SOCHI, February 10, 7:15 /ITAR-TASS/. Five sets of medals will be at stake on Monday at the XXII Olympic Winter Games in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi for athletes competing in biathlon, alpine skiing, speed skating, freestyle skiing and short track. Russian athletes have good chances of winning medals in biathlon, speed skating and short track.
The first medals of the day will be awarded in alpine skiing: women’s super combined downhill (at 11:00 a.m.) and women’s super combined slalom (3:00 p.m.). The winner will be determined by the sum of the times shown by athletes. Slovenia’s Tina Maze, as well as World Cup leaders Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch (downhill), and American Mikaela Shiffrin (slalom) are among the key favorites. Hoefl-Riesch is a 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics champion in super combined.
21-year-old Elena Yakovishina, who took 21st place in last year’s world championships in super combined, will represent Russia.
Russian athletes will try to win the highest awards in short track. Men’s 1500 m heats will start at 1:45 p.m., and finals will be held at 4:05 p.m. Victor An has a good chance. Performing under the flag of his native South Korea, An became three-time Olympic champion of the Turin Games in 2006, winning one of his gold medals at the 1500 m distance. An also won world championships in 2003-2006 at the same distance.
Besides An, Russians Vladimir Grigoryev and Semen Elistratov are expected to participate. Canada’s Charles Hamelin, an Olympic champion of the Vancouver Games in 500m, who also ranked top in the World Cup at 1500m, may well be considered among the favorites. Another South Korean, Da Woon Sin, is also among An’s rivals.
Speed skaters will start their 500m race at 5:00 p.m. Each participant will take part in two races. The second race is scheduled for 06:55 p.m. A total of 47 speed skaters, including five Russians - Igor Bogolyubsky, Alexey Yesin, Denis Koval, Artyom Kuznetsov and Dmitry Lobkov - are set to participate. Lobkov, 33, will perform at his fourth Olympics. However, he has not risen higher than 11th place in that sport. South Korean Tae Bum Mo, Vancouver Olympic champ and world champion of the two past years, is the key favorite.
Men’s biathlon 12.5 km pursuit will kick off at 7:00 p.m. Renowned Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who won men’s 10 km sprint Saturday to secure his seventh Olympic gold, will be the first to go to the distance. He will be followed by Austrian Dominik Landertinger (start behind +1.4 seconds) and Czech Jaroslav Soukup (+5.7). Russian Anton Shipulin (+6.4) has a good position as well. Evgeny Ustyugov (+45.6), Evgeny Garanichev (+1 minute 09.5 seconds) and Dmitry Malyshko (+1 minute 15 seconds) are not to be disregarded too.
Men’s moguls will start at 10:00 p.m. Men’s freestyle skiing is the domain of Canadians, with Vancouver Olympic champ Alex Bilodeau and his fellow countryman Mikael Kingsbury deemed favorites. Russia in the competitions will be represented by Andrei Volkov, Sergei Volkov, Alexei Pavlenko and Alexander Smyshlyayev. Smyshlyayev, who took 10th place at the Vancouver Games and was fifth in the world championship standings in 2011, has the best chances for success.