SOCHI, February 8 (Itar-Tass) - The first five sets of medals will be at stake at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Saturday, February 8. Sports fans will learn the names of the medallists in biathlon, ski races, skating, snowboarding and freestyle.
Snowboarders will open the morning program of the third day of the Games with slopestyle - an utterly new Olympic event. Semi-finals are due at 09:30 and the finals, at 12:45. The slopestyle winner will be the first gold medallist of the Sochi Olympics.
Russia’s 22-year-old snowboarder from Krasnoyarsk, Aleksei Sobolev, managed to qualify for the semi-finals on Thursday. The qualification round also named eight finalists, including the main favourites, such as Canada’s Max Parrot, Finland’s Roopi Tonteri, and Norway’s Stale Sandbech. Sobolev was 20th in the qualifications, so trying to get to the decisive phase of the contest for him will be a very daunting task.
Skiing competitions in Sochi are scheduled to begin at 14:00. Women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon (7.5 km classic plus 7.5 km free). The main contenders in this youngest Olympic sport (on the Olympic program since 2006) are the Vancouver gold medallist Marit Bjogen, of Norway, and her arch rival for the past few years Justyna Kowalczyk, of Poland.
Norway’s Therese Johaug and Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla, have good chances, too.
Russia’s line-up looks as follows - Yulia Tchekaleva, Olga Kuziukova, Irina Khazova and Natalia Zhukova. Khazova is the bronze medallist of the Vancouver Olympics in the team sprint (with Natalia Korosteleva).
Speed skaters will join the sports marathon at 15:30. Men will compete in 5,000 meters. There are 33 names on the contenders’ list, including Yevgeny Seryayev, Denis Yuskov, Ivan Skobrev. Skobrev was third at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, while his younger fellow team member Yuskov was pretty close to winning an award at the latest world championships in Sochi. The main contenders are The Netherlands’ Sven Kramer (the Vancouver champion and silver medallist of the Turin 2006 Games in this distance) and his fellow countryman Jorrit Bergsma and Bob de Jong. South Korea’s Lee Seung-hoon, the silver medallist of the Vancouver Olympics, is expected to clock an impressive result.
Biathlon will follow at 18:30. Men will compete in the 10-kilometer sprint. Four Russian athletes are on the list - Yevgeny Ustyugov, (number 8), Dmitry Malyshko (number 46), Anton Shipulin (number 48) and Yevgeny Garanichev (number 68). The favourites are France’s Martin Fourcade and Norway’s Emil-Hegle Svendsen. Four years ago Vincent Jay triumphed in Vancouver. The race took place in extremely bad weather, so the favourites had no chance of displaying their best qualities.
Freestyle will close the day. Women will contest medals in the mogul. This veteran of the freestyle Olympic events is scheduled to begin at 18:00 with the second qualification. The first one was last Thursday. The finals will start at 21:00. Each athlete will take three runs.
In the first qualification round on Thursday four Russian women athletes tried their luck - Regina Rakhimova, Yelena Muratova, Marika Pertakhia and Yekaterina Stolyarova. Rakhimova qualified for the finals from tenth place. The other three still have a very slim chance of getting into the finals in the second qualification round. The United States’ Hannah Kearney showed the best result to make it clear she remains the main contender for the Olympic gold.
Women’s hockey matches begin on Saturday. In group A the United States will clash with Finland, and Canada, with Switzerland.