tournament. Its star, Anze Kopitar, exited a game against the U.S. on Sunday feeling ill but is expected back in the lineup.

WHAT TO WAKE UP EARLY FOR …

Biathlon, men’s 15km mass start, 5:30 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This is the third straight day organizers will try get the last men’s individual event of the Olympic biathlon program in. Fog pushed it back on both Sunday and Monday.

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen is expected to take aim at the solo record for most Winter Olympic medals for the third time after his opening gold in the 10km sprint.

Bjoerndalen, 40, has been stuck on 12 career medals, finishing fourth in the 12.5km pursuit and 34th in the 20km individual event. He is not a medal favorite here (but Norway is in later relays). France’s Martin Fourcade is the star, looking for his third straight gold.

Speed skating, men’s 10,000m, 7 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The Netherlands could sweep a speed skating event for the fourth time at Adler Arena. They did so a year ago in this grueling race at the World Single Distance Championships, also at Adler.

Two-time Olympic 5000m champion Sven Kramer is the heavy favorite, just as he was in 2010, when he infamously failed to change lanes on a late lap and was disqualified after finishing with the fastest time.

His biggest competition is thought to come from countrymen Jorrit Bergsma, who beat Kramer at 2013 worlds, and Bob de Jong, 37, who has won a medal of every color in this event dating to 1998.

If somebody is to break up the orange party, it will likely be Belgian Bart Swings or South Korean Lee Seung-hoon, who won the 2010 Olympic title after Kramer’s DQ.

The U.S. contingent is Emery Lehman and Patrick Meek.

Nordic combined large hill, 10km portion, 7 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Americans Bill Demong and Bryan and Taylor Fletcher look to improve upon finishing 24th, 26th and 33rd in the normal hill event last Wednesday.

Demong is the defending Olympic champion here but is not considered a medal threat. The favorite to succeed him was German Eric Frenzel, the normal hill gold medalist, but he is out with a virus. (UPDATE: Frenzel ended up entering)

That opens up the gold-medal picture a bit. Two contenders are the normal hill silver and bronze medalists, Japan’s Akito Watabe and Norway’s Magnus Krog.

Men’s hockey qualification playoff, Russia-Norway, 7:30 a.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Russia was the top team to miss out on an automatic quarterfinal berth, so they’ll have to take care of the lowest-ranked team out of 12 to earn its quarters berth against Finland.

It shouldn’t be troubled by Norway, which has lost all seven of its Olympic games in Vancouver and Sochi.

Ilya Kovalchuk missed part of Sunday’s game due to injury and sat out at least part of practice Monday to rest, according to the Russian coach.

WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS DURING THE DAY …

Women’s bobsled runs 1 and 2, 10:15 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The first two of four runs to determine medals will take place at Sanki Sliding Center.

The race for gold is expected to come down to defending champion Kaillie Humphries of Canada and American Elana Meyers. They were separated by one point this World Cup season — Humphries taking the overall standings 1,629 to 1,628.

Meyers will drive USA-1 with Olympic track champion Lauryn Williams as her push athlete. Williams, in her first season bobsledding, could become the second person to win golds at a Summer and Winter Games.

USA-2 driver Jamie Greubel is also in the medal mix, paired with push athlete Aja Evans. USA-3 is driven by Jazmine Fenlator with two-time Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones. Fenlator and Jones have an outside shot at a medal.

Men’s hockey qualification playoffs, Czech Republic-Slovakia, 12 p.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVESwitzerland-Latvia, 12 p.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The Czech Republic-Slovakia winner will advance to play the U.S. in the quarterfinals. Surely, the U.S. wouldn’t mind playing 10th seed Slovakia a second time following a 7-1 drubbing in their opening game.

The seventh seed Czechs, led by grizzleds Jaromir Jagr and Petr Nedved, lost by a combined three goals to Sweden and Switzerland in group play.

No. 6 Switzerland will be favored against No. 11 Latvia, with the winner getting Canada in the quarterfinals. Switzerland beat Latvia 1-0 in group play.

The Swiss gave Canada all sorts of trouble in group play at the 2010 Olympics, forcing a shootout before falling 3-2. In this tournament, Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller has given up zero goals in playing two of three group-play games.

Men’s ski halfpipe final, 12:30 p.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

David Wise, married with a daughter in Reno, Nev., is the three-time reigning Winter X Games champion, 2013 world champion and favorite for gold should he make it through qualifying in this debut event.

The field behind Wise includes several skiers with medal aspirations, including American Torin Yater-Wallace, who was second to Wise at the 2013 X Games and World Championships. Yater-Wallace missed the rest of the Olympic selection events after breaking two ribs in a Dec. 14 crash, a few weeks after suffering a collapsed lung. The other Americans are Aaron Blunck and Lyman Currier.

