What to watch on Day 2 of Sochi Olympics

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Here’s a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Sunday, Feb. 9. A complete list of every Sunday event can be found here.

WHAT TO STAY UP LATE FOR …

Men’s downhill, 2 a.m. ET — CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE EVENT LIVE

The medal picture for the marquee skiing event of the Olympics has shaken up over the last few weeks. American Bode Miller, a five-time Olympian with five Olympic medals, is now a legitimate pick for gold despite missing all of the 2012-13 season following knee surgery.

Miller, 36, was the fastest man in two of the three training runs at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort. He would be the oldest Alpine skier to win an Olympic medal.

He’s been the best skier on the mountain,” Aksel Lund Svindal, the reigning world champion and World Cup champion, said of Miller. “So now he looks like the favorite.”

Miller, the 2010 Olympic downhill bronze medalist, has not won a World Cup race in three years but took third in the final pre-Olympic downhill race Jan. 25. A sixth Olympic medal would put him solo second all time among men behind retired Norwegian Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who earned eight.

Svindal, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, has won 11 World Cup races in the same three-year span. He’s been eighth, third and second in this week’s training runs.

Before the training runs, Svindal was a consensus gold-medal favorite, a status cemented when top Austrian hope Hannes Reichelt withdrew from the Olympics with a herniated disk. Italian Dominik Paris, the 2013 world silver medalist, has yet to return to form from a December crash.

Snowboarding, women’s slopestyle, 4:15 a.m. ET — CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Four-time Winter X Games champion Jamie Anderson could make it a U.S. sweep in snowboard slopestyle following Sage Kotsenburg’s surprise gold Saturday.

Anderson qualified second into the final, passing on her second run after posting a 93.50 in her opener Thursday. Anderson is a slight favorite over 2013 world champion Spencer O’Brien of Canada and top qualifier Anna Gasser of Austria. American Karly Shorr and Australian 2010 Olympic halfpipe champion Torah Bright also qualified straight into the 12-woman final.

Reigning X Games champion Silje Norendal will join the favorites mix if she is one of four to advance out of the 15-woman semifinals, which begin at 1:30 a.m. ET. Americans Ty Walker and Jessika Jenson are also in the semis.

WHAT TO WAKE UP EARLY FOR ….

Speed skating, women’s 3000m, 6:30 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The first women’s speed skating event of the Olympics is likely to come down to three veteran Olympic champions.

Czech Martina Sablikova is the defending Olympic champion and World Cup leader. German Claudia Pechstein, 41 and a nine-time Olympic medalist, is the only woman to beat Sablikova in a World Cup 3000m this season. The Netherlands’ Ireen Wuest is the 2006 Olympic champion and reigning world champion in the distance.

The U.S. women’s team is likely to end its medal drought since 2002 in Sochi, but it probably won’t come here. Jilleanne Rookard and Anna Ringsred represent the red, white and blue.

WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS DURING THE DAY …

Luge, men’s singles, 9:30 a.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The third and fourth runs will determine the medals at the Sanki Sliding Center. The first two runs saw the same accomplished men in the top three — defending Olympic champion German Felix Loch, seven-time Olympian Russian Albert Demtschenko and 2002 and 2006 Olympic champion Italian Armin Zoeggeler.

Loch leads by .294 over Demtschenko and .744 over Zoeggeler. He’s trying to become the third man to win back-to-back Olympic luge titles, joining Zoeggeler and German Georg Hackl.

Zoeggeler would be the first athlete to win a Winter Olympic medal in six straight Games. Demtschenko, 42, can take the title of oldest Winter Olympic champion in an individual event from Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who set the mark Saturday.

Chris Mazdzer is the top American in 13th, the same place he finished at the 2010 Olympics. The U.S. has never won an Olympic singles luge medal, and that drought will continue.

Figure skating, team event, 10 a.m. ET (Live on NBCSN) CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The first figure skating medals will be awarded following three sets of free skates (men, women and ice dance) from five nations at the Iceberg Palace. The U.S. improved from a tie for fifth to third place Saturday, but it can’t finish higher than second as Russia is well ahead.

The U.S. is expected to send first-time Olympians Jason Brown and Gracie Gold and world ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White up on Sunday, in that order. They must average a little over two spots better than Canada per event to win silver. That is very unlikely.

