Olympic Daily Preview - Wednesday, February 19th

The Sports NetworkFebruary 18, 2014 

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Eight medal events are scheduled for the second and final Wednesday of the Sochi Olympics.

Bode Miller already became the oldest Olympic medalist in alpine skiing history in Sochi, but he hopes to add another medal when the men compete for gold in the giant slalom.

Miller claimed his sixth Olympic medal Sunday, finishing in a tie for bronze with Canada's Jan Hudec in the Super-G. The 36-year-old surpassed Norway's Kjetil Aamodt, who medaled at the age of 34 in 2006.

It was Miller's second medal in Super-G after he won silver four years ago in Vancouver. He has reached the podium before in the giant slalom, taking silver at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

Ted Ligety of the U.S. is one of the favorites in this event. Although he has never won a medal in giant slalom, Ligety is considered the best in the world in this discipline. The 2006 Olympic champion in the combined, Ligety has won the last two giant slalom world championships. He'll try to finally win an elusive Olympic medal in the event on Wednesday.

Marcel Hirscher of Austria finished second to Ligety at the 2013 worlds and will be in the field at Rosa Khutor Alpine Center. Italy's Manfred Moelgg, bronze medalist at the last world championships, also could contend for a medal in Sochi.

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal was fourth at the 2013 worlds in giant slalom, but will not compete in the event in Sochi. After racing in three events at these Olympics, Svindal announced on Monday he was pulling out of the Games due to allergies. The three-time Olympic medalist's best showing in Sochi was a fourth-place finish in downhill.

American Andrew Weibrecht, who won silver in the Super-G, is not competing in the giant slalom. Canada's best chance for a medal in giant slalom lies with Philip Brown, who placed 35th in the event at the 2013 worlds.

After an off day at the Iceberg Skating Palace, the figure skating competition resumes on Wednesday with the ladies short program.

The American woman have something to prove after failing to win an Olympic medal for the first time since 1964 four years ago in Vancouver. In fact, there's only been one U.S. medalist in the ladies' singles in the past two Olympics and that was a silver by Sasha Cohen in 2006 at Torino.

That could change here in Sochi, as U.S. champion Gracie Gold and runner-up Polina Edmunds headline the American contingent that could find their way to the medal stand. Two-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner could also make some noise.

Reigning gold medalist Kim Yuna of South Korea will be trying to become the first repeat gold medalist in the ladies' singles since Katarina Witt in 1984 and '88. She may have a tough road, though, thanks in part to an injury to her right foot that caused her to miss about six weeks of action.

The two-time World champion made her comeback in early December and showed no ill effects from the injury and won the Golden Spin in Croatia.

Japan's Mao Asada, who won a silver medal four years ago, as well as Italy's Carolina Kostner, the 2012 World Figure Skating champion, and Russia's Adelina Sotnikova also will be on the radar to reach the medal stand.

There will be thirty skaters in the field.

Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic returns to Sochi to defend her women's 5,000-meters speed skating gold medal, but will face a challenge in the determined Claudia Pechstein, the most decorated Olympian in the sport.

Sablikova held off Germany's Stephaine Beckert in this event four years ago in Vancouver, where she also won gold in the 3,000 meters. She picked up a silver in that event in Sochi for her fourth career medal.

However, that race four years ago did not feature Pechstein, who was banned for two years by the International Skating Union after blood samples taken in 2009 showed a high level of immature blood cells. Pechstein appealed, but it was upheld to make her the first athlete to be banned due to screenings in her biological passport and not a positive drug test.

That forced Pechstein to miss the 2010 Games in Vancouver and prevented her from adding to her career total of nine Olympic medals, the most in Olympic speed skating. Set to turn 42 on Saturday, the German has won five gold medals, including in this event in 1994, 1998 and 2002. She also took silver in 2006.

Beckert, who won three medals in Vancouver, will compete in Sochi, as will American Maria Lamb.

U.S. bobsledder Lauryn Williams will be eying history on Wednesday as the final two of four heats takes place in the women's event.

Williams, a two-time medalist in the Summer Games, has a chance to become just the second Olympian to win gold medals in both the Winter and Summer Games. She took gold in the 2012 Games in London, running the qualifier of the 400- meter relay before the U.S. went on to win in the final.

Williams and teammate Elana Meyers posted the top time after the first two heats on Tuesday, setting a track record with a first-heat time of 57.26 seconds. They then held first with a second run of 57.63 seconds for a combined time of 1 minute and 54.89 seconds.

Canada's Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse were second after the first heat and held that spot with a total time of 1:55.12 after two runs, while Americans Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans placed third with a total time of 1:55.45.

