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

Vera Caslavska, gymnastics legend, dies at 74

Vera Caslavska
AP
1 Comment

PRAGUE (AP) — Věra Čáslavská, the second-most decorated Olympic female gymnast who stood up against the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, has died. She was 74.

The Czech Olympic Committee on Wednesday said Čáslavská died in Prague late Tuesday. Čáslavská had cancer of the pancreas and underwent surgery on May 15 last year, the committee previously said. She later had chemotherapy treatment.

Čáslavská won 11 Olympic medals, including seven golds, combined in the 1960, 1964 and 1968 Olympics.

She was mentioned many times going into and during the Rio Olympics as the last woman to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles, which Gabby Douglas was attempting to duplicate.

Only former Soviet star Larisa Latynina earned more Olympic medals among female gymnasts than Čáslavská, who doubles as the most decorated Czech Olympian of all time.

Born on May 3, 1942 in Prague, Čáslavská claimed her first Olympic medal — a silver — at the 1960 Rome Games.

Her golden era began four years later.

She won three Olympic golds in Tokyo in 1964 — in the vault, the individual all-round and the balance beam — to establish herself as a major force in her sport.

Four years later, Čáslavská became an outspoken supporter of Alexander Dubček‘s liberal reforms meant to lead toward democratization of communist Czechoslovakia, an era known as the Prague Spring. She signed the Two Thousand Words manifesto published in June 1968 that called for deeper pro-democratic changes. That document angered the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who ordered the Warsaw Pact’s troops to invade Czechoslovakia to crush the reforms in August.

Facing a possible persecution, Čáslavská went into hiding and was allowed only just before the Mexico Olympics to join the national gymnastics team.

She triumphed in four disciplines, winning the Olympic gold in the vault, the individual all-round, the floor exercises and the uneven bars. With another two silver medals at the 1968 Games, she became the top medalist and was later named the world’s female athlete of the year.

For many, she will be remembered for her silent protest against the Soviet invasion. Standing on the top of the medal stands alongside Soviet gymnast Larisa Petrik, with whom she shared the gold in the floor exercise, Čáslavská turned her head down and to the right when the Soviet national anthem was played.

Combined with her gymnastic performances, the gesture made her the star of the Games.

At home, Čáslavská faced persecution from the post-invasion hard-line Communist regime. It wasn’t until 1974 that she was allowed to work as coach in her country and later, in 1979-81, in Mexico.

After the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel ended more than 40 years of communism, Čáslavská became Havel’s adviser and was elected the president of the Czechoslovak and later of the Czech Olympic Committee. In 1995-2001, she was a member of the International Olympic Committee.

She received the U.N.’s Pierre de Coubertin Prize for promoting fair play in 1989 and was also awarded the Olympic Order.

In a personal setback, her marriage with Josef Odložil, an athlete whom she married during the Mexico Games, ended in the 1980s. Her son, Martin, was found guilty of assault that led to his father’s death in 1993 and was sentenced to four years in prison. Although he was soon pardoned by Havel, Čáslavská had to undergo treatment for depression and withdrew temporarily from the public life.

MORE: Simone Biles’ longtime coach takes new job

Amy Purdy, Winter Paralympic medalist, to perform at Rio Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Amy Purdy
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Amy Purdy made her name as a snowboardcross bronze medalist at the Sochi Paralympics and runner-up on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2014.

In September, she’ll combine both.

Purdy will perform as a dancer in the Rio Paralympic Opening Ceremony on Sept. 7, in addition to being an NBC reporter during the Games.

She was told her performance will be four to five minutes. On “Dancing with the Stars,” her performances were about 90 seconds, she said. She traveled to Rio for a week of rehearsals in July.

Purdy, 36, survived bacterial meningitis in 1999 but lost both her legs and later needed a kidney from her father at age 20.

“I’m most excited about the concept of this dance,” Purdy said. “Just the idea of man versus machine. A lot of times we feel really limited because of our prosthetics. But this dance, hopefully, will kind of shatter those borders a little bit and allow me to move my body in a way I haven’t done before.”

Purdy is an innovator. She built her own snowboard and is seen as instrumental in getting her sport into the Paralympic program beginning in 2014.

A model, she’s been in a Madonna music video, a Super Bowl commercial, ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue and competed on “The Amazing Race” in 2012.

MORE: Rio Paralympic broadcast schedule