Lindsey Jacobellis

What to watch on Day 9 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. 16. A complete list of every Sunday event can be found here.

WHAT TO STAY UP LATE FOR …

Men’s curling, U.S.-Canada, 12 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Both U.S. curling teams are likely to be eliminated from medal contention Sunday. The men (2-4) go up against medal contender Canada (5-2), the defending Olympic champion. A loss, and they have no shot at the medal round. John Shuster and Co. need to win their next three games and get a lot of help to advance.

The U.S. women (1-6) are in last place and already mathematically eliminated from advancing.

Men’s super-G, 1 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Ted Ligety and Bode Miller will try again to win their first medals of the Sochi Olympics. Ligety is the reigning world super-G champion, but that’s the only super-G race he’s ever won. He’s coming off a disappointing 12th-place finish in the super combined Friday.

Miller is the reigning Olympic silver medalist in the super-G and looking for his sixth Olympic medal. He was eighth and sixth in the downhill and super combined, respectively.

Ligety and Miller are medal threats along with a host of Europeans. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal is the World Cup leader and defending Olympic champion, but he is medal-less here and was bettered in both the downhill and super combined by countryman Kjetil Jansrud.

Austrian Matthias Mayer has momentum after winning the downhill, while Italian Christof Innerhofer goes for his third medal in three events.

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

These two nations are a combined 0-4 with a minus-17 goal differential going into their Group B finale. They’re already slotted into the “qualification playoffs,” which is the round before the quarterfinals.

Norway has never made it past the Olympic quarterfinals. Austria is in its first Olympic hockey tournament since 2002.

Women’s snowboard cross final, 4:40 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Lindsey Jacobellis takes her second shot at Olympic redemption, eight years after her trick move and fall cost her gold in the first Olympic women’s snowboard cross competition.

She’s a favorite to make the final as the second-ranked rider this World Cup season. Jacobellis is also coming off her eighth Winter X Games title.

Her biggest competition could come from Canadian Dominique Maltais, the World Cup leader each of the last four seasons and bronze medalist in that infamous 2006 Olympic final. Maltais suffered a knee injury at the X Games in January but has said she feels no pain.

There’s also Maelle Ricker, another Canadian, the reigning world and Olympic champion. Ricker underwent wrist surgery in January.

WHAT TO WAKE UP EARLY FOR …

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

The final Group A games will take place simultaneously. The U.S., coming off a 3-2 shootout win over Russia on Saturday, is in the driver’s seat to clinch an automatic spot in the quarterfinals. The simplest way to do so would be to beat Slovenia, which surprised Slovakia 3-1 on Saturday.

The Russians are in a tougher spot to earn an automatic quarterfinal spot as they are one point behind the U.S. in the group standings. Russia must defeat Slovakia and hope Canada and Finland don’t go to overtime, assuming the U.S. takes care of business against Slovenia.

If not, Russia will be placed in the “qualification playoffs” and have to play an extra game to advance to the quarterfinals.

Speed skating, women’s 1500m, 9 a.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This is the final individual speed skating event in which the U.S. has a realistic chance of winning a medal.

Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe return after finishing seventh and eighth in the 1000m, where at least one was expected to win a medal.

The Netherlands’ Ireen Wuest is an overwhelming favorite. She’s the reigning Olympic and world champion and the current World Cup leader. Wuest has already won gold in the 3000m and silver in the 1000m here.

WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS DURING THE DAY …

Figure skating, short dance, 10 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Meryl Davis and Charlie White begin their quest for the first U.S. Olympic gold medal in ice dance. They’re the reigning world champions and Olympic silver medalists and haven’t lost in nearly two years, a stretch that includes a World Championship, Four Continents Championship, two Grand Prix Finals and four Grand Prix series events.

Davis and White will be the last couple to dance at 1:35 p.m. ET.

Their biggest rivals, Canadian training partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, take the ice at 12:34. Virtue and Moir are the defending Olympic champions.

Other U.S. couples Madison Chock and Evan Bates (12:14) and Maia and Alex Shibutani (12:01) are outside medal threats.

Biathlon, men’s 15km mass start, 10 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen is expected to take aim at the solo record for most Winter Olympic medals for the third time after his opening gold in the 10km sprint.

Bjoerndalen, 40, has been stuck on 12 career medals, finishing fourth in the 12.5km pursuit and 34th in the 20km individual event. He is not a medal favorite here. France’s Martin Fourcade is the star, looking for his third straight gold.