Lolo Jones, a former hurdler who like Williams is transitioning from track and field to bobsledding, had a tougher go of things, coming in 11th along with Jazmine Fenlator with a total time of 1:56.73.

Jones is looking to reach a medal podium after some heartbreak in the Summer Games. She was on her way to winning the 100-meter hurdles in Beijing six years ago when she tripped over the second-to-last gate, then placed fourth at the London Olympics.

Snowboarding also resumes on Wednesday with both the men's and women's parallel giant slalom.

Austrian Benjamin Karl is the favorite, as he tries to add the one thing that is missing from his resume, an Olympic gold medal. Karl claimed a silver medal at this event back in Vancouver and has won four consecutive gold medals at the World Championships.

Thirty-eight-year-old Canadian Jasey-Jay Anderson is the reigning gold medal winner in this event and will be competing in his fifth Olympic games.

Justin Reiter will try to deliver the first men's medal in this event for the United States since Chris Klug took the bronze at the 2002 Games.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands' Nicolien Sauerbreij hopes to repeat her gold medal performance from Vancouver on the women's side, while Germany's Amelie Kober, a silver medal winner at the 2006 games, and Swiss Patrizia Kummer could all find their way to the podium.

Both events consist of 30 competitors. There will be two qualifying runs, round of 16, quarterfinal, semifinal and a final.

For the first time ever in the Biathlon, a mixed relay event will be staged after being voted onto the Olympic program in 2011.

The new mixed relay will feature four athletes: two men and two women. The male athlete will be required to ski 7.5-kilometer loops and shoot from both the prone and the standing position, while the females, who also will shoot from the standing and the prone position, will be required to ski six- kilometer loops. The women will ski and shoot first, followed by the men.

Norway, as it has been almost in almost every biathlon event at these games, is among the favorites, as Ole Einar Bjoerndalen tries one last time to set the all-time record for most Winter Olympics medals.

Bjoerndalen, 40, won the men's sprint 10km earlier in these games, but has failed to reach the medal stand in his other three events. His 12 career medals tie him with Norwegian cross country skier Bjorn Daehlie for the most all-time among Winter Olympians.

France should be a threat with Martin Fourcade at the helm. Fourcade has already won two golds and a silver at these Olympics. Another win on Wednesday would allow Fourcade to tie a 46-year-old French record for gold medals in a single Olympics.

The U.S., meanwhile, has never won an Olympic biathlon medal, but the American team will feature Susan Dunklee and Tim Burke, both of whom have been the best performers in the biathlon for Team USA at these games.

Norway and Sweden are at the top of the medal count in cross-country skiing and look to add to their totals on Wednesday as both the men and women engage in separate team sprint events.

Norway has captured three golds and seven medals in cross country during the Sochi Olympics, while Sweden has nine medals total, including two golds.

After a pair of semifinal events, the women will have their final first.

Norway's duo of Marit Bjoergen and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg have collected medals in Sochi and team up on Wednesday. Bjoergen claimed gold -- the fourth of her career and eight lifetime Olympic medal -- by winning the 15-kilometer skiathlon, while Oestberg took silver in the women's free sprint.

For Sweden, Ida Ingemarsdotter looks to add to the gold she won as part of the 4x5-km cross-country relay here in Sochi and teams with 20-year-old Stina Nilsson, while Justyna Kowalczyk is part of Poland's team having won the women's 10-km classic in these Games.

The U.S. is represented by Sophie Caldwell, who took sixth in the free sprint finals, and Kikkan Randall.

For the men, Petter Northug looks to defend the gold he won in Vancouver with Oeystein Pettersen. His partner this time around is Ola Vigen Hattestad, who won gold in Sochi in the men's free sprint.

Northug has yet to win a medal in these Games, leaving him stuck on four in his career.

The Swedish team consists of Teodor Peterson and Emil Joensson, who won silver and bronze, respectively, in the free sprint behind Hattestad.

Swiss Dario Cologna has won a pair of golds in Sochi, in the 30-km skiathlon and men's 15-km classic, and will pair with younger brother Gianluca on Wednesday, while the U.S. sends out Simeon Hamilton and Erik Bjornsen.

There will be four quarterfinals in men's hockey on Wednesday. Canada's hockey gold medal defense resumes against Latvia, the United States meets the Czech Republic, while the hometown Russians will be back in action against Finland.

Top-seeded Sweden will pair off against Slovenia in the other quarterfinal matchup. .

The medal round of the curling tournament gets underway on Wednesday, as both the men's and women's semifinals take place at the Ice Cube Curling Center.

Vancouver gold medalist Canada will play one semifinal against China with Sweden battling Great Britain in the other matchup. On the women's side Canada puts its undefeated mark on the line against Great Britain, while defending gold medal winning Sweden plays Switzerland.

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