Hannah Kearney

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 Sat., Feb. 8.

(For a complete list of Day 1 live streamed events, click here)

WHAT TO STAY UP LATE FOR …

Men’s snowboard slopestyle, 12:30 a.m. ET (semis), 3:45 a.m. ET (finals) CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE EVENT LIVE

The first gold-medal winner of the Olympics will be crowned at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. It will not be Shaun White, who pulled out of slopestyle Wednesday (but is still scheduled to go for his third straight halfpipe gold Tuesday).

Canada has a shot to sweep the podium, which the nation has never done before at a Winter Games. It’s led by Winter X Games champion Max Parrot, the top qualifier from Thursday. Sebastien Toutant won the 2013 European X Games and also qualified directly into the 12-man final.

Then there’s Mark McMorris, the 2012 and 2013 X Games champion who was the prohibitive favorite one  month ago. Then he broke a rib at the X Games and did not qualify for the final. He’ll go in the semifinals, where 21 men compete to lock up the remaining four spots in the final.

The three Americans — Chas Guldemond, Sage Kotsenburg and Ryan Stassel — are also in the semifinals.

The top medal threats to Canada are Norway’s Stale Sandbech and Finland’s Roope Tonteri, the 2013 world champion, and Peetu Piiroinen, the 2010 Olympic halfpipe silver medalist. Piiroinen is trying to become the first snowboarder to win medals in multiple disciplines.

Women’s hockey: U.S.-Finland, 3 a.m. ET (Live on NBCSN)CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE EVENT LIVE

The reigning world champion Americans open the women’s hockey tournament with a test. Finland handed the U.S. a 3-1 defeat on Nov. 8 at the Four Nations Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Finland was led then as it is now by goalie Noora Raty, who stopped 58 of 59 shots in Lake Placid and backed the University of Minnesota to the 2013 NCAA Championship.

This could be the closest game the U.S. plays outside of a Feb. 12 date with Canada and a probable gold-medal game against Canada. Canada plays Switzerland on Saturday at 10 a.m.

The U.S., Canada, Finland and Switzerland make up one of two four-nation groups. They are the top four nations in the world and are guaranteed spots in the playoff round regardless of group results.

WHAT TO WAKE UP EARLY FOR ….

Men’s speed skating 5000m, 6:30 a.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Dutch superstar Sven Kramer is the clear favorite to repeat as Olympic champion here. He hasn’t lost a 5000m at a major international meet since taking silver at the 2006 Olympics at age 19.

It could be the first of three gold medals in Sochi for Kramer, the best distance skater of his generation and one of the greatest-ever across all distances.

Kramer could lead a Dutch sweep if Jorrit Bergsma and Jan Blokhuijsen are in form. Bergsma is engaged to American skater Heather Richardson.

The best U.S. hope, Jonathan Kuck, is paired with Kramer. Russia has a medal contender in Ivan Skobrev.

WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS DURING THE DAY …

Figure skating, team event, 9;30 a.m. ET (Live on NBCSN, ice dance, women’s short, pairs free) CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The U.S. will need to rebound if it’s to win a medal in this new Olympic event. Jeremy Abbott and Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir put it in a tie for fifth (but seventh for all intents and purposes) out of 10 nations Thursday.

That puts more pressure on world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White to win the short dance over Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

Ashley Wagner then makes her Olympic debut in the women’s short program. She won’t have to deal with Yuna Kim (South Korea isn’t entered), but Mao Asada, Yulia Lipnitskaya and Carolina Kostner won’t make it easy.

If the U.S. is in the top five as expected after the short programs, it will advance to free skates. The first of four free skates, pairs, concludes Saturday night’s session. Castelli and Shnapir will look to improve upon their fifth-place showing from the short program there.

The team event ends with the men’s, ice dance and women’s long programs on Sunday.

Here are the standings after Thursday’s programs:
1. Russia — 19 points
2. Canada — 17 points
3. China — 15 points
4. Japan — 13 points
5. Germany/France/U.S. — 10 points

Men’s luge, 9:30 a.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

German Felix Loch is the favorite as luge begins with the first two of four total runs over two days. Loch will begin a quest to become the third man to win back-to-back Olympic luge titles, joining legends Georg Hackl and Armin Zoeggeler.

Zoeggeler, the 2002 and 2006 Olympic champion, is trying to become the first athlete to win a Winter Olympic medal in six straight Games.

He’s also in the medal mix along with countryman Dominik Fischnaller, German David Moller and Russian Albert Demtschenko, who is in his record seventh Winter Olympics.

Chris Mazdzer, who took second in a pair of World Cups this season, is the top U.S. hope. No American has ever won an Olympic singles luge medal.

Medals won’t be determined Saturday, but a major mistake in either run could take a slider out of the running for the podium Sunday.

Women’s moguls final, 1 p.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Hannah Kearney is a heavy favorite to bring home the first U.S. gold medal of the Olympics. That’s exactly what she did four years ago in Vancouver, where she upset Canadian Jenn Heil and made up for tearfully washing out of 2006 Olympic qualifying.

Kearney was the top qualifier into the final from Thursday and is trying to become the first freestyle skier to win multiple Olympic gold medals. Freestyle skiing has been in the Olympics since 1992.

Her biggest threats are Canadian sisters Chloe, Justine and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe.

American Eliza Outtrim also made the final, while Heather McPhie must compete in another round of qualifying earlier Saturday to make the 20-woman final. The fourth American, Heidi Kloser, crashed in training and missed qualification.

Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

MORE: Eliud Kipchoge opines on shoe technology debate

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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MORE: Top U.S. bobsled driver pregnant, to miss season