Two-man bobsled runs 1 and 2, 11:15 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Steven Holcomb will drive USA-1 in the first of two days of competition in the two-man event. The U.S. has not won a two-man Olympic medal since 1952.

Holcomb, the 2010 Olympic four-man champion, finished sixth in the two-man in 2010 with Curt Tomasevicz. He’ll go with Steve Langton this time around.

Holcomb is the World Cup champion in the two-man, but the favorite may very well be Swiss Beat Hefti, who won on this track to conclude the 2012-13 World Cup season. Russian Aleksandr Zubkov was fastest in training.

Nick Cunningham and Cory Butner will drive the other two U.S. sleds.

Men’s hockey, Finland-Canada, 12 p.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE 

By goal differential, these have been the two most dominant nations so far. The winner of this game will automatically go to the quarterfinals. The loser, too, could make it as the fourth of four automatic quarterfinalists.

Canadian coach Mike Babcock did not name his starting goalie between Roberto Luongo and Carey Price on Saturday. Whoever starts will be in the driver’s seat to continue to do so into the medal round.

Arnie the Terminator: Aussie rival to Katie Ledecky an unlikely swim story

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In August 2016, a 15-year-old Australian swimmer named Ariarne Titmus followed the Rio Olympics as she prepared to fly to Maui for the Junior Pan Pacific Championships.

Titmus paid special attention to her best events, the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles. Katie Ledecky swept them, breaking two of her own world records.

“I remember watching her races thinking, like, this chick is nuts,” Titmus told NBC Sports in Australia early this year. “She’s just doing stuff that no one’s gonna get near.”

Three years later, Titmus stunned Ledecky at the world championships, chasing down the American in the last 50 meters of the 400m freestyle. She became the first woman to beat Ledecky in a distance race in seven years and a bona fide rival one year from the Tokyo Games.

Ledecky at first attributed her late fade to tight and tired legs. Then she spent seven hours the next day in a South Korean emergency room with what she believed was a stomach virus.

“She was sick,” said Dean Boxall, Titmus’ South African-born coach, “and we happened to pounce.”

Titmus’ time — 3:58.76, a personal best by .59 — was slower than Ledecky’s wins at her previous three major international meets — Rio Olympics, 2017 Worlds and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships.

“It wasn’t a good swim by Arnie,” said Boxall, a vocal coach known to shout Ledecky’s name in practices. “And I know it wasn’t a good swim by Katie. Definitely not. But there was things that Arnie did in that race I was pleased with, and there was a lot of things that she did that I was not happy with at all.”

The Olympic postponement to 2021 gives Titmus and Boxall another year to work on those inefficiencies down in Brisbane. Another year to mature, to turn 20 years old before the Games.

“I try not to dwell on that [beating Ledecky] too much,” Titmus, sometimes called “the Terminator” by Australian press, said of the world championships, where she also out-split Ledecky in the 4x200m free relay and took bronze behind the American in the 800m free. “Next year’s the big one at the Olympics.”

Nowhere is swimming closer to a national sport than in Australia, but none of its Olympic champion Dolphins hail from Tasmania, an island 150 miles south of the mainland.

Notable Tasmanian sports persons include cricketer Ricky Ponting, retired NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose and woodchopping world champion David Foster, but no listed swimmers.

Stephanie Rice, the last Australian female swimmer to win an individual Olympic title in 2008, visited “Tassie,” the state a little bigger than West Virginia, nearly a decade ago. She met a young Titmus, who still remembers what Rice scribbled: “Be the best you can be.”

“I say it’s my favorite quote,” Titmus said. “She wrote it on my shirt, so it has to be my favorite quote.”

Titmus was born a week before the Sydney Olympics — “She loved watching Thorpie,” her mom said — and grew up on 16 acres of country land. The family — parents Steve and Robyn and younger sister Mia — had horses, a trampoline and a swimming club just down the road in Launceston.

They also had an indoor pool (areas of Tasmania approach freezing in the winter). One evening more than 15 years ago, Robyn was chopping vegetables and peered to see her elder daughter, then a toddler without formal swim lessons, doing the breaststroke.

“We didn’t know anybody at the swimming club,” said Steve, a longtime TV journalist. “And we turned up and said, hi, we’re the Titmuses. We’ve got a daughter called Ariarne, and she wants to race. Tuesday nights they had club night, and she jumped in the water, and away she went.”

Titmus wasn’t the fastest at first, but by the time she won a third Australian junior title, she became too big for the Apple Isle.

