Rio Olympics six months out: Must-see Olympic events

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A more detailed schedule is here, but one must-watch Rio Olympic event per day, starting with a spectacle six months from today (all times Eastern):

Friday, Aug. 5 — Opening Ceremony (7 p.m.)
The cauldron will be lit at the famed Maracanã, preceded by the usual Parade of Nations and artistic performances.

Saturday, Aug. 6 — Swimming women’s 4x100m freestyle relay (9 p.m. session)
This could be the Rio debut for Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky, who should be vying for several medals each in the first week of the Games. The U.S. hasn’t won this event since 2000 and finished third (without Ledecky) at the World Championships on Aug. 2.

Sunday, Aug. 7 — Swimming men’s 4x100m freestyle relay (9 p.m. session)
No swimming race has provided more consistent drama over the last four Olympics, and this year’s edition is dripping with potential storylines. Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte could be part of the U.S. quartet looking to take the Olympic title back from the French. Host Brazil has a deep pool of young sprinters, plus one of its most recognizable athletes, Cesar Cielo. Australia and Russia may also factor in.

Monday, Aug. 8 — Rugby women’s medal matches (4:30 p.m.)
The first Olympic rugby medals since 1924 will be awarded, though it will be the first for women and the first for the sevens version. The previous Olympic rugby tournaments were 15 players per side.

Tuesday, Aug. 9 — Gymnastics women’s team final (3 p.m.)
The U.S. looks to repeat as Olympic women’s team champion for the first time. It should be heavily favored over China and Russia given easy wins at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships.

Wednesday, Aug. 10 — Gymnastics men’s all-around final (3 p.m.)
Japan’s Kohei Uchimura, the six-time reigning World champion, could become the first repeat Olympic champion in 44 years and further the argument that he’s the greatest gymnast of all time.

Thursday, Aug. 11 — Gymnastics women’s all-around final (3 p.m.)
Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas went one-two at the World Championships on Oct. 29. Biles is the three-time reigning World all-around champion. Douglas is the reigning Olympic all-around champion.

Friday, Aug. 12 — Swimming men’s 100m butterfly (9 p.m. session)
It’s been said before, but expect this to be Phelps’ last individual Olympic swim. He captured the 100m butterfly at the last three Olympics and posted the world’s fastest time for 2015. Franklin (200m backstroke) and Ledecky (800m free) may also race individually for the last time (in Rio, not overall) in events they won four years ago.

Saturday, Aug. 13 — Tennis women’s singles final
Serena Williams could become the first singles player to repeat as Olympic champion.

SIX MONTHS OUT: Burning Questions | Team USA Roster | Rio Schedule Highlights | Key Qualifying, Trials Dates | Records Watch | Brazil’s Preparations

Sunday, Aug. 14 — Track and field men’s 100m final (9:25 p.m.)
In what’s expected to be his final Olympics, Usain Bolt could try to become the first male runner to win the same individual Olympic event three straight times. The last man other than Bolt to win the event — 2004 champ Justin Gatlin — could be his biggest competition.

Monday, Aug. 15 — Track and field women’s 400m final (9:45 p.m.)
Allyson Felix could capture the first of a possible four gold medals in six days. She is the reigning Olympic 200m champion and World 400m champion and was part of gold medal-winning 4x100m and 4x400m relays in London.

Tuesday, Aug. 16 — Weightlifting men’s super heavyweight final (6 p.m.)
The world’s strongest man will be crowned. At the 2015 World Championships, Russian Aleksey Lovchev lifted a world-record combined 1,047 pounds in the snatch and clean and jerk for gold.

Wednesday, Aug. 17 — Beach volleyball women’s final (9 p.m. session)
Three-time U.S. Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and new partner April Ross could spoil the Brazilian party on Copacabana Beach in one of the nation’s most popular sports. However, the two best beach teams last season were Brazilian pairs.

Thursday, Aug. 18 — Track and field men’s 200m final (9:30 p.m.)
This could be Bolt’s final individual Olympic race, one that he has dominated, winning every Olympic and World title since 2008. Again, Gatlin may play spoiler.

Friday, Aug. 19 — Soccer women’s final (4:30 p.m.)
The U.S. women could be going for a third straight Olympic gold medal, while host Brazil may seek its first Olympic men’s or women’s soccer title at the Maracanã.

Saturday, Aug. 20 — Volleyball women’s final (9:15 p.m.)
Brazil defeated the U.S. in the last two Olympic finals. But the Americans, now with Karch Kiraly coaching, swept Brazil in the 2014 World Championship semifinals en route to gold.

Sunday, Aug. 21 — Basketball men’s final (2:45 p.m.)
The biggest challenge ahead for the U.S. men’s program could be which players to leave off its 12-man Olympic roster. Anything less than a third straight gold medal could be the shocker of the entire Games.

World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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