SOCHI, February 17 (Itar-Tass) - Seven sets of medals are at stake in the Sochi winter Olympics on Monday, February 17. Russian athletes hope for awards in bob-sleighing, biathlon and figure skating. Aleksandr Zubkov’s Russian crew is the main contender in men’s doubles.
Monday’s schedule has undergone some changes. Men’s 15-kilometer biathlon race (mass start) will begin at 10:00. Originally scheduled for Sunday, it had to be postponed due to heavy fog. Four years ago, Russia’s Yevgeny Ustyugov finished first in Vancouver, but a second win at home for him looks a rather daunting task. The main favourites are Sochi’s double Olympic champion Martin Fourcade, of France, and the gold medallist in the sprint race, Ole Einar Bjorndalen.
Four Russians have the right to participate in the mass start race - Yevgeny Granichev, number 8, Anton Shipulin, number 13, Yevgeny Ustyugov, number 14 and Dmitry Malyshko, number 15. No other team will be represented by more than three biathletes.
Men’s snowboard-cross qualifications are due at 11:00, and the finals at 14:04. Austria’s Alex Pullin is the favourite. Other major contenders in this thrilling and rather unpredictable event are Austria’s Markus Schairer, Nat Holland, of the United States, and Canada’s Christopher Robanske.
Three Russians - Andrey Boldykov, Anton Koprivitsa and Nikolai Olyunin - will participate.
In men’s bobsleighing the doubles will have the third run at 18:30, and the decisive, fourth one, at 20:05. After the first day of competitions the Russian crew of Aleksandr Zubkov and pusher Aleksey Voyevoda is in the lead, 0.32 second ahead of the Beat Hefti’s crew of Switzerland.
Aleksandr Kasyanov and pusher Maksim Belugin are in fifth place.
Women’s 12.5-kilometre biathlon race (mass start) is due at 19:00. Olga Zaitseva and Olga Vilukhina represent Russia, with Yana Romanova is in the reserve. The favourite is quite obvious - Darya Domracheva, of Belarus, although Russians can offer strong competition. Vilukhina had missed several races for health reasons, but one should remember that she is the one who has to her credit Russia’s sole medal (silver) in women’s biathlon sprint. Zaitseva won the silver in this event in Vancouver in 2010.
Other major contenders are Norway’s Tora Berger, Gabriela Soukalova, of the Czech Republic, and Finland’s Kaisa Makarainen.
Free ice dance in figure skating starts at 19:00. After Sunday’s short program the Olympic champions in the team event Yelena Ilyinykh and Nikita Katsalapov are third, and Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Solovyov, also winners of the team contest in Sochi, are fifth. The favourites - Meryl Davis and Charlie White, of the United States, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir - hold the first two positions.
Men’s team competition in ski jumping begins at 21:15. This event will round up the ski jumping Olympic program in Sochi. Poland’s Kamil Stoch won both individual events. The main favourite in the team competition is Austria, which has for a long time remained in the lead at various tournaments. It was number one at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and at the latest world championships. Germany, Poland and Norway are also taking part.
Men’s free style aerials finals start at 21:30. After Alla Tsuper’s sensational victory in women’s contest Belarus is looking forward to the performance of its freestyle skiers Aleksey Grishin and Anton Kushnir, whose main rivals are China’s Liu Zhongqing and Qi Guangpu, the 2013 world champion.
Ilya Burov, Pavel Krotov, Pyotr Medulich and Timofei Slivets represent Russia.
In women’s ice hockey Monday is the semi-finals day. The United States and Sweden will clash at 16:30, and Canada and Switzerland, at 21:00.
In curling, the Russian women’s team will pay against Britain (09:00) and men, against Germany (14:00).