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SOCHI, February 13, 1:30 /ITAR-TASS/. Six sets of medals will be at stake on Thursday at the XXII Olympic Winter Games in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Russia’s men’s ice hockey begins its Olympic bid with a match with the Slovenian team. The match will begin at 16:30 Moscow time. The Slovenian team is an outsider of the tournament and the mere fact that is has finally qualified for the Olympic Games was a sensation. The Slovenian team defeated much more experiences Danish and Belarusian teams in the qualification games in Denmark. The Slovenians have been moving from the elite and second divisions and back at the latest world championships. They will not take part in the next championship in May in Belarus.
Star players of the Slovenia team are Anze Kopitar, 26, a forward of the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), the son the team’s chief coach Matjaz Kopitar, and Jan Mursak, a forward of CSKA Moscow (KHL).
Six more teams will play their first games on Thursday too. A match between the Finnish and Austrian teams will start at 12:00 Moscow time, a match between the Slovakian and US teams will begin at 16:30 Moscow time, and a match between the Canadian and Norwegian teams will begin at 19:00 Moscow time.
The first medals of the day will be awarded in men’s ski slopestyle. Finals will begin at 13:30. Nicholas Goepper of the United States, numerous winner of the world extreme games, is believed to be the favourite. His rivals will be his fellow countrymen Bobby Brown and Gus Kenworthy, and Norwegian athlete Andreas Haatveit. The United States freestyle team is so strong that the world champion of 2013, Tom Wallisch, has not qualified for participating in the Sochi Olympics.
Russia will be represented by Pavel Korpachev, who took the 56th position at the latest world tournament.
Biathlon and cross-country competitions will be resumed after a day’s break. Ladies’ 10 kilometer classic race will start at 14:00 Moscow time. The chief rivals for the Olympic gold are Marit Bjoergen of Norway and Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland. Charlotte Kalla of Sweden, the Olympic gold winner in Vancouver, and Therese Johaug of Norway should not be disregarded either.
Russia will be represented by Natalia Zhukova, Yulia Ivanova, Olga Kuzyukova, and Yulia Chekaleva. The latter won the bronze medal at the 2013 world championship in Italy’s Val di Fiemme.
Biathletes will compete in men’s individual 20 kilometre race, which will start at 20:00 Moscow time. The gold medal will be contended by Martin Fourcade of France and Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, 40, of Norway, who have already won medals at these Games. Russian biathletes will include Evgeny Garanichev, who will be the first to start, Evgeny Ystyugov (48th), Alexander Loginov (50th), and Alexei Volkov (71st).
Ladies’ 500 metres quarterfinals in short track will start at 14:00 Moscow time. Preliminary heats took place on Monday. Only one Russian skater, Olga Prosvirnova, has qualified for the quarterfinals. Tatiana Borodulina was disqualified, and Valeria Reznik failed to qualify for the quarterfinals. With China’s Meng Wan, the Olympic gold winner at the Vancouver Olympic Games, who has a trauma, absent, the gold medal is likely to be contended by another Chinese athlete, Kexin Far, Marianne St-Gelais and Arianna Fontana of Italy.
Apart from that, men’s qualification 1000 metre heats in short track will start at 14:25 Moscow time, and men’s relay 5000 metre semifinals will start at 15:31 Moscow time.
Ladies’ 1000 metre race in speed skating will start at 18:00 Moscow time. Russian skater Olga Fatkulina, who has already won the Olympic silver in ladies’ 500 metre race, will compete with American skater Heather Richardson and Brittany Bwey for the Olympic medals. Bwey was the third at the world championship in Sochi. Richardson did not take part. Moreover, Dutch skater Ireen Wust, who specialized on longer races and who has already won the Olympic gold in Sochi in ladies’ 3000 metre race, and Christine Nesbitt of Canada, the winner of the Olympic gold in 500 metre race at the Vancouver Olympic Games, should not be disregarded either.
The last medals of the day will be awarded in luge team relay competition, a discipline, where the Russia team may win medals. The Russian team will include single lugers Tatian Ivanova and Albert Demchenko, and doubles lugers Alexander Denisyev and Vladislav Antonov. The Russian team will have to face tough competition from Germans, who have already won gold medals in men’s singles, women’s singles, and in men’s doubles.
More round robin matches will be played in curling. Russia’s women team will play with the Korean team at 19:00 Moscow time, and the men team will play with the team from Switzerland at 14:00 Moscow time.