Sidney Crosby

What to watch on Day 16 of Sochi Olympics

1 Comment

Here’s a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Sunday, Feb. 22. A complete list of every Sunday event can be found here.

WHAT TO STAY UP LATE FOR …

Cross-country skiing, men’s 50km mass start, 2 a.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This grueling event is five miles longer than a marathon. It should be a Norway vs. Russia battle, which is interesting given the two nations enter the final day tied atop the gold medal count with 11 each.

Norway sends defending Olympic champion Petter Northug, among others, while Russia has Aleksander Legkov, who won the only World Cup 50km last season.

This event was skied in classical style four years ago and should take a little more than two hours for the elite men to complete.

Bobsled, four-man runs 3 and 4, 4:30 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Defending Olympic champion Steven Holcomb was in fourth place after the first two runs, .01 of a second out of bronze and .17 behind leader Aleksander Zubkov of Russia. Zubkov already won the two-man event.

Latvian Oskars Melbardis is in second, seeking his country’s first bobsled medal ever. German Max Arndt is in third, seeking his country’s first bobsled medal of these Games.

WHAT TO WAKE UP EARLY FOR …

Men’s hockey gold-medal game, Canada-Sweden, 7 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This is a rematch of one of the most memorable Olympic hockey finals ever, the epic 1994 shootout game in Lillehammer, Norway. The game 20 years ago was the final Olympic men’s hockey tilt before NHL players arrived in 1998. Could this year’s affair be the last of the NHL era?

Sweden is going for its third straight Olympic title on European ice. Canada is going for its first gold outside North America since 1952 in Oslo. And to be the first nation to repeat as Olympic champion since the Soviet Union/Unified Team won three straight golds from 1984 through 1992.

Canada has the talent advantage, but Sweden may be more comfortable on Russian ice and has a goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, with an ability to steal a game on his own. Canada, though, has had better goaltending this tournament.

There was one player at this Olympic hockey tournament who played in that 1994 gold-medal game, but he will not be suiting up for this rematch. 1994 Canadian forward Petr Nedved made his second Olympic appearance this year, but he played for his native Czech Republic.

WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS DURING THE DAY …

Closing Ceremony, 11 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The Olympics will conclude at the place they opened, Fisht Stadium. The Closing Ceremony is shorter and more party-like than the Opening Ceremony.

There is no Parade of Nations, but there are flag bearers. Four-time Olympic medalist hockey player Julie Chu will carry the Stars and Stripes.

As for the ceremony itself, the full details have not been revealed. Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister has said the Olympic rings malfunction from the Opening Ceremony will be corrected for Sunday night’s show.

The Olympic Flag will be handed over to Pyeongchang 2018 officials, but we will first look forward to the Paralympics beginning March 7 and then the Rio Summer Olympics beginning Aug. 5, 2016.

Follow @NZaccardi

Lindsey Vonn sets date for proposal to enter men’s race

ALTENMARKT/ZAUCHENSEE, AUSTRIA - JANUARY 15: Lindsey Vonn of USA celebrates during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Downhill on January 15, 2017 in Altenmarkt/Zauchensee, Austria (Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The U.S. Ski Team plans to submit a proposal in the spring for Lindsey Vonn to be able to race against men in November 2018, according to the Denver Post.

“I know I’m not going to win, but I would like to at least have the opportunity to try,” Vonn said, according to the newspaper. “I think I’ve won enough World Cups where I should have enough respect within the industry to be able to have that opportunity.”

Vonn’s idea is to race in Lake Louise, Canada, an annual late fall stop on both the men’s and women’s World Cup schedules. The men generally race in Lake Louise one week before the women do.

Vonn’s greatest success has come at Lake Louise, with 18 victories in 41 downhill and super-G starts dating to 2001.

Vonn previously requested in 2012 to be able to race against men in Lake Louise, but that was denied by the International Ski Federation (FIS). The federation said then “that one gender is not entitled to participate in races of the other.”

It doesn’t look like the federation’s stance has changed.

“You can set up a day where a female racer can compete against men racers, just as a show, but it has nothing to do with competition,” FIS women’s race director Atle Skaardal said, according to the Denver Post. “I don’t see that it’s going to change in the next years — no driving forces to urge a change like that. This is something the teams could do also in training. But why would you want to have a competition in this direction?

“I just don’t see the interest. For me it’s a meaningless comparison. It doesn’t matter if she’s one second behind or a half-second ahead. We compete female against female and men against men. To me it doesn’t matter if one gender is faster or slower. It doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, just because it’s of interest to one racer. I haven’t heard of any other sport being dragged into this kind of position.”

Vonn raced for the first time in 322 days on Sunday, finishing 13th in a World Cup downhill in Austria. It was actually an encouraging result, as Vonn said she wasn’t skiing to her limit in her first race back.

Her upcoming goals are to compete in the 2018 Olympics, after missing Sochi due to injury, and earn 11 more World Cup wins to break Ingemar Stenmark‘s career record of 86 victories. She can overtake Stenmark next season if she stays healthy and continues to win at her usual pace.

Vonn said in the spring that she would postpone retirement by one year and compete in the 2018-19 season if it meant being able to race the men.

But Skaardal’s comments suggest that won’t be possible.

“It’s definitely frustrating to hear that he said that, because I respect Atle very much,” Vonn said, according to the Denver Post. “He does a great job on the World Cup, and he is a former racer, so he understands. It’s disappointing to hear he doesn’t support it. But maybe if we organize something and a plan is put in front of him, maybe he would change his mind. I think most of the men are supporting me.”

Vonn is expected to race this weekend in a downhill and super-G in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, streamed live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

MORE: Bode Miller plans to race next season, U.S. coach says

Wayne Gretzky compares Hayley Wickenheiser to NHL legend

Leave a comment

The greatest male hockey player of all time paid the greatest female player of all time quite the compliment at her retirement ceremony Saturday.

“You played with heart, desire, finesse, speed, skill,” Wayne Gretzky said to Hayley Wickenheiser. “The only other person, the greatest player to ever live, I think he would be happy if I said you were the female Gordie Howe. Congratulations.”

The Canadian legend Wickenheiser announced her retirement Friday, after six Olympics and four gold medals. On Saturday, she was honored before a Calgary Flames-Edmonton Oilers game. A highlight was a speech by Gretzky, who now works in the Oilers’ front office.

Wickenheiser’s first Olympics, Nagano 1998, marked the only Winter Games for Gretzky. Gretzky played in the first Olympics with NHL participation in Nagano, finishing fourth with Canada, and retired in 1999 without an Olympic medal.

“You’ve opened so many doors for so many young girls to be able to one day win a gold medal,” Gretzky said to Wickenheiser. “To me, that’s more important than anything.”

Wickenheiser then took the mic at center ice and reciprocated.

“A big part of why I play the game is because of this man standing right here, Wayne Gretzky,” she said, later adding, according to Canadian media, “In Salt Lake City [2002] when we won the gold medal, the first two people I saw when we stepped off the ice were Wayne and [former Oilers All-Star defenseman] Kevin [Lowe] standing in our dressing room cheering for us.”

As part of the Wickenheiser ceremony, a tribute video was played including messages from Canadian Olympian and Hall of Famer Mark Messier, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

MORE: Amanda Kessel sets sights on 2018 Olympics