Alex Ovechkin

What to watch on Day 8 of Sochi Olympics

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Here’s a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Saturday, Feb. 15. A complete list of every Saturday event can be found here.

WHAT TO STAY UP LATE FOR …

Women’s super-G, 2 a.m. ET — CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This is the final women’s speed event of the Olympics and possibly Julia Mancuso’s last really great shot at an Olympic medal.

Mancuso won bronze in the super combined and finished eighth in the downhill. A medal in the super-G would give her five total, matching Bode Miller’s record for U.S. Alpine skiers.

This has been Mancuso’s best discipline since the Vancouver Olympics yet one she has not won an Olympic medal in. Mancuso was the No. 3, 2 and 2 super-G skier the previous three years before her noted struggles on tour this season.

Her biggest competition will come from Olympic super combined champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch, downhill gold medalists Tina Maze and Dominique Gisin and bronze medalist Lara Gut and Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, who was on crutches earlier this week.

Men’s hockey, Slovakia-Slovenia, 3 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

These two similarly sounding yet not bordering nations will play at the Olympics for the first time, both looking to recover from opening-day defeats.

Slovenia, which features Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar, is coming off a 5-2 loss to Russia on Thursday. Slovakia, which finished fourth at the 2010 Olympics, was trounced 7-1 by the U.S.

Both teams are likely to feed into the “qualification playoff” round rather than an automatic quarterfinal berth out of group play.

WHAT TO WAKE UP EARLY FOR …

Short track speed skating, men’s 1000m final, 7:20 a.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

J.R. Celski looks to improve upon his fourth-place finish in the 1500m here, should he make the A final. He finished eighth in the 1000m at the 2010 Olympics and earned a third at a World Cup event in Kolomna, Russia, in November.

The biggest threats will be similar to the 1500m — Canada’s Charles Hamelin, Russia’s Viktor Ahn and any South Koreans.

The women’s 1500m final will take place 13 minutes before the men’s 1000m, but no Americans are expected to be a part of it. US Speedskating has yet to win a medal at these Olympics.

Men’s hockey, U.S.-Russia, 7:30 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This is probably the biggest event of the Olympics without a medal at stake. The U.S. and Russia (or the Soviet Union/Unified Team) will play an Olympic men’s hockey game for the sixth time since the Miracle on Ice and for the first time on Russian ice.

Here are their results since 1980:
1988: Soviet Union 7, U.S. 5 (group play)
1992: Unified Team 5, U.S. 2 (semifinals)
2002: U.S. 2, Russia 2 (group play)
2002: U.S. 3, Russia 2 (semifinals)
2006: Russia 5, U.S. 4 (group play)

Jonathan Quick will start his second straight game in goal after stopping 21 of 22 Slovakian shots Thursday.

The winner of this game goes into the driver’s seat for an automatic spot in the quarterfinals. The loser still has a shot, too, but it will be tougher.

Speed skating, men’s 1500m, 8:30 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Shani Davis looks to rebound from a startling eighth-place finish in the 1000m Wednesday, an event in which he had won 2006 and 2010 Olympic gold.

Davis is the two-time defending silver medalist in the 1500m, the reigning world silver medalist and the 2013-14 World Cup leader.

Yet this is a fairly open race among Davis, the Netherlands’ Stefan Groothuis, Kjeld Nuis and Koen Verweij and Russians Denis Yuzkov and Ivan Skobrev.

The Dutch have won all three men’s speed skating golds so far and will be favored in the final two events, the 10,000m and team pursuit. Only the U.S. in 1932, Norway in 1936 and Eric Heiden in 1980 have swept all the men’s speed skating golds, but there were five or fewer events at all of those Winter Games.

Men’s skeleton runs 3 and 4, 9:45 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

A U.S. man will likely win an Olympic skeleton medal for the first time since Jim Shea’s gold in 2002.

