Ole Einar Bjoerndalen

What to watch on Day 3 of Sochi Olympics

1 Comment

Here’s a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Monday, Feb. 10. A complete list of every Monday event can be found here.

WHAT TO STAY UP LATE FOR …

Women’s super combined, 2 a.m./6 a.m. ET — CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE EVENT LIVE

American Julia Mancuso is the 2010 Olympic silver medalist in this race that adds together the times from one downhill run and one slalom run. She hasn’t finished better than seventh in any World Cup race this season, but she’s come up big at major events without much run-up fanfare before.

The clear favorite is German Maria Hoefl-Riesch, the reigning Olympic and world champion. Also watch out for reigning World Cup overall champion Tina Maze as well Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon. Gagnon looks to win her nation’s first Alpine medal since 1994.

Short track speed skating, men’s 1500m, 4:45 a.m. ET — CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Short track debuts with heats, semifinals and finals of the longest individual distance on the program. In 2010, this was the race where two South Koreans wiped out on the final turn, and Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski skated past for silver and bronze.

Ohno is of course retired, but Celski is back and a medal contender again. The 23-year-old won a 1500m World Cup event in Kolomna, Russia, in November. He’ll face a tough road to the final with three South Koreans, Russian Viktor Ahn (formerly Ahn Hyun-Soo of South Korea) and Canadian Charles Hamelin also in the field.

WHAT TO WAKE UP EARLY FOR ….

Speed skating, men’s 500m, 8 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

South Korean Mo Tae-Bum looks to repeat as champion in the shortest distance in speed skating. The medal picture is fairly open though, given seven men have won World Cup 500m races this season and only one captured more than one.

The powerful Dutch send twins Michel and Ronald Mulder (Michel is the 2014 World Sprint Champion). The U.S. has Tucker Fredricks and Mitchell Whitmore, who are seventh and 10th in the World Cup standings.

WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS DURING THE DAY …

Luge, women’s singles runs 1 and 2, 9:45 a.m. ET — CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This is Germany’s event. They’ve won the last four Olympic women’s luge titles and routinely dominate World Cups and World Championships. Natalie Geisenberger, the 2010 Olympic bronze medalist, looks primed to march halfway to gold of the four-run competition Monday night.

2010 Olympic champion Tatjana Huefner and two-time World Championships medalist Anke Wischnewski round out the German contingent seeking a sweep.

Canadian Alex Gough and Russian Tatyana Ivanova are the best non-German hopes. The U.S., yet to win an Olympic singles luge medal, sends 2009 world champion Erin Hamlin, the last World Cup race winner, Kate Hansen, and rising 19-year-old Summer Britcher.

Biathlon, men’s 12.5km pursuit, 10 a.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Biathlon is not normally a must-see event in the U.S., but history is at stake here. Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen will go off first in the pursuit, which essentially gives head starts based on finishes from the 10km sprint Saturday.

Bjoerndalen, 40, won the sprint to tie retired countryman and cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie for the most career Winter Olympic medals. He now seeks record-breaking No. 13. Even if he doesn’t get it Monday, he has two relays upcoming where Norway is favored for gold.

Tim Burke leads the U.S. contingent, starting 19th and 50 seconds behind Bjoerndalen. No American has won an Olympic biathlon medal.

Men’s curling, U.S.-Norway, 10 a.m. ET — CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

If you’re going to watch one Olympic curling match, it might as well be this one. The U.S. men will need to pull off upsets to contend for a medal in Sochi. Defeating Norway in their opener would certainly qualify.

The Norwegians are the reigning Olympic and world silver medalists. They are better known for their outrageous pants, though they’ve displayed an even more interesting look in practice here.

Men’s moguls final, 1 p.m. ET — CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Canada could go one-two in moguls under the lights for the second time in three nights at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Mikael Kingsbury looked strong at this time last year, winning the world championship, but 2010 Olympic champion Alexandre Bilodeau has won the last three World Cup events.

Bilodeau is trying to become the first freestyle skier to win two Olympic gold medals. Hannah Kearney missed her shot at that feat two nights ago, when sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe took gold and silver.

The top U.S. hopes on Monday are 2009 world champion Patrick Deneen and Bradley Wilson, whose brother competed in Vancouver.

Carreira, Ponomarenko understand the depth of U.S. ice dance at nationals

Carreira and Ponomarenko
Getty Images
Leave a comment

GREENSBORO, N.C. Heading into the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro this week, up-and-coming ice dancers Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko focused on their “quads” not four-revolution jumps, but still pretty tough to execute.

“(Our coaches) have us doing double run-through weeks, triple run-throughs, even quadruple run-throughs, to make sure we’re fully ready,” Carreira said. “We’re drilling a lot more, so at nationals we go in 100 percent confident.”

Pasquale Camerlengo, who trains the team along with primary coach Igor Shpilband, agreed that the run-up to Greensboro has been grueling for the skaters from Novi, Mich.

“We always plan a week we call the quads, performing (programs) four times,” Camerlengo said. “We’re trying to make them ready physically and work their stamina, to handle their programs in competition, which is a little bit different than in practice. Physically, they’re ready for it.”

Tough practices are just one component of what’s been a challenging but productive sophomore senior season for the two-time world junior medalists, fifth in the U.S. in 2019.

Thus far, they’ve competed at six international competitions, stretching from Lake Placid, N.Y., in August to NHK Trophy in Sapporo, Japan, in late November. Six is a lot, considering other top teams they’ll compete against in Greensboro have competed three to five times so far this season.