Really, the Americans should be more concerned with being caught by Italy and Japan, which are three and four points back. The key will be Brown and Gold handling the pressure of their Olympic debuts. The U.S. could even trail Italy and Japan by a point or two going into the free dance finale, since those nations don’t have the firepower to match Davis and White.

Canada needs to finish at least two spots better than Russia per event to overtake the host nation for gold. That is very unlikely. Russia is guaranteed no worse than silver, meaning Yevgeny Plushenko will become the second figure skater to win four Olympic medals.

Ski Jumping, men’s normal hill, 12:30 p.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The second day of competition will conclude with ski jumping under the lights at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center. Ski jumping has been a daytime affair at all recent Winter Olympics save 2006.

Gold is up for grabs. Four-time Olympic champion Swiss Simon Ammann is among the contenders, as are decorated Austrians Gregor Schlierenzauer, Thomas Morgenstern and Thomas Diethart. Poland, Slovenia, Norway and Germany send top jumpers as well.

And then there’s Japan’s Noriaki Kasai, at 41, in his seventh Olympics and still looking for his first individual medal. He’s got a shot.

The U.S. qualified three men into Sunday’s competition — Nick Alexander, Anders Johnson and Peter Frenette — but neither is expected to contend for medals.

Takeaways from the abbreviated 2019-20 season in ski and snowboard sports

Chris Corning
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Most ski sports don’t hold world championships in even-numbered years, but the coronavirus pandemic brought World Cup campaigns to an early conclusion two years ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

With the seasons over, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team is collecting goggles to provide to health-care workers.

Here’s what we learned in various sports:

ALPINE: Mikaela Shiffrin has company 

The U.S. ski star was on pace to win her fourth straight World Cup season trophy before her father’s sudden passing in early February. She planned to return in March with an outside chance at keeping her title, but the remaining races of the season were canceled. Italy’s Federica Brignone took the trophy, with Shiffrin second.

While Shiffrin held a substantial lead in the World Cup before her hiatus, she wasn’t as unbeatable as she was in the 2018-19 season, when she won a staggering 17 times. That’s an impossible bar to clear, but Shiffrin’s rivals made up enough ground to make future World Cup season titles and the career win record seem less certain than they seemed a year ago.

In Shiffrin’s final slalom race, a discipline in which she has rarely lost in recent years, she placed third behind Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova and Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson. Ten days before that, she was second to Vlhova, whose progress impressed Shiffrin. That marked that first time since 2014 that she lost two straight slaloms in the same season. (She was second in the 2016-17 season finale and second again in the 2017-18 season opener, then won 12 of the next 13 slaloms.)

Shiffrin’s ability to get on the podium in any race, no matter the discipline, will make her the World Cup favorite for years to come. But the big prize won’t be as easy as she has made it seem in recent years, and at 66 career victories, she’ll need time to catch Lindsey Vonn‘s women’s record of 82 wins and Ingemar Stenmark‘s overall record of 86.

CROSS-COUNTRY: Diggins, Bjornsen stay in world’s elite 

Jessie Diggins will forever be remembered for winning the 2018 Olympic team sprint with Kikkan Randall as NBC’s Chad Salmela screamed “HERE COMES DIGGINS,” but she also has a strong World Cup resume that she continues to build.

Diggins finished sixth in the season standings for the second straight year, a drop from her second-place finish in 2018 but still comfortably in the top 10. She was joined there by Sadie Maubet Bjornsen, who eighth-place season put her in the top 10 for the second time.

Bjornsen led the three-stage season opener in Ruka, Finland, after taking third in the sprint and finished fourth overall, one place ahead of Diggins, who took third in the pursuit. Diggins added four more podium finishes before the end of the season.

NORDIC COMBINED: Norway takes control 

Jarl Magnus Riiber won his second straight World Cup title at age 22, with fellow Norwegian Joergen Graabak taking a career-high second. Two more Norwegians were in the top six Jens Luraas Oftebro (fourth) and Espen Bjoernstad (sixth). 

In women’s Nordic combined, which is on track to become an Olympic event, U.S. athlete Tara Geraghty-Moats was a close second to Russia’s Stefaniya Nadymova.

READ: Geraghty-Moats has eyes on 2026

SKI JUMPING: U.S. women shut out 

A decade after leading the charge to get women’s ski jumping in the Olympics and eight years after teenager Sarah Hendrickson won the World Cup, the U.S. women went a whole season without an athlete picking up World Cup points. Hendrickson postponed her retirement but competed only on the Continental Cup this season.

