The 45 storylines to watch at 2014 Winter Olympics


With the first Olympic competitions in action on Thursday and Opening Ceremony on Friday, here is a look at 45 storylines to watch at the 2014 Sochi Olympics:

Alpine Skiing
1. The U.S. could have four different medal winners for a second straight Olympics — Ted Ligety (giant slalom, super combined), Bode Miller (downhill, super-G, super combined, giant slalom), Julia Mancuso (downhill, super-G, super combined) and Mikaela Shiffrin (giant slalom, slalom).

2. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal could become the first men’s Alpine skier to win three Olympic gold medals in one Games (downhill, super-G, super combined) since Jean-Claude Killy in 1968.

3. The absence of Lindsey Vonn opens up the women’s speed events for friendly rival German Maria Hoefl-Riesch, Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather and Swiss Lara Gut.

1. Tim Burke leads the charge trying to win the first U.S. Olympic biathlon medal.

2. Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov will be the most recognized name to Americans, though, as he is the Russian Biathlon president.

3. Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen needs two medals to take the solo record for most career Winter Olympic medals, which is held by retired Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie (who has 12). Two golds will tie the record for most career golds (eight, also held by Daehlie).

MORE: The race to become the most decorated Winter Olympian ever

1. Lolo Jones attempts to win her first Olympic medal, as a Winter Olympian. Lauryn Williams attempts to become the fifth person to win medals in Summer and Winter Olympics and the second to win gold medals in both. (Feb. 18-19)

2. Steven Holcomb could win a second straight four-man Olympic gold (Feb. 17) and his first two-man Olympic gold. (Feb. 23)

3. The Jamaican Bobsled Team will compete in the two-man.

Cross-Country Skiing
1. Kikkan Randall could win the first U.S. Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing. (Feb. 11 individual, Feb. 19 team)

2. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen could become the first person to win six medals at a single Winter Olympics. If she does, she’ll surpass Daehlie with 13 career medals.

3. Another Norwegian, Petter Northug, is the men’s star, though Russia is counting on several cross-country medals, too.

1. Norway’s pants.

2. The four oldest members of the 230-athlete U.S. Olympic Team are women’s curlers, including skip Erika Brown, who was on the U.S. team at the 1988 Olympics, when curling was a demonstration sport. She was 15 then.

3. Great Britain, with Scot Eve Muirhead leading the charge, could bring curling gold back to the country that invented the sport.

Figure Skating
1. Russia going for men’s history (Yevgeny Plushenko could tie a record with a fourth individual Olympic medal), trying to restore pairs dominance (Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov could add to a legacy that brought 12 straight golds through 2006) and become the first champion in the new Olympic team event.

2. Meryl Davis and Charlie White take on training partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, trying to win the first U.S. Olympic ice dance gold medal. (Feb. 16-17)

MORE: Davis and White, staying calm under pressure

3. In her swan song, Yuna Kim will try to become the third woman (and first since 1988) to win back-to-back Olympic titles. 2010 silver medalist Mao Asada is her biggest competition. (Feb. 19-20)

Freestyle Skiing
1. In her third and final Games, moguls skier Hannah Kearney can become the first freestyle skier to win multiple Olympic gold medals. Her biggest competition could be three Canadian sisters. (Feb. 8)

2. Summer Olympic powerhouse China is favored to win both aerials golds. (Feb. 14, 17)

3. The U.S. could win medals in each of the new Olympic events of ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle with the likes of David Wise, Nick Goepper, Maddie Bowman and Keri Herman.

1. The pressure on Alex Ovechkin & Co. to win the first post-Soviet era men’s hockey gold for Russia. The Russians play the U.S. in group play. (Feb. 15).

2. Sidney Crosby and Canada will look to become the first nation in the post-Soviet era to win back-to-back men’s titles. The U.S. hopes for its first gold since 1980, but neither the U.S. nor Canada has won Olympic gold on European ice since 1952.

3. A likely fourth meeting between the U.S. and Canada in five Olympic women’s hockey finals. (Feb. 20)

1. The speeds at the Sanki Sliding Center are expected to be 10 to 15 mph slower than the 2010 Olympic men’s competition, where the start was moved down after Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a training crash.

2. Italian Armin Zoeggeler goes for a medal in a record sixth straight Olympics. (Feb. 8-9 individual, Feb. 13 relay)

3. Germany is expected to dominate, potentially sweeping the women’s event (Feb. 11) and an overwhelming favorite in the new team relay. The relay is the best chance for the U.S.’ first luge medal since 2002.

Nordic Combined
1. Todd Lodwick, who will carry the U.S. flag at the Opening Ceremony, eyes an American Winter Olympic record sixth Olympic appearance, if his shoulder holds up. (Feb. 20)

MORE: Lodwick named U.S. Olympic flag bearer

2. The U.S. men’s team with a shot at a relay medal also includes Bill Demong, the first U.S. Olympic Nordic combined gold medalist, and brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, one of seven sets of siblings in the U.S. delegation.

