Meryl Davis, Charlie White

What to watch on Day -1 of Sochi Olympics

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Here’s a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Thursday, Feb. 6.

WHAT TO STAY UP LATE FOR …

Men’s snowboard slopestyle, 1 a.m. ET (qualifying)
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The first event of the Olympics lost its megastar Wednesday with the withdrawal of two-time halfpipe champion Shaun White. White cited injury risk in pulling out, drawing criticism from other medal contenders, but he wasn’t the only rider concerned with course conditions. He’s also focusing on winning the halfpipe Tuesday.

White would have had a tough time beating the Canadian trio of Mark McMorris, Max Parrot and Sebastien Toutant in slopestyle’s Olympic debut though. They’re all X Games champions and are heavily favored to advance from two qualifying runs into the semifinals and/or finals Saturday. The top three from each of two heats advance through to the final, and the next six from each heat go to the 12-man semifinals.

The Americans entered are Chas Guldemond, Sage Kotsenburg and Ryan Stassel. 

Women’s snowboard slopestyle, 4 a.m. ET (qualifying)
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American Jamie Anderson will begin her quest toward a possible gold medal in women’s qualifying. She’s a better hope for gold than White was before pulling out of the men’s competition. Anderson won the 2012 and 2013 X Games and was upset at this year’s Aspen, Colo., event by Norwegian Silje Norendal.

Australian Olympic halfpipe champion Torah Bright is also competing here, the first of a planned three snowboarding events for her. The other Americans are Ty Walker, Karly Shorr and Jessika Jenson.

The women follow the same format as the men except their semifinals and finals are Sunday.

WHAT TO WAKE UP EARLY FOR ….

Women’s moguls, 9 a.m. ET (qualifying)
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Hannah Kearney begins her quest to become the first freestyle skier to win multiple Olympic gold medals. She’s fully expected to qualify into the 20-woman final Saturday.

Kearney’s biggest competition is a trio of Canadian sisters — Chloe, Justine and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe. The other Americans are Heidi Kloser, Heather McPhie and Eliza Outtrim.

Nothing can be taken for granted though. Kearney entered the 2006 Olympics as a medal hope and failed to advance out of qualifying.

WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS DURING THE DAY …

Figure skating, team event, 10:30 a.m. ET (men’s, pairs short programs)
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This is the marquee event of the first day of competition. Skating fans will get their first looks at Olympic gold-medal contenders Patrick Chan, Yuzuru Hanyu and Russian pair Tatyana Volozoshar and Maksim Trankov. Volozoshar and Trankov skate last, looking to bring the home crowd to their feet to complete the night.

The U.S. is represented by national champions Jeremy Abbott and Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir.

The top five of 10 teams after the women’s and ice dance short programs Saturday will qualify for the long program portions this weekend. The U.S., Canada and Russia are seen as medal favorites in this new Olympic event.

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

AP
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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