SOCHI -- “On some levels, the idea of ice dance as a competition makes as much sense as trying to quantify an aroma or a sunset,” writes SI’s Brian Cazeneuve. “How do you compare one viscerally appealing performance with another and reduce them to numbers? Perhaps it is just better to appreciate what may be the last days when two of the most lyrical and pleasing couples will take the ice in a competitive arena.”
Those couples are Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. and their Canadian rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir – the two best ice dancing teams in the world. As they enter Monday’s free skate final, Davis and White, the silver medalists in Vancouver, have a lead of 2.66 points – significant, but not decisive – over Virtue and Moir, the 2010 Olympic champions. Both couples have said this will be their last competitive season, so Monday represents a chance to appreciate both pairs, no matter the result. The ice dance competition is the centerpiece of a day where medals will also be handed out in biathlon (men’s 15km mass start and women’s 12km mass start), bobsled (two-man), freestyle skiing (men’s aerials), snowboarding (men’s snowboard cross) and ski jumping (team long hill)
What to watch (all times in Eastern Standard Time)
• CURLING: The final round robin sessions come in curling with the U.S. women facing Korea (midnight) and the U.S. men meeting Switzerland (5:00 a.m.).
• WOMEN'S HOCKEY: The U.S. women’s hockey team – we last saw them losing 3-2 to archrival Canada – have a semifinal meeting at 7:30 a.m. with Sweden, who defeated Vancouver bronze medalists Finland to advance to the Final Four. The last two games between the U.S. and the Swedes (the 2010 Olympics and 2011 world championship) both ended in 9-1 victories for the Americans. The other women’s hockey semifinal (noon) pits Canada versus Switzerland at noon at Shayba Arena. The Canadians are undefeated in Sochi and have outscored opponents 11-2.
• MEN'S AERIALS: Belarus and China have dominated men’s aerials and that should be the case again today with Belarusian aerialists Anton Kushnir and Alexei Grishin (the 2010 gold medalist) dueling China’s Liu Zhongqing (bronze in Vancouver) and Qi Guangpu (the 2013 world champion). Canada’s Travis Gerrits is also a contender. Grishin is competing in his fifth Olympic Games and won a bronze in Salt Lake City in 2002. Eighteen-year-old Mac Bohonnon will compete for the U.S. The qualification round starts at 8:45 a.m. and the finals are set for 1:12 p.m.
• MEN'S BOBSLED: U.S. pilot Steven Holcomb and brakeman Steven Langton sit in third place after the first two rounds of two-man bobsled, an event the U.S. has not medaled in since Stanley David Benham and Patrick Martin won the silver medal at the 1952 Winter Games in Oslo. Holcomb piloted the four-man competition to gold in Vancouver 2010 and can become the seventh pilot to win gold in both the two-man and four-man competition. But he’ll have to catch the Russian Federation 1 sled of Alexander Zubkov and Alexey Voevoda who led after two rounds with a time of 1:52.82. The Switzerland-1 team of Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann is second at 153.14. The team of Holcomb and Langton clocked in at 1:53.18. The US-2 team of Cory Butner and Chris Fogt is in 11th with a time of 1:53.56, while US-3 with Nick Cunningham and Dallas Robinson is 13th at 1:53.80. The final two rounds begin at the Sanki Sliding Center at 9:30 a.m.
• ICE DANCING: The ice dancing long program is set for 10:00 a.m. at Iceberg Skating Palace with Davis and White (78.89) leading Moir and Virtue (76.33). Russia’s Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (73.04) are in third followed by France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat (72.78), Two additional American teams are also in the Top 10: Evan Bates and Madison Chock (65.46) are in eighth place and the sibling team of Alex and Maia Shibutani (64.47) are in ninth. Since 2012 Davis and White have won every competition they have entered and can become the first ice dance team from the U.S. to win the title.
• MEN'S BIATHLON: Russia’s Alexey Volkov is SI’s pick to win the men’s biathlon 15k mass start which was rescheduled for today (6:30 a.m.) after the competition was canceled on Sunday due to fog. Other contenders include Norway’s Tarjei Boe and France’s Martin Fourcade, who won gold in both the men’s 12.5 pursuit and men’s 20k individual. Tim Burke of the U.S. has an outside shot for a medal.
• WOMEN'S BIATHLON: The women's 12.5km mass start biathlon medal comes today with Sochi double gold medalist Darya Domracheva of Belarus as the favorite. She took gold in the 10km pursuit and the women’s 15km individual. Norway’s Tora Berger (who won silver in the 10km pursuit) and Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina (gold in the women's 7.5km sprint) are also medal contenders. Susan Dunklee will compete for the U.S. The race starts at 10:00 a.m.
• MEN'S SKI JUMPING: SI’s picks for the men’s team long hill competition in ski jumping are Austria, Germany and Norway. Austria has won the last two Olympic gold medals in the team event and can become the first country to win this event three times. The trial round begins at 12:15 p.m.; the finals are 1:22 p.m. Poland’s Kamil Stoch can become the second ski jumper in history to win three gold medals at a single Winter Games if Poland tales the event. The Flying Finn, Matti Nykanen, pulled off the golden sweep (normal hill, large hill and team event) in 1988.
Tweet of the Day
By The Numbers
6.4 million -- Number of viewers watching the U.S.-Russia men’s hockey game Saturday on NBC Sports Network between 10-10:30 a.m. ET, the time of the eight-round shootout won by the U.S.
900,000 -- Tweets about the U.S.-Russia game during the game from 7:30 a.m-12 pm ET, according to Twitter Sports.
36 years and 127 days -- Age of Bode Miller, who became the oldest medalist in alpine skiing. He surpassed Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt who was 34 years and 169 days when he won gold in the super G in 2006.
20 -- Medal drought, in years, for Canada in alpine skiing before Sunday when Jan Hudec took bronze in the Super-G. It was Canada’s first alpine medal since Ed Podivinsky won bronze in men's downhill in 1994.
Around the web
The five stories from Sochi you’ll be talking about on Sunday:
Russians Cry Afoul On Twitter After Hockey Loss (By Paul Sonne, Wall Street Journal) -- A great social media roundup of not-so-happy Russian hockey fans.
Close to Sochi, Games change little for Russia’s bereft (By David Filipov, The Boston Globe) -- “Twenty miles up the mountains from the Potemkin village of Sochi’s ostentatious $50-billion extravaganza lies the village of Solokh Aul, writes the author, “75 families make do without running water, gas or oil heat, or reliable electricity.”
T.J. Oshie’s a ‘real American hero’ and set to fight Putin? Well…(By Patrick Johnson, National Post) -- People are having fun with the Wikipedia page for Mr. Oshie.
On The Edge (By Alexander Wolff, SI.com) -- The SI writer traveled to Georgia to examine the recent history, contemporary politics, geographic reality of the Sochi Olympics.
Canadian snowboarder Michael Lambert pierces the Sochi bubble (By Bruce Arthur, National Post) -- A Canadian athlete breaks code and addresses the gigantism of hosting an Olympics.