Canada’s Justin Dorey and Mike Riddle and France’s Kevin Rolland and Thomas Krief are also in the medal picture.

French ice dancers break world record again

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French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron broke their own world record scores in the last major competition before the Olympics.

Papadakis and Cizeron totaled 203.16 points with 121.87 in Saturday’s free dance at the European Championships, both new bests, in Moscow.

Full results are here. NBCSN will air coverage Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

The French go into the Olympics as favorites over Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won all three of their head-to-heads last season.

But the French finally overcame the 2010 Olympic champions Virtue and Moir at December’s Grand Prix Final.

Virtue and Moir rank No. 2 under an eight-year-old ice dance system with a personal best of 199.86 points.

Papadakis and Cizeron became the youngest world champions in ice dance in 40 years in 2015, then repeated as world champs in 2016.

Virtue and Moir returned after two years off for the 2016-17 season and went undefeated, including dethroning the French at worlds.

Three U.S. couples are the top contenders for the Olympic bronze medal.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White have not competed since becoming the first U.S. Olympic ice dance champions in Sochi.

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MORE: NBC Olympics PyeongChang preview series on Netflix

Tonga flag bearer from Rio says he qualified for Winter Olympics

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Pita Taufatofua, the shirtless, oiled-up Tongan flag bearer from the Rio Games, said he qualified for the PyeongChang Olympics in cross-country skiing on Saturday.

“This was my last race possible, and we did it,” Taufatofua said in an interview with Olympic Channel, which also reported that he qualified. “This is a miracle.”

Taufatofua said he qualified at the final weekend of the Olympic qualifying period in Iceland, which is more than 9,000 miles from his home archipelago.

The last two events before qualification ends were Saturday’s freestyle race and a classic race scheduled for Sunday. Saturday’s results have not been posted yet.

Taufatofua completed a journey this season that included races in Colombia, Turkey, Poland and Armenia.

Taufatofua said he had seven chances to qualify for PyeongChang before Saturday and failed in all of them, finishing last each time (The official results show Taufatofua beating skiers from Malaysia and Mexico in some of these races.).

Taufatofua scrambled to make it to Iceland from Croatia this week. He said his group drove three days through a blizzard, an avalanche closing off the road at one point.

“People don’t see the hard work that goes behind,” he said. “They just see the shiny guy that walks with the flag.”

Taufatofua lost his opening Olympic taekwondo match by mercy rule in Rio, two weeks after his viral appearance in the Opening Ceremony.

He announced in December 2016 that he was switching to cross-country skiing in a bid for PyeongChang.

Cross-country, while a physically taxing pursuit, is one of the easier Winter Olympic sports to gain qualification for athletes from nations without much Winter Games history.

“I decided to find the hardest sport possible because I needed a new challenge,” Taufatofua said. “The goal was to do it one year, and we did it.”

Taufatofua debuted at the 2017 World Championships and was 153rd of 156 finishers in the 1.6km sprint freestyle.

It took Taufatofua 5 minutes, 44.72 seconds to complete the course in Lahti, Finland, which was about 10,000 miles from Tonga. The top qualifier clocked 3:11.72.

How will he dress at the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony, where outdoor temperatures are likely to be below freezing?

“One step at a time,” Taufatofua said. “Right now, I just want to go and party. I destroyed myself just to get here.”

In 2014, Bruno Banani became the first Tongan to compete at a Winter Olympics, placing 32nd in men’s luge. He was later the subject of a documentary.

Banani gained fame starting in early 2012, when the story of his name was widely publicized. Banani’s real name is Fuahea Semi, but he changed it to the name of his German clothing sponsor as a marketing ploy.

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VIDEO: Shaun White scores perfect 100 to qualify for Olympics

I raced through 5 countries in the last 24hrs to try and get to my race in Croatia. I sat in a taxi for 6 hrs driving through Armenia into Georgia in the middle of the night. I sat on the front seat of the @turkishairlines plane, sprinted through the airport and snuck through the business class fast transit lane and somehow managed to arrive at the gate 15 min before departure for my flight to Croatia. Once there I found that @turkishairlines had shut the gate early even after their delayed initial flight from Georgia, leaving me stranded. After remembering a scene from a James Bond movie, I pressed all the buttons on the aerobridge door to see if I could somehow open it and sprint down to the connecting flight, unfortunately that didn’t work, and luckily I didn’t get arrested. So here I am sitting at Istanbul airport missing the race that could have possibly gotten me to the Olympics. It was always going to be a long shot but I had to give it a shot and I did. Soo many times in life we will get disappointed. When this happens I have two options. I can sit on that chair crying about what could have been and how unfair life is…. or I can go and find some good quality chocolate, pull out my notepad and start planning “what’s next”— I always did like chocolate…

A post shared by Pita Taufatofua (Pita T) (@pita_tofua) on