SOCHI, February 15, 3:07 /ITAR-TASS/. Seven sets of medals will be at stake on Saturday at the XXII Olympic Winter Games in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi for athletes competing in alpine skiing, cross-country, short track (ladies’ and men’s events), skeleton, ski jumping and speed skating.
Russian athletes have good chances of winning medals in skeleton, speed skating, short track and cross-country.
Saturday is a big ice hockey day. Russia’s men’s national team, led by Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, is in for the most difficult match with team USA in the preliminary round in Group A, at 16:30 local time (12:30 GMT). The US team defeated team Slovakia 7-1, and Russia beat Slovenia 5-2 on Thursday. The US team is led by Dan Bylsma.
Slovakia will play Slovenia in another Group A match at 12:00 (08:00 GMT). Switzerland will face the Czech Republic, and team Sweden will play team Latvia in men’s preliminary round, Group C at 21:00 (17:00 GMT).
Russia’s women's ice hockey national team will play team Switzerland in women’s play-offs quarterfinals at 16:30 (12:30 GMT) in the Shayba Arena. In another women’s play-offs quarterfinals match at 12:00 (08:00 GMT), Sweden will face Finland.
The Olympic Games’ morning program, as usual, includes alpine skiing competitions, in which women will fight for medals in Super-G. Slovenia’s Tina Maze and Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who have already won gold medals in Sochi, have chances to win medals here, but the key favorites are Austria’s Nicole Hosp and Anna Fenninger.
Russia’s contenders for medals include Maria Bedareva and Elena Yakovishina. Yakovishina became 16th in women’s super combined slalom and 28th in women’s downhill in Sochi, whereas Bedareva was 30th in women’s downhill.
Ladies’ cross-country relay 4x5 km will start at 14:00 (10:00 GMT). Russia’s team includes Julia Ivanova, Olga Kuziukova, Natalia Zhukova and Yulia Tchekaleva. The key favorites are Norway’s skiers, who were invincible both throughout the current Olympic cycle and at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Team Norway comprises Vancouver champions - Therese Johaug and Marit Bjoergen.
Teams Finland, Germany and USA will also compete for medals.
Short track events’ finals will start at 14:00 (10:00 GMT), where Russian fans will be expecting Victor Ahn to secure a regular medal. Two sets of medals - in ladies’ 1500 m finals and in men’s 1000 m finals - will be contested. Men’s heats took place on Thursday, and Russia’s Ahn, Semen Elistratov and Vladimir Grigorev made it to the quarterfinals.
Ahn is the 2006 champion in 1000 m, when he played for South Korea, as well as three-time world champion of 2004, 2006 and 2007. But his rivals are also strong: three-time Olympic champion Charles Hamelin from Canada and American J.R. Celski.
Ladies will start their 1500m events from heats, where Russia will be represented by Olga Belyakova, Tatiana Borodulina and Valeriya Reznik. The main favorite is Vancouver Olympic champion Yang Zhou from China, as well as South Korea’s Suk Hee Shim, who is the best in the current season.
A regular speed skating event, men’s 1500 m - will kick off at 17:30 (13:30 GMT). Russia’s Denis Yuskov, the 2013 world champion in 1500 m in Sochi, has a good chance to compete here for medals. His rivals are traditionally from the Netherlands, first and foremost, Vancouver champion Mark Tuitert, as well as Koen Verweij and Stefan Groothuis, as well as American Shani Davis, multi-time 1500 m world champion.
Besides Yuskov, Aleksey Yesin, Aleksey Suvorov and Ivan Skobrev are taking part in the discipline. 31-year-old Skobrev can also hope for a medal - he twice won medals at world championships in 1500m and took Vancouver Olympic medals at longer distances.
Men’s heat 3 in skeleton will start at 18:45 (14:45 GMT). After the first day of competitions in that discipline, Alexander Tretiakov (1 minute 51.99 seconds), who twice showed the best result, is leading, leaving behind Latvia’s Martins Dukurs (1:52.55). Russia’s Sergei Chudinov is fifth in start order, and Nikita Tregubov is tenth.
The last event on Saturday’s Sochi Olympics agenda will be ski jumping, where men will compete in the large hill individual events. Four Russians - Dmitry Vassiliev, Denis Kornilov, Alexey Romashov and Ilmir Hazetdinov - qualified for the competitions on Friday.