“[My coach] said, look, you can’t really do anything else down here,” Titmus remembered. “There’s no one for you to train with. There’s no one for you to race. It’s all up in Queensland. And he said, if you really want a shot at this, you should really move.”

The family relocated to Brisbane when she was 14 or 15, following Titmus’ coach.

We packed up the car, got on the boat, sailed to Melbourne,” said Robyn, a former national-level track sprinter. “We even stopped at Albury on the way for a training session because the coach she had at the time was a hard task master.”

Right around that time, she first met Boxall while with the Australian junior national team.

“I originally thought this guy is nuts,” Titmus said. “He gave us this speech about the New Zealanders or something were trying to be better than us. His veins were popping. It was crazy. I was like, I’m never ever going to have a coach like him.”

Boxall became her coach about a year later.

“I’ve got great athletes here that hurt themselves, and they enjoy going through the pain,” he said, “but you want to try and get that little bit extra from someone. You have to actually go there with them a little bit.”

In a sitdown, on-camera interview, Boxall first told how he met Titmus, his first impression of her and a bit about their relationship. He first mentioned Ledecky, umprompted, when asked the fourth question, about Titmus’ progression.

Boxall noted that Titmus swam the 400m freestyle in 4:09.81 at the August 2016 Junior Pan Pacific Championships.

“Ledecky went 3:56:46,” Boxall said, correctly noting Ledecky’s Rio Olympic world record to the hundredth, “so we’re 13 seconds off [at] that stage.”

Titmus raced Ledecky for the first time at the 2017 Worlds and finished fourth in the 400m, closing the gap to six seconds. In 2018, she took second to Ledecky at Pan Pacs, 1.16 seconds behind, becoming the first Australian to break four minutes in the event.

At 2019 Worlds, Boxall needed to be alone during the 400m free final. He left the Australian team box and snuck into a VIP area. As Titmus reeled Ledecky in, Boxall stood up and ran.

“Like a shot of adrenaline,” he said. “I couldn’t contain myself, but I was calmer as I’d ever been as well.

“That’s the first race that Arnie has raced Katie and actually was in the race. … Prior to that, it was just Katie.”

Titmus swam 10 seconds faster than when Boxall first compared her to Ledecky in August 2016.

“She’s 2.4 seconds off [Ledecky’s] world record,” Boxall said. “We know what the benchmark is, and we’re still a long way off.”

Titmus recorded the eighth-fastest 400m freestyle in history. Ledecky owns the top seven times.

“The greatest thing apart from obviously winning, I think, [is] being able to actually race someone who has been on her own for so long,” Titmus said. “I find it so crazy that now I’m in this situation where she’s my main rival.”

Scroll down the list, and you’ll see that the top 27 times in history (aside from the now-banned suit era) are shared by Ledecky (23) and Titmus (four).

“She’s certainly special,” Boxall said of his pupil. “Special enough? We’ll see.”

MORE: Simone Manuel’s experiences shape her voice for change today

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Collin Morikawa jumps into projected Olympic golf field

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Collin Morikawa would not have qualified outright for the Tokyo Olympics had they been held this summer. Now, after winning the PGA Championship, he is third overall in global qualifying for the Tokyo Games in 2021.

Morikawa, a 23-year-old who took the same number of PGA Tour starts to win his maiden major as Tiger Woods (29), went from an alternate for the expected four-man U.S. Olympic team to No. 2 among Americans in the early qualifying standings, according to golf rankings guru @VC606 on Twitter.

Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are the other Americans in qualifying position, according to @VC606.

Morikawa, whose father is of Japanese descent, turned professional in June 2019 and made his first 22 cuts, a feat bettered only by Woods.

The 23-year-old could become the youngest U.S. Olympic male golfer since 1904 (important note: golf was not part of the Olympic program from 1908 through 2012). Come next summer, he will still be younger than all but seven men from the Rio Olympic golf field of 60, according to Olympedia.org.

Olympic golf qualifying standings will fluctuate significantly. There are five major championships left in the qualifying window, starting with the U.S. Open in September and finishing with next summer’s U.S. Open, both airing on NBC Sports.

How tough will it be to make the U.S. Olympic team? Consider that the three Americans to win majors in 2019 — Woods, Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland — are currently not in Olympic qualifying position.

The U.S. has seven of the top nine in the Official World Golf Ranking, which is calculated differently than Olympic qualifying.

MORE: Nosferatu is golf’s Olympic rankings guru. Who is he?

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