“Igor wants to get more experience at the senior level, and also more world points,” Carreira, 19, said. “For that we have to compete. We get out there and compete as much as we can, so our programs feel more trained.”

Those programs – a rhythm dance to Cole Porter’s “It’s Too Darn Hot” and flamenco free dance to “Farrucas” – stretch their abilities far more than last season’s routines. Competing every two weeks or so left little time to make adjustments, so the past six weeks were the key to their preparation for Greensboro.

“We pushed a lot of changes we needed to make until after NHK, to smooth out the programs and really train them,” Ponomarenko, 19, said.

He added that the grueling first half of 2019-20 was a necessary ice dance rite of passage.

“It’s very different from our first season. We really didn’t know what to expect. Now we kind of know where we’re at and how we can improve. We definitely feel the sophomore slump this year, but we just want to compete and keep putting our good performances.”

On paper, Carreira and Ponomarenko’s 2018 Grand Prix results – which included a bronze medal at Rostelecom Cup – look more impressive than the sixth-place finishes they earned at Skate America and NHK this season. But the skaters don’t think the placements tell the full story.

“Last season, results-wise, it might have looked better, because a lot of (top) teams took the Grand Prix season off last season,” Carreira said. “This season, I feel our programs are more difficult and we’re skating better. We want to improve our consistency so that we can compete with the top teams.”

It doesn’t take much to lose points in an ice dance routine, especially on step sequences and “twizzles,” a series of fast rotations moving across the ice. A few slips here – including a small mistake on their twizzles in the rhythm dance at Skate America – can easily drop teams out of the top group.

“They always have the feeling they could do more,” Camerlengo said. “But the season is a progression. They’re getting better and better. That’s the goal, to have them (be) more reliable.”

“They need to do what they’re capable of,” he added. “They just have to do what they’ve learned, with no fear, and just go for it.”

In Greensboro, Carreira and Ponomarenko will have to throw caution to the wind to grab one of the three U.S. ice dance spots at the 2020 World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal this March.

With Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, and Madison Chock and Evan Bates, very likely battling for gold, the Michigan skaters have their sights set on bronze. It’s a herculean task, considering the reigning U.S. bronze medalists, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, qualified for the Grand Prix Final last season and notched career-best scores at Skate Canada this fall.

All three of those teams train together in Montreal. 

But Carreira and Ponomarenko think their programs, strengthened by adjustments and all of those quadruple run-throughs, give them a fighting chance.

“(A bronze medal) is more realistic now than last season,” Carreira said.

“I believe we’ve really grown as skaters,” Ponomarenko said. “Our programs are much more difficult, which has really helped us improve. I believe the podium at nationals is very reasonable. It could be achieved with some good skating.”

Other teams could be in the mix. Last season, Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter placed a strong fourth, but injuries forced them to withdraw from one of their Grand Prix events this fall. A new pairing, Caroline Green and Michael Parsons, has gelled quickly, winning two medals at Challenger Series international events.

“The level of U.S. ice dance level is high, the depth in the U.S. is really the top worldwide,” Camerlengo said. “But the podium, it is reasonable for Christina and Anthony. They have been working hard and they have a very good level to fight for the medal. We’ll see how they will perform here. They’re ready for it.”

Not all of the team’s challenges are on the ice. The Montreal-born Carreira – who has lived and trained in Novi since she was 13 – faces hurdles gaining her U.S. citizenship, without which the couple cannot compete at the Olympics. Last May, she petitioned U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be deemed an “alien with extraordinary ability” under the immigration code, which would help smooth the way for legal permanent residency status. She was denied and filed suit against the USCIS, later dropping the action.

Carreira is still working to achieve a pathway to U.S. citizenship and prefers not to discuss the issue.

“I can’t really say anything,” she said. “We’re working on it, we’re hoping for the best.”

Citizenship issues never entered the skaters’ minds when they teamed up in the spring of 2014. Ponomarenko and his parents, 1988 Olympic ice dance champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, had long admired Carreira’s skating. When he and his former partner Sarah Feng split after the 2014 U.S. Championships, he tried out with Carreira in Novi.

“We really worked well together from the beginning,” Ponomarenko said. “I had wanted to skate with Christina for a really long time even before getting together, so it was no-brainer. The bump in the road (citizenship) can be worked through.”

“There were so many good factors it would be, I think, stupid to let something that can be fixed get in the way of (our partnership),” Carreira said. “We didn’t even think about it.”

The ice dance competition in Greensboro kicks off with the rhythm dance on Friday afternoon, with medalists decided with the free dance on Saturday night.

MORE: 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Coronavirus forces Olympic soccer and boxing qualifiers to move

women's soccer
Getty Images
Leave a comment

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Olympic qualifying events in two sports were moved from the Chinese city of Wuhan on Wednesday because of an outbreak of a deadly viral illness.

A four-nation Asian qualifying group for the women’s soccer tournament was switched from the city at the center of the health scare to Nanjing.

The Asia-Oceania boxing qualifying tournament scheduled for Feb. 3-14 in Wuhan was cancelled. No new plans were announced.

The decisions followed Chinese health authorities telling people in Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings.

The Asian Football Confederation said the round-robin group — featuring host China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand — will be played on Feb. 3-9, retaining the same dates, in Nanjing.

More than 500 people have been infected and at least 17 killed since the outbreak emerged last month. The illness comes from a newly identified type of coronavirus.

Cases have also been reported in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. All involve people from Wuhan or who recently traveled there.

In the soccer qualifiers in China, two teams advance to a four-nation playoff round in March. That will decide which two teams from Asia join host Japan at the Tokyo Olympics.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!