Ted Ligety

What to watch on Day 12 of Sochi Olympics

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Here’s a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Wednesday, Feb. 19. A complete list of every Wednesday event can be found here.

WHAT TO STAY UP LATE FOR …

Men’s giant slalom, 2 a.m./5:30 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH FIRST RUN | SECOND RUN

American Ted Ligety’s favorite status here has fallen under some question given his results so far at these Games — 12th in the super combined and 14th in the super-G, two events in which he won gold at the 2013 World Championships but had little World Cup success.

Still, the giant slalom is Ligety’s specialty. He won the World Cup season title in the event four of the last six seasons, though he ranks third so far this season.

Ligety’s primary competition will come from Austrian Marcel Hirscher and Frenchman Alexis Pinturault, the two men who rank above him in the World Cup standings.

Don’t count out Bode Miller, who won silver in the giant slalom at the 2002 Olympics.

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

Sweden earned the top quarterfinal seed after winning all three of its group games. It gets a Slovenian team playing with house money, in its first Olympic tournament having never placed better than 13th at a World Championships.

Sweden has won the last two Olympics held on European ice and will look to ride goalie Henrik Lundqvist into a semifinal against Russia or Finland.

WHAT TO WAKE UP EARLY FOR …

Women’s curling semifinals, Canada-Great Britain, 5 a.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE | Sweden-Switzerland, 5 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Canada, skipped by Jennifer Jones, became the first woman’s nation to go undefeated in round-robin play. The top seed, it drew reigning world champion Great Britain, skipped by Scot Eve Muirhead.

Sweden is the two-time defending Olympic champion and world silver medalist, while Switzerland took fourth in Vancouver.

Cross-country skiing, women’s team sprint, 6:45 a.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This is probably the last good chance for the U.S. to win its second-ever Olympic cross-country medal, joining Bill Koch’s silver from 1976.

Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins won the 2013 World Championship in the team sprint. Diggins is replaced by Sophie Caldwell this year.

Norway and Sweden figure to be the toughest competition. Norway starts eight-time Olympic medalist Marit Bjoergen, while Sweden is not using Charlotte Kalla, who won one gold and two silvers in three of the first four cross-country events.

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

This figures to be the closest quarterfinal. Finland scored 14 goals in its first two games before falling to mighty Canada in overtime. The Finns won medals in 2006 and 2010 and are the best never to win an Olympic hockey gold, if you don’t count Russia as separate from the Soviet Union and Unified Team.

Russia has looked far less impressive than Finland, struggling on the power play and posting underwhelming victories against nations that weren’t considered medal contenders.

Speed skating, women’s 5000m, 8:30 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This is the final individual speed skating event and thus the last chance the Netherlands gets to win multiple medals in one event.

The Dutch female superstar, Ireen Wuest, will look to win her fourth medal of these Games. If she does so, she’s in great shape for five given the Netherlands is the gold-medal favorite in the team pursuit. Five medals would match the most medals won by an athlete at one Winter Games.

Wuest will be paired with defending Olympic champion Martina Sablikova, who has won the last nine World Cup and World Championship 5000m races dating to November 2010.

Also in this race, German Claudia Pechstein, in her sixth Olympics at age 41, will look to win her 10th career medal and become the most decorated female Winter Olympian ever.

WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS DURING THE DAY …

Biathlon mixed relay, 9:30 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen takes aim at the solo record for most Winter Olympic medals for the third time here. The mixed relay is a new Olympic event, and one where Norway should like its chances.

The Norwegians send Bjoerndalen and Emil Hegle Svendsen, both individual gold medalists in Sochi, and Tora Berger and Tiril Eckhoff, silver and bronze medalists.

If Norway wins gold, Bjoerndalen will tie retired Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie for the most career Olympic gold medals (eight) with one more men’s relay to go Saturday.

The other contenders figure to be the Czech Republic, France and Russia.

Curling men’s semifinals, Sweden-Great Britain, 10 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE | Canada-China, 10 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Canada is the only 2010 medalist still alive, looking to defend its gold medal with a different rink this time around. Canada is the No. 2 seed, drawing third seed China and its star skip, Liu Rui. China was sixth at the 2013 World Championships and has never won an Olympic men’s medal.

The top seed is Sweden, which went 8-1 in round-robin play and is the 2013 world champion. Great Britain knocked the pants off Norway in a tiebreaker game Monday to stay alive.

Figure skating, women’s short program, 10 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The notables start with American Polina Edmunds (11:28 a.m. ET), defending Olympic champion Yuna Kim (12:24 p.m.) and U.S. champion Gracie Gold (1:05) before the final group.

The night will be capped by Russian breakout Yuliya Lipnitskaya (1:47), Italian Carolina Kostner (1:54), two-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner (2) and Japan’s Mao Asada (2:20).

Yuna, expected to retire after Sochi, is skating in an international competition for the first time in more than two months. She’s hoping to become the first woman to win two figure skating golds since Katarina Witt in 1984 and 1988.

Lipnitskaya could be her biggest obstacle. The 15-year-old could become the youngest Olympic figure skating champion since Tara Lipinski in 1998.

The key for Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, will be hitting her triple Axel.

Gold and Wagner are the top hopes to bring the U.S. its first women’s figure skating medal since Sasha Cohen’s silver in 2006.

Women’s bobsled runs 3 and 4, 11:15 a.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams held a .23 lead over 2010 Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries of Canada after the first two runs Tuesday.