John Daly and Matthew Antoine are in third and fourth, respectively, after two of four runs Friday. Russian Aleksander Tretiakov leads Latvian Martins Dukurs by .56 of a second.

Dukurs, the World Cup champion each of the last five seasons, is staring at his second straight Olympic silver medal after he was upset by Canadian Jon Montgomery in 2010. He is .56 of a second behind Tretiakov.

Daly, who was 17th at the 2010 Olympics, is 1.03 seconds behind Dukurs and .26 better than Antoine. Daly has never won a World Cup or World Championships medal, so this could really be the race of his life.

WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS DURING THE DAY …

Men’s hockey, Sweden-Latvia, 12 p.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE | Switzerland-Czech Republic, 12 p.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

These are the final games in Group C. Sweden has already booked a spot in the quarterfinals with 4-2 and 1-0 wins over the Czech Republic and Switzerland. Latvia is the minnow of this group and should pose no threat, even with Henrik Zetterberg out of the Olympics.

The winner of the Swiss-Czech game has a chance at an automatic quarterfinal spot. The Czechs beat Latvia 4-2 on Friday behind two goals from Jaromir Jagr, 41. The Swiss have played two 1-0 games, losing the latest to Sweden on Friday.

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

Poland’s Kamil Stoch, who won the normal hill Sunday, flew a field-best 136m in training Friday from a lower gate position and appears to be the favorite again here.

Swiss Simon Ammann, the four-time Olympic champion, posted a 132m jump in training after finishing 17th in the normal hill.

Brian Orser reveals Hanyu’s, Medvedeva’s, and Brown’s Grand Prix plans

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Over the past decade, the Toronto club where Brian Orser coached South Korea’s Yuna Kim to the 2010 Olympic title has become such an attraction for top figure skaters from around the globe that it could add a word to a name that already is a mouthful.

You could call it the Toronto International Cricket Skating and Curling Club.

But its reach now is limited by the deadly virus pandemic that has effectively frozen out the elite athletes from Japan, Russia, South Korea and Poland who train at the Cricket Club.

That situation won’t change quickly, even with the International Skating Union having announced Monday its plans to proceed with a live format for the international Grand Prix Series. This fall, it will become a series of six essentially domestic competitions scheduled to begin with Skate America Oct. 23-25 in Las Vegas.

If they take place.

“As soon as the skaters can come back, it will be full steam ahead… to where, we don’t know,” Orser said via telephone Wednesday.

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu remains in Japan. Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva is in Russia, four-time national champion Cha Jun-Hwan in South Korea, and two-time national champion Yekaterina Kurakova in Poland.

“We would like for them all to come back, but with the Canadian travel restrictions in place until at least Aug. 21, we can’t guarantee approval to get them in, and they would have a 14-day quarantine here if they do get in,” Tracy Wilson, who coaches with Orser, said via telephone Wednesday. “Right now, they are all training at home, and that’s OK.

“The situation is different for each one. The Japanese federation may need Yuzu to do the Grand Prix in Japan, and at this point he would face quarantine entering Canada and returning to Japan.

“For Yevgenia, as soon as she does the Russian test skates (scheduled for early September), we will re-evaluate her situation.”

Orser said he has been doing three video coaching sessions a week with Medvedeva, with whom he is in his third season as coach. Medvedeva, who left Russia for Canada after winning a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics, also is currently getting help from coach Elena Buyanova at the CSKA rink in Moscow.

“She (Medvedeva) looks way ahead of where she was at this point last year,” Orser said.

MORE: Looking back at Yuna Kim’s 10-year gold medal anniversary

Orser also has been having live remote sessions with Cha and Kurakova, and they are also sending videos to him. The only skater he has not seen is Hanyu.

“That’s normal when he is back in Japan,” Orser said. “I wasn’t expecting anything.”

How long Hanyu stays in Japan may depend on travel restrictions being loosened in both his homeland and Canada.