U.S. women also won two of the first three ski jumping world championships Lindsey Van in 2009 and Hendrickson in 2013.

In men’s jumping, Austria’s Stefan Kraft edged out Germany’s Karl Geiger to reclaim the World Cup title he last held in 2017. Geiger’s previous career best was 10th in 2019. Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi, last year’s champion, took third.

FREESTYLE SKIING: Blunck keeps flying

U.S. halfpipe skier Aaron Blunck followed up his second straight world championship in 2019 with his first World Cup season title. Blunck won both events in the U.S. — December’s competition at Copper Mountain and February’s event at Mammoth Mountain. 

Colby Stevenson (slopestyle) and Alexander Hall (big air) were second in their events. Hall won twice, landing a switch left double 1800 to win in the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park. Stevenson also won at the X Games in Aspen.

In women’s competition, 18-year-old Marin Hamill was second in slopestyle, and Jaelin Kauf finished in the top three for the third straight year.

French skier Perrine Laffont had a dominant season in women’s moguls, winning all six regular moguls events and two of four dual moguls, to take her second straight World Cup title.

SNOWBOARDING: Corning wins in Atlanta and in World Cup

Atlanta’s SunTrust Park hosted a World Cup big air competition, with Chris Corning and Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi winning. Corning also won in Cardrona, New Zealand, and took his second big air season title to go along with slopestyle titles in 2016, 2018 and 2019.

Dusty Henricksen was third in World Cup slopestyle on the strength of a win at Mammoth Mountain, followed by fellow U.S. teen Justus Henkes.

U.S. women’s snowboarders Jamie Anderson and Julia Marino won the only World Cup slopestyle events each one entered. Anderson also won the X Games slopestyle.

Olympic and world halfpipe champion Chloe Kim sat out the season after breaking an ankle in March 2019 and enrolling at Princeton.

BIATHLON: Never count out Dunklee 

Susan Dunklee hasn’t had great success on the World Cup circuit since taking a world championship silver medal in 2017, when she finished a career-best 10th in the World Cup, but she once again took world championship silver in the sprint at Antholz.

Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe won the men’s World Cup title despite missing two weeks after the birth of his first child, edging Frenchman Martin Fourcade by two points to spoil the seven-time World Cup champion’s final season.

Boe won his second straight World Cup title, as did Italy’s Dorothea Weirer in the women’s competition.

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Simon Ammann ramps up for one more run at Olympic ski jumping

Simon Ammann
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Simon Ammann, the Swiss ski jumper who gained fame for his resemblance to Harry Potter in 2002 and went to win all four Olympic ski jumps on North American soil this century, has walked back talk of retirement and now says he wants to continue through the 2022 Olympics.

Ammann won the normal hill and large hill in Salt Lake City in 2002. European ski jumpers don’t necessarily get attention from U.S. talk shows, but the 20-year-old Ammann had two things that set him apart. First, his wins were tremendous upsets. Second, he looked like Harry Potter.

He wound up appearing on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” which makes him a wild-card connection in the Kevin Bacon game the peripatetic actor was the other guest on the show that night, and Ammann happily posed with Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick after the show.

Eight years later, Ammann duplicated the feat in Vancouver. This time, he left behind the Harry Potter glasses behind, though he made an enthusiastic walk through the mixed zone wearing comically oversized sunglasses that made him look like the Buggles’ Trevor Horn in the “Video Killed the Radio Star” video, the first music video on MTV.

In 2010, his victories weren’t quite as unexpected. He won the World Cup season title that year, sandwiched between two second-place finishes.

In 2002, on the other hand, he took off from the Olympic hill at Park City having never won a World Cup event. His two wins in the Olympics were his first two in any international competition in the FIS database.

Ammann has also had success in major competition in Asia. He took gold and silver in the 2007 world championships in Sapporo, Japan, the first two of his four career world championship medals. He also won a World Cup event in Sapporo in 2010.

In recent years, though, Ammann hasn’t been competitive on the World Cup circuit. He has been on the podium only once since 2015. Since taking his last major-event medal in 2011, his best result in the world championships was seventh place in 2013.

But he’s already shown he can, like Harry Potter, conjure a surprising performance.

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