Olympic Daily Preview - Saturday, February 8th

The Sports NetworkFebruary 7, 2014 

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - The first medals of the Sochi Olympics will be awarded Saturday.

Medals will be given out in biathlon, cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding and speedskating.

Competition began in some sports Thursday but the games didn't get underway in earnest until Friday night's opening ceremony.

The two Canadian snowboarders who were critical of Shaun White's decision to pull out of the Olympic slopestyle competition were among eight riders who qualified Thursday for the event's final, which will take place Saturday.

Max Parrot posted the best qualifying score and Sebastien Toutant also made it through Thursday in the sport's debut at the Olympics.

White, the American star known for his daring halfpipe tricks, withdrew from the event on Wednesday, saying he wanted to concentrate on winning his third straight gold in the halfpipe and that the risk of injury on a slopestyle course seen by some as dangerous was too great.

He hurt his wrist during a training run on Tuesday but initially indicated he would not miss the event. His decision to withdraw was mocked by Parrot and Toutant in tweets that they quickly deleted.

Canadian Mark McMorris, a two-time X Games gold medalist, fell on his first run Thursday and will have to try to qualify through Saturday's semifinals, which will take place before the finals. McMorris suffered a broken rib at the X Games last month.

Americans Sage Kotsenburg, Ryan Stassel and Charles Guldemond will also have to try to qualify through the semifinals.

Reigning Olympic champion Hannah Kearney of the U.S. had the top qualifying score in women's moguls Thursday and will try to become the first back-to-back gold medalist in Saturday's finals.

Canadian sisters Chloe and Justine Dufour-Lapointe qualified second and third to move directly into the final with Kearney. So did another sister, Maxime, who was eighth in qualifying.

American Eliza Outtrim and Canadian Audrey Robichaud are also in the final.

Another American, Heidi Kloser, was considered a medal contender but injured her knee in a fall during a training run and has pulled out of the Olympics. U.S. teammate Heather McPhie can qualify for the final through the second round of qualifications.

Medals will be decided in the men's 10-kilometer biathlon sprint.

The United States, which has never won an Olympic medal in biathlon, will be represented by three-time Olympians Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke, as well as Leif Nordgren and Russell Currier.

Nathan Smith, Brendan Green, Jean-Philippe le Guellec and Scott Perras will ski for Canada

France's Vincent Jay was the Olympic champion in 2010 but is retired. Reigning silver medalist Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway and 2010 bronze medalist Jakov Fak of Slovenia

Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen will defend her Olympic title in the women's 15-kilometer pursuit. Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk, the 2010 bronze medalist, is also in the field for Saturday's race. Competitors ski the first half of the race in the classic style, change skis, then complete the second half using the free technique.

Sven Kramer of the Netherlands will defend his Olympic title in the men's 5,000-meter speedskating event with 2010 silver medalist Lee Seung-Hoon of South Korea and reigning bronze medalist Ivan Skobrev of Russia also in the field for Saturday's competition.

The figure skating team competition, new to the Olympics, will continue.

Reigning Olympic ice dance silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White were chosen to represent the U.S. on Saturday. Davis and White, who have won a record six straight titles at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, will compete in the short dance. Ashley Wagner will skate for the U.S. in the women's short program.

Competition in the team event, which is new to the Olympics, began Thursday.

The U.S. is in a three-way tie for fifth place with 10 points while Russia leads the competition with 19 points and Canada is second with 17.

After the field is cut to five countries following the short dance and women's short program, the pairs free skate will follow on Saturday. Free skates for the men, women and ice dancing are scheduled for Sunday, when the medals will be awarded.

Canada will begin its quest to win a fourth straight Olympic gold medal in women's hockey, opening preliminary round play against Switzerland. The U.S. -- which has medaled in every Olympic tournament -- opens against Finland.

Luge also gets underway with runs in men's singles and the men's normal hill individual qualifications will take place in ski jumping.

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