3. German Eric Frenzel has overtaken 2010 Olympic champion Jason Lamy-Chappuis as the favorite in individual events.

Short Track Speed Skating
1. Viktor Ahn, the three-time 2006 Olympic champion for South Korea, could now win medals for Russia.

2. China’s Wang Meng will miss the Olympics, meaning the retired Apolo Ohno will likely keep his title as most decorated Olympic short track skater with eight medals.

3. The U.S. short track team, without Ohno and Katherine Reutter, fights an uphill battle against powerhouses South Korea, China and Canada. J.R. Celski, who has a fan in singer Macklemore, is the best hope for a medal.

1. Noelle Pikus-Pace is a co-favorite with Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold. Pikus-Pace finished fourth in 2010, retired, had her second child, unretired in 2012 and is in her best racing form ever.

2. Latvian Martins Dukurs is the men’s favorite but could be challenged by his brother, Tomass.

3. Neither 2010 Olympic champion is competing. Canadian beer swiller Jon Montgomery wasn’t picked, and Britain’s Amy Williams and her controversial helmet retired.

1. Shaun White could become the first U.S. man to win an Olympic event three times if he wins halfpipe (Feb. 11).

2. Kelly Clark may lead a U.S. medal sweep in women’s halfpipe (Feb. 12) with 2006 Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter, world champion Arielle Gold and Kaitlyn Farrington also in the medal mix. Their biggest threat is reigning Olympic champion Australian Torah Bright, who is slated to also compete in slopestyle and snowboard cross.

3. Lindsey Jacobellis is gold-medal contender in snowboard cross, eight years after her trick move cost her gold and four years after hitting a gate to be disqualified in the semifinals. (Feb. 16)

 Speed Skating
1. Shani Davis could also become the first U.S. man to win a Winter Olympic event three times in the 1000m (Feb. 12). Davis is also a medal threat individually in the 1500m (Feb. 15).

2. Dutchman Sven Kramer could win three gold medals if he repeats in the 5000m (Feb. 8), makes up for his infamous 2010 lane-changing gaffe in the 10,000m (Feb. 18) and finally wins a team pursuit gold after 2006 and 2010 disappointments (Feb. 22)

3. Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson are likely to win the first medals by U.S. female speed skaters since 2002. They’re slated for the 500m (Feb. 11), 1000m (Feb. 13) and 1500m (Feb. 16).

Mikaela Shiffrin finishes World Cup with one more win, two more records and a revelation


Mikaela Shiffrin finished a season defined by records with two more.

Shiffrin won the World Cup Finals giant slalom on the final day of the campaign, breaking her ties for the most career women’s giant slalom wins and most career podiums across all women’s World Cup races.

Shiffrin earned her record-extending 88th career World Cup victory, prevailing by six hundredths over Thea Louise Stjernesund of Norway combining times from two runs in Andorra on Sunday.

An encore of Shiffrin’s record-breaking 87th World Cup win airs on NBC next Sunday from 12-1 p.m. ET.


She won her 21st career GS, breaking her tie for the most all-time on the women’s World Cup with Vreni Schneider, a Swiss star of the 1980s and ’90s.

She made her 138th career World Cup podium across all events, breaking her tie for the most all-time on the women’s World Cup with Lindsey Vonn. Shiffrin earned her 138th podium in her 249th start, meaning she has finished in the top three in 55 percent of her World Cup races dating to her debut at age 15 in 2011.

Earlier this season, Shiffrin passed Vonn and then Ingemar Stenmark, a Swede of the 1970s and ’80s, for the most career Alpine skiing World Cup victories. She won 14 times from November through March, her second-best season after her record 17-win campaign of 2018-19.

In those years in between, Shiffrin endured the most difficult times of her life, was supplanted as the world’s top slalom skier and questioned her skiing like never before.

On Saturday afternoon, Shiffrin was asked what made the difference this fall and winter. There were multiple factors. She detailed one important one.

“I had a lot of problems with my memory,” she said in a press conference. “Not this season, so much, but last season and the season before that. I couldn’t remember courses. And when I was kind of going through this, I couldn’t keep mental energy for the second runs.”

Pre-race course inspection and the ability to retain that knowledge for a minute-long run over an hour later is integral to success in ski racing. Shiffrin is so meticulous and methodical in her training, historically prioritizing it over racing in her junior days, that inspection would seem to fit into her all-world preparation.

She didn’t understand how she lost that ability until she began working with a new sports psychologist last summer.

“That was a little bit like less focus on sports psychology and more focus on, like, psychology psychology and a little bit more grief counseling style,” she said. “Explaining what was actually going on in my brain, like chemical changes in the brain because of trauma. Not just grief, but actually the traumatic experience itself of knowing what happened to my dad, seeing him in the hospital, touching him after he was dead. Those are things that you can’t get out of your head. It had an impact. Clearly, it still does.”