“I would like to get them all back, and they need to come back,” Orser said. “But facing a double quarantine is not in anyone’s best interest.”

Only two of the Cricket Club’s international skaters, 2014 Olympian Jason Brown of suburban Chicago and Yi Zhu of Los Angeles (who represents China), have come back to Toronto after leaving in late winter.

It took Brown two tries to get back across the border because of issues with the paperwork necessary for Canada to consider it essential he be allowed to enter. Orser and Wilson want to be sure any skaters coming from Asia and Europe are admitted on the first try.

From April to July, until skaters could get back on the ice in their various homelands, Brown led Thursday off-ice fitness classes via Zoom, with Medvedeva, Cha and Kurakova taking part.

“It was such a fun way to stay connected and still ‘train’ together while we were oceans apart,” Brown said in a Wednesday text message.

Orser and Wilson will recommend that all the foreign skaters training at the Cricket Club try to compete at Skate Canada, scheduled the last weekend of October at a 9,500-seat arena in Ottawa. Wilson thought if the event cannot have spectators, it might be moved to a smaller facility, possibly in a different city.

“All plans are in the early stages,” Skate Canada spokesperson Emma Bowie said in an email.

Grand Prix assignments have not yet been made.

Whether Brown picks Skate Canada over Skate America – if he gets a choice – could depend on when (and if) the Canadian government shortens quarantine periods for travelers from the United States.

“I know that we are in such unprecedented and uncertain times, so I love seeing the ISU being creative and trying to find a way to hold skating events this year,” Brown wrote. “While a lot can happen before October, if it’s safe to do so, I’ll be ready and eager to take part in any events that I can.”

The ISU said it wants to have the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, whether it takes place on its original dates (Dec. 10-13) or early in 2021. The competition is to be used as a test event of the skating venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

There are no details yet on qualification for the final, which usually is determined by points for placements at the six “regular season” events of the series, held in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan. The top six in each of the sport’s four disciplines make the Final.

In the past, the highest-ranked skaters could compete in up to two Grand Prix events, but ISU Vice-President Alexander Lakernik of Russia said in a Tuesday email that everyone would be limited to one event this year.

Because the Final presumably would have much more of an international field than the six other events, staging it is infinitely more problematic because of travel involved.

“We want what’s best for the sport,” Wilson said. “We have to get these kids out there doing programs, to get them on TV. [Note: An NBC spokesman said the network would, as planned, provide coverage of the Grand Prix, with details forthcoming.] In terms of competition, we’re up for anything.

“For me, though, with all the restrictions, there is no way they will be able to run a fair qualification for the Grand Prix Final. You’ve got to reinvent yourself and make it something else – if you are able to have it at all.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: Nathan Chen is surprised, grateful and posing questions about figure skating’s restart

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Steven Nyman, top U.S. downhiller, faces another obstacle

Steven Nyman
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Steven Nyman, the active U.S. leader in World Cup downhill wins, tore his right Achilles in a training crash and had surgery earlier this week in Mt. Hood, Ore.

“I am moving forward,” was posted on Nyman’s social media. “I’ve been through this before and have full intention to comeback [sic] and compete through the next Olympics.”

Nyman raced in three Olympics and owns three World Cup downhill victories.

He turns 40 during the next Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, when he will be three and a half years older than any previous U.S. Olympic Alpine skier.

Nyman missed the PyeongChang Olympics after a pair of major injuries: blowing out his left knee in a January 2017 downhill race crash and tearing his right ACL in downhill training in January 2018. He also tore his left Achilles in 2011.

He raced the last two seasons with a best World Cup finish of fifth in Val Gardena, Italy, site of all of his World Cup wins in 2006, 2012 and 2014.

The U.S. men’s program is in the midst of its longest World Cup downhill victory and podium droughts this millennium — none since Travis Ganong‘s win in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Jan. 27, 2017.

MORE: Alpine skiing World Cup plans earlier season start with fewer fans

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