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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.

Tony Azevedo retires after 5 Olympics in water polo

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14:  Tony Azevedo of the USA in action during the USA vs Italy Waterpolo group match at Julio de Lamare Aquatics Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
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Tony Azevedo is ending one of the greatest water polo careers in U.S. history, retiring after a record five Olympics at age 35.

Azevedo, the first American to play in five Olympic water polo tournaments, said it was a tough decision but a necessary one to spend time with his family — wife Sara and two kids, according to the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram.

“The traveling and everything for them would be too much,” said Azevedo, who has a 3-year-old boy and a girl born after the Rio Olympics. “It’s time.”

Azevedo was a teenage prodigy dubbed the “Kobe Bryant of water polo.” A ball boy at the 1996 Olympics, Azevedo made a list of about 13 goals as a “slow, fat, chubby kid” who wanted to start on his high school team.

He reached all of those goals except for one — a gold medal. Azevedo made his Olympic debut out of high school in 2000 and then helped lead the U.S. to silver at Beijing 2008, his lone Olympic or world championships medal in 13 combined appearances. He led the U.S. in goals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

“If anyone asks, am I going to miss the swimming? No. Am I going to miss the games? No. Are you going to miss the Olympics? No,” Azevedo said. “I’m going to miss those days of grinding with your teammates.”

Azevedo was one of the top U.S. stories of the Rio Olympics, since he was born in the Brazilian city and lived there for 23 days before moving to Southern California. Azevedo, whose father was a Brazilian national team member, played for a Sao Paulo club team for much of the past Olympic cycle.

The U.S. went 2-3 in Rio, failing to advance out of group play.

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MORE: PyeongChang 2018 daily schedule highlights

Five takeaways from World Alpine Skiing Championships

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Five thoughts after an unpredictable world alpine skiing championships, looking ahead to the Olympics … 

1. Expect Mikaela Shiffrin to be busier in PyeongChang

Shiffrin chose not to enter the super-G or super combined in the first week at worlds, in order to maximize her medal potential in the giant slalom and slalom in the final weekend. It paid off with silver and gold medals.

It seems unlikely that Shiffrin adopts the same, two-race slate in PyeongChang. The 2018 Olympic schedule has the giant slalom and slalom in the first week, followed by the speed events of super-G, downhill and super combined.

Consider also Shiffrin’s mindset going into St. Moritz.

“Right now, I’m going with [only giant slalom and slalom] because I just don’t think that I have quite enough experience in speed [events] to be able to count on winning a medal in those events yet,” she said. “But by the time we go to South Korea next year, maybe I could. I might be in a position where I can at least be in contention for medals in giant slalom, slalom, combined, super-G and maybe even downhill, only because nobody’s ever skied on that track before.”

The women get their first look at the 2018 Olympic venue with World Cup races in two weeks, a downhill and super-G. Shiffrin said before worlds that she planned to travel to South Korea for training but to leave before the races start. She wanted to prioritize the following week’s World Cup giant slalom and slalom in Squaw Valley, Calif.

What’s for sure is we can learn plenty about Shiffrin’s Olympic potential in speed events this weekend. She’s set to race at the World Cup stop in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, which is made up of two combineds and a super-G.

If Shiffrin enters all three events, it will bring her career World Cup start total in downhill, super-G and combined up to 10 races. Her best finish in her first seven starts was fourth in a super-G last month.

“I have a lot of goals there,” Shiffrin said of speed events after bagging her third straight slalom world title Saturday. “Hopefully, some day, I’d like to win in super-G and downhill, but I think it’ll take some time before I can do that consistently. It’s definitely a long road from here. I still feel like I just started.”

2. Lindsey Vonn must heal

Vonn made it clear at worlds that she wasn’t 100 percent recovered from breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash. Her right hand movement was so limited that she couldn’t put her hair in a ponytail, let alone comfortably grip a ski pole at 75 miles per hour.

After skiing out of the opening super-G, troubled by that hand, she duct-taped her glove to her ski pole, placed fifth in the super combined and third in the downhill. She said the bronze medal felt like gold given her latest injury comeback.

Vonn became the oldest woman to earn a world championships medal. In PyeongChang, she can become the oldest woman to earn an Olympic Alpine medal.

Vonn’s biggest hurdle is her own health. A smooth finish to the season, regardless of wins, and a normal offseason is key.

“I want to be in a position at the Olympics where I’m at my top form not just struggling to kind of make it back into the mix,” Vonn said, according to The Associated Press. “It’s a different ballgame when I’m prepared.”

3. U.S. lacks young stars

Worlds went about to form for the entire U.S. team. Shiffrin and Vonn were the only medalists. No man placed in the top 10 for the first time since 1997.

Injuries and, especially, aging are the concerns.

Four-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso, out since November 2015 hip surgery, was on the team but didn’t enter any events. The top U.S. men on the World Cup in recent seasons, Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman, went out with season-ending injuries in January. Bode Miller, who has trained but not raced this season, was in the NBC Sports commentary booth.

All of them are 32 years and older. Maybe some summon one last Olympic medal surge next year, but what about after that?

Shiffrin is the only American younger than age 28 who owns a World Cup victory. U.S. men earned Youth Olympic and junior worlds gold medals last year, but they look destined for 2022.

4. Marcel Hirscher approaches Austrian legends

Hirscher was the best skier in St. Moritz, despite reportedly spending days in bed before his first race. He earned two golds and missed a third by .01 in the super combined.

Only Tony Sailer owns more individual world titles among Austrian men. Hirscher is en route to his sixth straight World Cup overall title this season, which no man from any country has accomplished.

He’s at 43 World Cup wins, 11 shy of the Austrian men’s mark held by Hermann Maier. At 27 years old, Hirscher ought to eclipse it.

But Hirscher’s résumé has a gaping hole — no Olympic gold medal. He was upset in the Sochi Olympic slalom by countryman Mario Matt. And there’s no certainty Hirscher will be a favorite in PyeongChang.

For years, he was the world’s second-best giant slalom skier behind the now-injured Ligety, who could reclaim the throne next season, though that is a tall order.

In slalom, young Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen has been neck and neck with Hirscher but had a poor worlds.

The super combined is the most unpredictable event, but even there Frenchman Alexis Pinturault has won six of the 11 World Cup races since 2013.

5. Surprises in St. Moritz

Most races provided surprise medalists.

In all five men’s events, either the gold or silver medalist had not won a World Cup race in at least two years (or, in three cases, never made a World Cup podium). Women’s medalists in downhill, super-G, giant slalom and the super combined had never won a World Cup race.

New names were going to emerge regardless, considering the list of recent stars not racing (retired Tina Maze, Ligety, Miller, Aksel Lund Svindal) and those who did compete but were slowed or forced out by injury (Vonn, Anna Veith, Gut).

More surprises could be in store in PyeongChang given, as Shiffrin said, it’s a new track for everybody.

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