What to watch on Day 0 of Sochi Olympics

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Here’s a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Friday, Feb. 7.

WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS …

Opening Ceremony on NBC, 7:30 p.m. ET/PT

Russia gets its chance to present itself to the world inside the recently completed Fisht Stadium and in front of a new International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach.

Fisht Stadium’s name came from a nearby mountain, and its design was inspired by Russia’s jewel-encrusted Faberge eggs. The stadium has open sides, giving spectators a view of the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea.

The event will of course include the Parade of Nations, featuring a Winter Games record 88 countries. Greece customarily goes first with the rest marching in alphabetical order save the host nation, which goes last.

MORE: U.S. flag bearer is six-time Olympian Todd Lodwick.

One big question — how large of a role will Vladimir Putin play? The Russian president arrived in Sochi on Tuesday.

The night climaxes with the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron. The final torch bearer is always a closely guarded secret. It’s unknown if Russia will go the typical route and bestow the honor on a retired Olympian. If it does, six-time Olympic champion speed skater Lidiya Skoblikova, three-time Olympic champion pairs figure skater Irina Rodnina and three-time Olympic champion goaltender Vladislav Tretiak. 

WHAT ELSE TO KEEP AN EYE ON …

Alpine skiing downhill training, 1 a.m. ET

Watch out for U.S. skiers Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso on the second day of downhill training at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort.

Miller, a five-time Olympian with five career medals, was fastest in the first training run Thursday and is set up well as a medal contender in Sunday’s race. Gold medal favorite Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal will look to bounce back after clocking the eighth-best time, 1.21 seconds behind Miller.

Mancuso, a four-time Olympian with three career medals, might just be turning it on for a major championship yet again. She was third fastest in Thursday’s delayed women’s opening training run. Mancuso has yet to make a World Cup podium this season, but she’s the reigning Olympic downhill silver medalist. Gold medal favorite Maria Hoefl-Riesch was sixth. They’ll race for medals on Wednesday.

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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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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MORE: Viral Olympic moments of 2010s decade