Competition kicks off in Sochi today


SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Competition at the Sochi Olympics was officially starting today, 32 hours before the opening ceremony.

Early starts are needed with 12 men's and women's medal events added since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Men's snowboard slopestyle qualifying runs -- without American star Shaun White, who withdrew Wednesday -- were beginning 10 a.m. (0600 GMT) at X-Treme Park in the mountains above Sochi.

Women's qualifying runs were following in the afternoon, and women's moguls qualifying was scheduled to start freestyle skiing events at 6 p.m. (1400 GMT).

Men's slopestyle and women's moguls are among the first medals to be awarded Saturday.

Down in Sochi, the new team figure skating competition begins 7.30 p.m. (1530 GMT) at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

The men's short program is to be followed by the pairs.

The following is a listing of what to watch for at the Sochi Winter Olympics compiled by Gary D'Amato of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


Sarah Hendrickson, 19, ski jumping: The 95-pound dynamo already has won 22 World Cup medals and was gold medalist at the 2013 World Championships. She will be competing just five months after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery following a training crash.

Emery Lehman, 17, speedskating: The high school senior opened eyes when he caught and passed 2010 Olympian Jonathan Kuck to win the 10,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials. Lehman also qualified in the 5,000.

Mikaela Shiffrin, 18, Alpine skiing: The teen sensation is the reigning world champion and World Cup title-holder in slalom and also a medal contender in giant slalom. In five World Cup slalom races this season, Shiffrin has won three times and finished second once.

Maggie Voisin, 15, freeski slopestyle: She's the youngest member of a U.S. Olympic team, winter or summer, since 1996. Voisin earned a silver medal during her first-ever X Games last month and was named to Team USA as a discretionary pick in the new slopestyle event.

Gracie Gold, 18, figure skating: The 2014 U.S. champion has the perfect name for the top of the podium. NBC has been promoting her as the face of these Games, but can she deliver? New coach Frank Carroll helped Evan Lysacek win gold in 2010.


Ted Ligety: The 29-year-old Alpine skier is a favorite to win gold in giant slalom and "Ted Shred" should be a contender in several other disciplines as well. He had an outstanding 2013 season, winning three gold medals at the world championships.

Shani Davis: The long-track speedskater is the two-time defending Olympic champion in the 1,000 meters and has won silver twice in the 1,500. He'll be the man to beat in those races and could add a medal in the team pursuit.

Shaun White: With Lindsey Vonn sidelined by a knee injury, the snowboarder is arguably the biggest name at the Winter Games. He's the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist in halfpipe and has won 18 medals (13 gold) at the Winter X Games.

Heather Richardson: Barring a huge upset, she'll be the first U.S. woman to win a medal in long-track speedskating since 2002. Richardson is the 2013 world sprint champion and won the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 at the U.S. Olympic trials.

Steve Holcomb: He can become the first American since Billy Fiske (1928, 1932) to win consecutive gold medals in four-man bobsled and the first American in 78 years to win two-man gold. Holcomb is an outstanding pilot and has one of the best push crews in the world.


Lindsey Vonn: The 29-year-old skier announced one month ago that she would not compete in Sochi because of a knee injury. Vonn won two medals at the 2010 Vancouver Games, including the first gold by an American woman in the downhill.

Apolo Ohno: America's most decorated Winter Olympian (eight medals) has retired, but television viewers will still see plenty of him -- or at least hear plenty from him -- in his role as a short-track speedskating analyst for NBC.

Evan Lysacek: The 2010 Olympic champion in men's figure skating suffered a series of injuries, including a torn labrum in his left hip, during a comeback attempt. Rather than risk permanent injury by continuing to train, he pulled the plug in December.

Katherine Reutter: She won two medals in Vancouver, but chronic back problems forced the short-tracker to retire last year at age 24. She now coaches in the Academy of Skating Excellence at the Pettit National Ice Center.

Meng Wang: China's short-track superstar collided with a teammate while training and broke her ankle just weeks before the opening ceremony. She was nearly unbeatable in the 500 meters; now that race will be wide open.


230: U.S. team members, including 105 women and 125 men. It is the largest athlete delegation for any nation in the history of the Winter Games.

106: Returning Olympians for the U.S., including one five-time Olympian, two four-time Olympians, 10 three-time Olympians and 23 two-time Olympians.

6: Olympic Games that Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick has competed in, becoming the first American to do so.

9 and 10: Women's bobsled push athletes Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams become the ninth and 10th Americans to compete in both the Winter and Summer Games. Jones is a two-time Olympic hurdler and Williams is a three-time Olympic sprinter.

38: States represented. California claims the most Olympians with 20.

26: Average age of Team USA members. The oldest and youngest Olympians are curler Ann Swisshelm, 45, and freestyle skier Maggie Voisin, 15.

22: Members of Team USA who are parents; there are 19 fathers and three mothers.

6-5: Height of hockey forward Blake Wheeler, the tallest member of Team USA.

5-0: Height of figure skater Marissa Castelli and short-track speedskater Jessica Smith, the shortest team members.

7: Sets of siblings on the team, including twins Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux in women's hockey. Other siblings are cross-country skiers Sadie and Erik Bjornsen, curlers Erika and Craig Brown, Nordic combined athletes Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, snowboarders Arielle and Taylor Gold, hockey players Amanda and Phil Kessel and figure skaters Maia and Alex Shibutani.

15: The United States will be represented in all 15 disciplines across seven sports and its athletes will compete in as many as 94 of the 98 medal events.

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