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.


Men’s snowboard slopestyle, 1 a.m. ET (qualifying)

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)

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.


Women’s moguls, 9 a.m. ET (qualifying)

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.


Figure skating, team event, 10:30 a.m. ET (men’s, pairs short programs)

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.

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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