Here’s a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Sunday, Feb. 9.
WHAT TO STAY UP LATE FOR …
Men’s downhill, 2 a.m. ET — CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE EVENT LIVE
The medal picture for the marquee skiing event of the Olympics has shaken up over the last few weeks. American Bode Miller, a five-time Olympian with five Olympic medals, is now a legitimate pick for gold despite missing all of the 2012-13 season following knee surgery.
Miller, 36, was the fastest man in two of the three training runs at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort. He would be the oldest Alpine skier to win an Olympic medal.
“He’s been the best skier on the mountain,” Aksel Lund Svindal, the reigning world champion and World Cup champion, said of Miller. “So now he looks like the favorite.”
Miller, the 2010 Olympic downhill bronze medalist, has not won a World Cup race in three years but took third in the final pre-Olympic downhill race Jan. 25. A sixth Olympic medal would put him solo second all time among men behind retired Norwegian Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who earned eight.
Svindal, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, has won 11 World Cup races in the same three-year span. He’s been eighth, third and second in this week’s training runs.
Before the training runs, Svindal was a consensus gold-medal favorite, a status cemented when top Austrian hope Hannes Reichelt withdrew from the Olympics with a herniated disk. Italian Dominik Paris, the 2013 world silver medalist, has yet to return to form from a December crash.
Snowboarding, women’s slopestyle, 4:15 a.m. ET – CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE
Four-time Winter X Games champion Jamie Anderson could make it a U.S. sweep in snowboard slopestyle following Sage Kotsenburg’s surprise gold Saturday.
Anderson qualified second into the final, passing on her second run after posting a 93.50 in her opener Thursday. Anderson is a slight favorite over 2013 world champion Spencer O’Brien of Canada and top qualifier Anna Gasser of Austria. American Karly Shorr and Australian 2010 Olympic halfpipe champion Torah Bright also qualified straight into the 12-woman final.
Reigning X Games champion Silje Norendal will join the favorites mix if she is one of four to advance out of the 15-woman semifinals, which begin at 1:30 a.m. ET. Americans Ty Walker and Jessika Jenson are also in the semis.
WHAT TO WAKE UP EARLY FOR ….
Speed skating, women’s 3000m, 6:30 a.m. ET – CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE
The first women’s speed skating event of the Olympics is likely to come down to three veteran Olympic champions.
Czech Martina Sablikova is the defending Olympic champion and World Cup leader. German Claudia Pechstein, 41 and a nine-time Olympic medalist, is the only woman to beat Sablikova in a World Cup 3000m this season. The Netherlands’ Ireen Wuest is the 2006 Olympic champion and reigning world champion in the distance.
The U.S. women’s team is likely to end its medal drought since 2002 in Sochi, but it probably won’t come here. Jilleanne Rookard and Anna Ringsred represent the red, white and blue.
WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS DURING THE DAY …
Luge, men’s singles, 9:30 a.m. ET — CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE
The third and fourth runs will determine the medals at the Sanki Sliding Center. The first two runs saw the same accomplished men in the top three — defending Olympic champion German Felix Loch, seven-time Olympian Russian Albert Demtschenko and 2002 and 2006 Olympic champion Italian Armin Zoeggeler.
Loch leads by .294 over Demtschenko and .744 over Zoeggeler. He’s trying to become the third man to win back-to-back Olympic luge titles, joining Zoeggeler and German Georg Hackl.
Zoeggeler would be the first athlete to win a Winter Olympic medal in six straight Games. Demtschenko, 42, can take the title of oldest Winter Olympic champion in an individual event from Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who set the mark Saturday.
Chris Mazdzer is the top American in 13th, the same place he finished at the 2010 Olympics. The U.S. has never won an Olympic singles luge medal, and that drought will continue.
Figure skating, team event, 10 a.m. ET (Live on NBCSN) – CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE
The first figure skating medals will be awarded following three sets of free skates (men, women and ice dance) from five nations at the Iceberg Palace. The U.S. improved from a tie for fifth to third place Saturday, but it can’t finish higher than second as Russia is well ahead.
The U.S. is expected to send first-time Olympians Jason Brown and Gracie Gold and world ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White up on Sunday, in that order. They must average a little over two spots better than Canada per event to win silver. That is very unlikely.
Really, the Americans should be more concerned with being caught by Italy and Japan, which are three and four points back. The key will be Brown and Gold handling the pressure of their Olympic debuts. The U.S. could even trail Italy and Japan by a point or two going into the free dance finale, since those nations don’t have the firepower to match Davis and White.
Canada needs to finish at least two spots better than Russia per event to overtake the host nation for gold. That is very unlikely. Russia is guaranteed no worse than silver, meaning Yevgeny Plushenko will become the second figure skater to win four Olympic medals.
Ski Jumping, men’s normal hill, 12:30 p.m. ET – CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVEThe second day of competition will conclude with ski jumping under the lights at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center. Ski jumping has been a daytime affair at all recent Winter Olympics save 2006.
Gold is up for grabs. Four-time Olympic champion Swiss Simon Ammann is among the contenders, as are decorated Austrians Gregor Schlierenzauer, Thomas Morgenstern and Thomas Diethart. Poland, Slovenia, Norway and Germany send top jumpers as well.
And then there’s Japan’s Noriaki Kasai, at 41, in his seventh Olympics and still looking for his first individual medal. He’s got a shot.
The U.S. qualified three men into Sunday’s competition — Nick Alexander, Anders Johnson and Peter Frenette — but neither is expected to contend for medals.