Preview: Kikkan Randall hoping to give U.S. first gold in cross-country skiing

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EVENT SCHEDULE
Tomorrow – Women’s skiathlon, 5 a.m. ET
Sunday – Men’s skiathlon, 5 a.m. ET
Feb. 11 – Men’s/women’s individual sprint, Session One at 5 a.m. ET, Session Two at 7 a.m. ET
Feb. 13 – Women’s 10km classic, 5 a.m. ET
Feb. 14 – Men’s 15km classic, 5 a.m. ET
Feb. 15 – Women’s 4x5km relay, 4:50 a.m. ET
Feb. 16 – Men’s 4x10km relay, 5 a.m. ET
Feb. 19 – Men’s/women’s team sprint, Session One, 4:15 a.m. ET and Session Two at 6:45 a.m. ET
Feb. 22 – Women’s 30 km mass start, 4:30 a.m. ET
Feb. 23 – Men’s 50 km mass start, 2 a.m. ET

TV SCHEDULE
Tomorrow – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. ET)
Sunday – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 2 p.m. ET)
Feb. 11 – 5 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET)
Feb. 13 – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN
Feb. 14 – 5 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN
Feb. 15 – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET)
Feb. 16 – 5 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET)
Feb. 19 – 5:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET)
Feb. 22 – 4:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN (also on NBC’s daytime coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. ET)
Feb. 23 – 2-6 p.m. ET, NBC

MORE: NBCOlympics.com video – Inside the intense cross-country training

U.S. OUTLOOK
The Americans’ best opportunity for success is on the women’s side. Two-time World Cup individual sprint champion Kikkan Randall (pictured) is a threat to become the first American, man or woman, to win Olympic cross-country gold. Jessie Diggins, who teamed up with Randall to win the 2013 team sprint world championship, could also make an impact in her first Olympics.

As for the men, Simi Hamilton and Andrew Newell are solid sprinters but will have to work hard just to keep within striking distance. Noah Hoffman faces the same scenario in the distance events.

INTERNATIONAL OUTLOOK
Four years ago, Norway took the most overall medals (nine) and gold medals (five) in cross-country skiing. That may occur again in Sochi. Marit Bjorgen and Petter Northug are their main stars, with Bjorgen looking to continue her bid to become the most decorated Winter Olympian ever and Northug itching to add to the two golds he won in Vancouver. Their toughest competition may come from within their own team – such is the depth of the Norwegians.

Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk could challenge but is dealing with a foot injury, while Switzerland’s Dario Cologna is working his way back from tearing a ligament in his right ankle last November. Both won individual golds in Vancouver.

Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

Brigid Kosgei
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World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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Dmitriy Balandin, surprise Olympic swimming champion, retires

Dmitriy Balandin
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Dmitriy Balandin, the Kazakh swimmer who pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2016 Rio Olympics, retired at age 27.

“Today I would like to announce the end of my sports career,” Balandin said last week, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee. “I am still inspired. A new phase of my life begins. I have a lot of cool projects in my head that will soon be implemented.”

Balandin reportedly has coaching aspirations.

In 2016, he won the Olympic men’s 200m breaststroke out of lane eight as the last qualifier into the final. He edged American Josh Prenot by seven hundredths of a second and became Kazakhstan’s first Olympic swimming medalist.

He followed that up with 11th- and 17th-place finishes in the breaststrokes in Tokyo last year.

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