Five things to watch at the Sochi Winter Olympics

MGN ONLINE
Monday, February 17, 2014 - 11:29am

We're in the home stretch of the Sochi Winter Olympics, with the final week of competition under way.

NBC's Bob Costas plans to return to the broadcast booth Monday after being sidelined with an eye infection for a few days.

More importantly, Monday will determine whether we'll get to see a repeat of one of the most intense rivalries in sports. And it will offer us a taste of the chaotic world of snowboard cross.

Here are five events to watch at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Monday:

1. Ice Dancing

Americans Meryl Davis, 27, and Charlie White, 26, are favorites to win gold in ice dancing. They were the world champions in 2011 and 2013 -- and could become the first Americans ever to become Olympic champions in ice dance.

On Sunday, they not only won the short dance part of the competition; they scored a world-record 78.89 points.

The free dance takes place Monday.

Who else to watch:

Davis and White's chief rivals - Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who came in second in the short dance Sunday. But they are the defending Olympic champions, having won gold at the Vancouver games four years ago.

2. Women's Ice Hockey

Though it doesn't get the attention it should, the U.S vs. Canada women's ice hockey is one of the most intense rivalries in sports.

Since the sport was included in the Olympics in 1988, no other country but these two have taken home the gold.

The Canadians won gold in 2002, 2006 and 2010. The U.S. won in 1998.

The teams want to face each other again in the gold medal game -- but first, they have to win their semifinals Monday.

The U.S. faces Sweden at 7:30 a.m. ET and Canada plays Switzerland at noon.

Who to watch: Julie Chu, one of the U.S.'s top players, injured her hand in practice Saturday but is expected to play.

3. Men's two-man bobsled

One of the feel-good stories of Sochi was the return of the Jamaican bobsled team after a 12-year absence.

The sunny, snowless Caribbean island inspired the Disney movie "Cool Runnings" after fielding a four-man team to the Calgary games in 1988.

But Jamaica never got any traction at Sochi. After the first round of heats Sunday, Winston Watts and Marvin Dixon of Jamaica are 30th among 30 teams. Last place.

The second day of heats is Monday. Russia holds a big lead, followed by Switzerland, the U.S. and Canada.

Who to watch:

The Russians. Could this be their year? They won silver in 2006 and bronze in 2010. Taking the gold before a home crowd would be especially sweet for them.

Who else to watch:

Steven Holcomb, piloting for the U.S., helped the U.S. four-man team win gold in Vancouver in 2010. He'll be piloting the two-man team as well. The U.S. has not won gold in the two-man event since 1936 and last medaled in 1952 in Oslo.

4. Men's aerials

The aerials event is one of the most visually impressive in the Winter Games, with athletes launching themselves off ski jumps to perform multiple somersaults in the air before landing.

The favorites are Qi Guangpu and Liu Zhongqing, both of China, and Anton Kushnir of Belarus. Zhongqing won a bronze at Vancouver.

The qualifying rounds and the finals will be held Monday. Athletes are judged on technique in their takeoff, jump form and landing.

Who else to watch:

The United States has one entrant, 18-year-old Mac Bohonnon.

5. Snowboard Cross

In this event, four athletes on snowboards simultaneously race down a course with jumps, obstacles and banks. It sounds chaotic and sometimes it is. Monday will be a busy day, with seedings followed by four other rounds of competition.

Markus Schairer, 26, of Austria is one of the favorites to win gold. Like most snowboarders, he has suffered multiple injuries during his career, including tearing his anterior cruciate ligament twice and breaking his chin, arm, finger, shoulder and some ribs.

Who else to watch:

Omar Visintin of Italy and Jarryd Hughes of Austria have competed strongly throughout the competitions leading up to the Olympics.

Olympics

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