Sochi Olympic Daily Recap: Day 0

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A grand Opening Ceremony at Sochi’s Fisht Olympic Stadium officially kicked off the 2014 Olympic Winter Games after some competitions began yesterday.

Six of Russia’s most famous Olympians – including NBC Olympics’ own Maria Sharapova – brought the longest torch relay in Olympic history to a close.

But the honor of lighting the cauldron went to three-time gold medalists Irina Rodnina (figure skating) and Vladislav Tretyak (hockey), who completed their special task after a short jog to said cauldron outside the stadium.

Before then, a colorful Parade of Nations set the stage for a beautiful artistic portion that, in the words of the Opening Ceremony’s director, aimed to re-introduce Russia to the world.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE FULL OPENING CEREMONY

Parts of the show included a troika pulling the Sun, an aerial display awash in red, and even a trip to the carnival. But even before it began, a Russian police choir got the crowd hyped up with a performance of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”

Some of Team USA’s athletes opted not to take part in the Opening Ceremony, however, as they seek to stay focused on their upcoming events.

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Figure skater Ashley Wagner was one of them (though teammate Jeremy Abbott still found a way to ensure her presence at the stadium). That’s understandable considering she’s out to get the U.S. back into medal contention tomorrow in team figure skating.

Among the Americans that did attend tonight’s event was moguls skier Heidi Kloser, who insisted on doing so even though she tore her ACL and broke her right leg in a training accident yesterday. Sochi was to be her Olympic debut.

Downhill training continued with Americans Bode Miller, Stacey Cook and Julia Mancuso posting solid runs. But gold medal contender Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany said today that the newly-changed Rosa Khutor alpine course has become too slow.

In hockey news, the U.S. women’s team announced Jessie Vetter as starting goaltender for their opening game tomorrow against Finland. Meanwhile, the Finnish men have to replace Tampa Bay Lightning forward Valtteri Filppula and Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu, who are both injured and will not compete in Sochi.

Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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