Meyers, a 2010 bronze medalist as a brakewoman, looks to win the first U.S. women’s bobsled gold medal since Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers prevailed in the event’s debut in 2002.

Williams, a three-time track and field Olympian, looks to become the second athlete to win Summer and Winter Olympic gold medals.

The second U.S. sled, driven by Jamie Greubel, was in third place after the first two runs, .49 ahead of an upstart fourth-place Belgian sled.

USA-3, with Jazmine Fenlator and Lolo Jones, was 11th.

Men’s hockey quarterfinals, Canada-Latvia, 12 p.m. ET CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE | U.S.-Czech Republic, 12 p.m. ETCLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The winners of these games will play each other in the semifinals Friday.

Canada has the easier path after Latvia upset Switzerland on Tuesday. The Latvians, whose roster includes 41-year-old former NHL All-Star Sandis Ozolinsh, have already made it farther than it had in the last three Olympics. The Canadians have named Carey Price their starting goalie over Roberto Luongo, who backed them to a gold medal in 2010.

The U.S. will play the Czech Republic, an opponent that would have given it nightmares 15 years ago. But the Czechs are no longer the power they were in the Dominik Hasek era, despite knocking off 2010 fourth-place nation Slovakia on Tuesday. Jonathan Quick will start in goal for the U.S. after getting the third group-play game off.

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir retire from ice dance competition

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Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the most decorated Olympic figure skaters in history, announced their retirement late Tuesday. They’re done competing in ice dance, and their upcoming Canadian tour will be their last together.

“After 22 years, it feels like the right time to step away from the sport,” Virtue said in a video. “This is so personal and emotional for both of us. … We still can’t believe people care.”

“It just feels for us like it’s the right time to say goodbye while we’re still loving and enjoying the sport as much as we always have been,” Moir said. “This is my first selfie video, and I’m not going to cry. What a beautiful ride it’s been.”

The news was expected.

Virtue and Moir last competed in PyeongChang, earning golds in ice dance and the team event to bring their total to five medals (three golds) and break the record for most Olympic medals in the sport (buoyed by the addition of the team event in 2014).

“It definitely feels like [this is our last Olympics],” Moir said on TODAY in PyeongChang, hours after their ice dance gold. “If it is, this is a great way for us to go out. … It feels right. It feels like a good end.”

Virtue, 30, and Moir 32, teamed up in elementary school. Moir, a childhood hockey player, followed brother Danny into dance, pairing with his first partner at 8 and then with Virtue and 9.

Virtue hit the ice at age 6 because she didn’t want to be the only one in her class who couldn’t skate during a field trip. When she was 7, she was paired with Moir through Moir’s aunt Carol, who coached both as singles skaters. Two years in, Virtue attended Canada’s National Ballet School for a summer before choosing to stick with skating.

That decision ultimately led to one of the greatest careers in Canadian sports history.

They earned a junior world title in 2006, the first of eight Canadian titles in 2008 and, in 2010, the biggest of all — home gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games despite Moir messing up the steps at the end of their free dance. They faced the wrong way in their final pose.

“Scott just said thank you to me and just said look around us, take this in,” Virtue said on NBC as the final couples skated.

“I had to be positive because I messed up,” Moir later joked.

Virtue and Moir developed a rivalry with American training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White, with whom they traded world titles in the Sochi Olympic cycle. In Russia, the Americans edged the Canadians for the title by 4.53 points.

Moir waited until the arena emptied, returned to the rink and kissed the ice. Many thought it was a goodbye to the Olympics.

Two years later, they announced a comeback, saying they still had the fire and wanted to take advantage of one more chance to go to the Games. They won all but one of their competitions in those last two seasons, including the Olympics by a slim .79 of a point over French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

Now they join the other Canadian champions of their generation — Patrick ChanKaetlyn Osmond and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford — in leaving the competitive arena for good.

“We spent 22 years coasting around the outside of the rink, hanging out together, making programs, trying to just soak up our sporting experiences,” Virtue said. “We still can’t believe people care.”

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MORE: Keegan Messing explains decision to hold up Japanese flag

Keegan Messing ‘glad’ to have held Japanese flag for Yuzuru Hanyu

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Yuzuru Hanyu heard Japan’s national anthem at the medal ceremony for his season-debut event on Saturday. But didn’t see a flag.

That’s when the bronze medalist, Keegan Messing of Canada, “took initiative” and unfurled the Japanese flag so Hanyu could honor it at the Autumn Classic in Ontario.

While there were plenty of fans of the Japanese skater in the crowd holding their own flags, none were hoisted above the ice like in some competitions.

Messing took it upon himself to hold up the Japanese flag that was hanging from a flagpole behind the medal podium.

Messing explained his decision following the interaction:

That was just actually instinct, honestly. When they said that we’re gonna play the anthem for the winner, I looked out and I realized there was no flag ready. A couple of the spectators had a flag but so I decided to hold up a flag because if I were in that place, I would’ve liked to have a flag presented at that time. That’s why I did it. I felt like that’s what I would’ve wanted so I went ahead and took initiative and I did it. I’m very happy I did. It felt good to do. I’m glad.

Hanyu is next expected to compete on the Grand Prix circuit, again in Canada in October and at NHK Trophy in Japan in November.

Messing’s assignments are Skate America in October and Cup of China in November.

The next time Hanyu’s and Messing’s paths could cross is at December’s Grand Prix Final, should they both qualify.

MORE: Yuzuru Hanyu wins Autumn Classic

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.

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