Olympic Daily Preview - Friday, February 21st

The Sports NetworkFebruary 19, 2014 

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Medals will be handed out in seven events on the second and final Friday of the Sochi Olympics.

Mikaela Shiffrin will go for gold in the women's slalom event, as the 18-year- old American attempts to add to the world championship she won last year in the discipline.

A native of Vail, Colo., Shiffrin not only won gold at the 2013 worlds but also claimed the most recent World Cup season title in the slalom. By reaching the podium in Sochi, Shiffrin would become the first American woman to medal in Olympic slalom since Barbara Cochran won gold at the 1972 Sapporo Games.

Shiffrin made her Olympic debut in the giant slalom earlier this week and finished fifth.

The young American expects to face competition for gold from Slovenia's Tina Maze as well as Marlies Schild of Austria and Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch.

Hoefl-Riesch won slalom gold four years ago in Vancouver and claimed her second straight Olympic title in the combined at the Sochi Games. She also picked up a silver in the Super-G at these Olympics.

Maze has won gold in downhill and giant slalom in Sochi and has three career World Cup victories in slalom, while Schild has two Olympic medals in slalom to her credit. The Austrian took slalom bronze at the 2006 Turin Games and added a silver in Vancouver.

The final women's biathlon event of the Sochi Games is set for Thursday with the running of the 4x6-kilometer relay. Host nation Russia will try to claim its third straight gold in the event, but it will have to fend off a Belarussian team that will be anchored by Sochi star Darya Domracheva.

Domracheva is the first female biathlete to pick up three gold medals at a single Winter Olympics, taking the individual, pursuit and mass start events at these Games.

Germany, France and Norway also expect to be in contention for a medal in the relay. The Germans have reached the podium in this event all six times since medals were first awarded at the 1992 Albertville Games.

Marielle Thompson will try to make it two straight gold medals for Canada when the women's ski cross takes place on Friday. Vancouver champion Ashleigh McIvor has since retired, but compatriot Marielle Thompson was the leader on the FIS World Cup circuit and is among the favorites to reach the podium in Sochi.

France's Marion Josserand won the bronze four years ago and will be looking to repeat her success. Her countrymate, Ophelie David, though, may be the biggest threat.

Switzerland's Fanny Smith is also among the favorites following her first place finish in the 2013 World Championships.

The women's ski cross received some unwanted attention earlier in these games when Russian Maria Komissarova fractured her spine during training.

Canada will go after a third consecutive gold medal in men's curling on Friday when it pairs off with Great Britain in the finale at the Ice Cube Curling Center.

Playing in its fifth straight gold medal game, Canada easily disposed of China, 10-6, in the semifinals to advance, while Great Britain moved on with a dramatic, 6-5, win over Sweden in Wednesday's other semifinal.

Great Britain, of course, is attempting to win an Olympic medal in men's curling for the first time since the sport was reintroduced to the Winter Games. The British won curling gold at the inaugural 1924 Chamonix Games, but have failed to reach the podium since curling returned to the Olympics in 1998.

China and Sweden will meet in the bronze medal game.

The American men have yet to win a short track medal in Sochi. That could change on Friday when medals are awarded in both the men's short track 500- meter, as well as the 5000m relay.

J.R. Celski, winner of two bronze medals four years ago in Vancouver, moved on to the quarterfinals in the 500m by finishing second to Canada's Oliver Jean in the seventh heat of qualifying earlier in the week.

All three medalists from the 1,000m race also advanced, including gold medalist Viktor Ahn of Russia. Ahn has two medals in Sochi, placing third in the 1,500 in addition to winning the 1,000.

Fellow Russian Vladimir Grigorev, silver medalist behind Ahn in the 1,000, also moved on along with Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands. Knegt picked up a bronze in the 1,000.

The U.S. advanced to the finals in the 5,000m relay despite a fall from Eduardo Alvarez in the qualifying heats back on Feb. 13. However, the U.S. team of him, Celski, Chris Creveling and Jordan Malone moved on the final because the collision was caused by a Korean skater.

Russia, China, the Netherlands and Kazakhstan also made the final.

Canada, though, which had medaled in this event in four straight Olympics -- winning three golds -- did not qualify for the final.

In other short track speedskating action on Friday, Emily Scott and Jessica Smith of the United States will be eyeing medals in the women's 1,000m race.

Joining them in the quarterfinals will a host of medal winners from these games. China's Li Jianrou, Italy's Arianna Fontana and Park Seung-Hi of South Korea -- the gold, silver and bronze medalists in the 500 -- also advanced on Tuesday, as did Shim Suk-hee. Shim has a silver in the 1,500 in Sochi as well as a gold with South Korea in the 3,000m relay.

Dutch skater Jorien ter Mors, who won gold in the long track 1,500-meter race on Sunday, also made it to the quarterfinals.

Canada's Valerie Maltais also advanced after winning the third heat with an Olympic-record time of 1:28.771.

The only medals remaining in speedskating are the team pursuit competitions on both the men's and women's sides. However, no medals will be awarded on Friday, as the pursuit events will hold heats -- the quarterfinals and semifinals for the men and the quarters for the women.

The women will then race in the semifinals and finals on Saturday, when the men will compete for gold as well.

This is the third time the team pursuit is being staged at the Winter Games. Germany has won both gold medals in the women's event. The host nation has won both Olympic titles for the men, with Italy claiming gold at the 2006 Turin Games and Canada taking gold four years ago in Vancouver.

The American men won silver in the team pursuit in Vancouver. The U.S. women have never earned a medal in the event.

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