Shiffrin had a “weird a-ha moment” after her first course inspection this season in November in Finland.

“I didn’t take that long to inspect, and I remembered the whole course,” she said. “Oh my gosh, I was like coming out of a cloud that I had been in for over two years.”

What followed was a win, of course, and a season that approached Shiffrin’s unrivaled 2018-19. Fourteen wins in 31 World Cup starts, her busiest season ever, and bagging the season titles in the overall, slalom and GS in runaways.

“After last season, I didn’t feel like I could get to a level with my skiing again where it was actually contending for the slalom globe,” she said. “And GS, I actually had a little bit more hope for, but then at the beginning of the season, I kind of counted myself out.

“I feel like my highest level of skiing has been higher than the previous couple of seasons, maybe higher than my whole career. My average level of skiing has been also higher than previous seasons, and my lowest level of skiing has also been higher.”

There are other reasons for the revival of dominance, though Shiffrin was also the world’s best skier last season (Olympics aside). She went out of her way on Saturday afternoon to credit her head coach of seven years, Mike Day, who left the team during the world championships after he was told he would not be retained for next season.

“He is as much a part of the success this entire season as he’s ever been,” said Shiffrin, who parted with Day to bring aboard Karin Harjo, the first woman to be her head coach as a pro.

Shiffrin’s greatest success this season began around the time she watched a a mid-December chairlift interview between retired Liechtenstein skier Tina Weirather and Italian Sofia Goggia, the world’s top downhiller. Goggia spoke about her disdain for mediocrity.

“Ever since then, pretty much every time I put on my skis, I’m like, ‘OK, don’t be mediocre today,’” Shiffrin said in January.

During the highest highs of this season, Shiffrin felt like she did in 2018-19.

“It is mind-boggling to me to be in a position again where I got to feel that kind of momentum through a season because after that [2018-19] season, I was like, this is never going to happen again, and my best days of my career are really behind me, which it was kind of sad to feel that at this point four years ago,” said Shiffrin, who turned 28 years old last week. “This season, if anything, it just proved that, take 17 wins [from 2018-19] aside or the records or all those things, it’s still possible to feel that kind of momentum.”

After one last victory Sunday, Shiffrin sat in the winner’s chair with another crystal globe and took questions from an interviewer. It was her boyfriend, Norwegian Alpine skier Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.

“Excited to come back and do it again next year,” she replied to one question.

“Yeah,” he wittily replied. “You will.”

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Russia ban runs through Olympic gymnastics team qualifying deadline

Russia Gymnastics

Russia’s ban from international sport extended long enough that, as rules stand, its gymnasts cannot qualify to defend Olympic men’s and women’s team titles at the 2024 Paris Games, even if they are reinstated to compete elsewhere before the Games start.

Should the ban be lifted in time, they can still qualify for the Paris Games to compete in individual events.

Gymnasts from Russia, and other European nations not already qualified, need to compete at next month’s European Championships to stay on the path toward Olympic qualification in the men’s and women’s team events.

Earlier this month, the European Gymnastics Federation was asked by what date must bans on Russian athletes be lifted for them to be eligible to compete at the European Championships.

“According to our rules, changes can be made until the draw,” the federation’s head of media wrote in a March 8 email.

The draw for the European Championships was held Tuesday. Russian gymnasts, who are still banned from international competition for the war in Ukraine, were not included in the draw.

The 2024 Olympic team event fields will be filled by the top finishers at this fall’s world championships, plus the medalists from last year’s worlds. Teams can only qualify for worlds via continental championships, such as the European Championships, or the previous year’s world championships.

The International Gymnastics Federation, whose Olympic qualifying rules were published by the IOC last April, was asked if there is any other way that gymnasts from Russia could qualify for the Olympic team events. It responded by forwarding a March 3 press release that stated that Russia and Belarus gymnasts remain banned “until further notice.”

Russia’s gymnastics federation has not responded to a Monday morning request for comment.

Last December, the IOC said it planned to explore a possibility that Russian and Belarusian athletes could enter Asian competitions if and when they are reinstated. There have been no further updates on that front. The Asian Gymnastics Championships are in June.

In Tokyo, Russian women, competing as the Russian Olympic Committee rather than Russia due to the nation’s doping violations, won the team title over the heavily favored U.S. after Simone Biles withdrew after her opening vault with the twisties. It marked the first Olympic women’s team title for Russian gymnasts since the Soviet Union broke up.

At last year’s worlds, the U.S. won the women’s team title in the absence of the banned Russians.

Russian men won the Tokyo Olympic team title by 103 thousandths of a point over Japan, their first gold in the event since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

China won last year’s world men’s team title over Japan and Great Britain.

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