2014 Winter Olympics: Day 1

Picture 26

(Contributed photo)

Today sees the first action of these 2014 Olympic Winter Games. With the Opening Ceremonies tomorrow, several events are getting their more preliminary rounds out of the way early, giving a preview of who some of the first Olympic medallists will be in Sochi.

First off at 1 a.m. our time — 10 a.m. in Sochi — is the men’s and women’s slopestyle preliminaries in snowboarding, making its Olympic debut. On the men’s side, Canada is a strong medal contender. Mark McMorris, Maxence Parrot and Sebastien Toutant are former X-Games Champions in this event. Charles Reid joins them giving Canada four competitors in the 29 person field. Canada has a strong chance to medal in this event Saturday morning.

On the women’s side, Canada has two competitors, Spencer O’Brien and Jenna Blasman. O’Brien is a four-time X-Games medallist in the event along with being the reigning World Champion. O’Brien gives Canada a strong chance of picking up the country’s first of the games on Sunday.

Blasman is also a Kitchener-Waterloo native.

Second is the women’s moguls preliminaries in freestyle skiing. Canada is destined to catch eyes with the three Dufour-Lapointe sisters representing Canada, as well as Audrey Robichaud. Chloe, Justine and Maxime have all seen strong success internationally while Chloe and Justine both have medalled at the World Championships. Canada has a good chance of having multiple entries in the 12-person final on Saturday when the 30-person field gets cut down today.

Third is another debut with the team trophy in figure skating at 10:30 a.m., which is 7:30 p.m. in Sochi. The three-day event will see ten countries field a single competitor in each discipline (men’s singles, women’s singles, pairs and ice dance). Points are given based on results after each program. A countries entry in each discipline does not have to be the same in both programs. So far, the set up has been strategic as several countries have been very secretive about their line-ups. The big factor is that some countries don’t want to wear out some of their best medal hopes in the individual disciplines during the team event.

With only the pairs and men’s short starting today, Patrick Chan, and the pair of Meghan Duhamel and Eric Radford will be among the first to compete at these Olympics. Chan is the three-time reigning World Champion and holds the World Record for the highest score ever in a free skate as well as the record for overall score. It is safe to say he is the favourite for not only placing first in this skate, but the Olympic gold as well. His main competition will be Yuzuru Handu from Japan, who recently beat Chan at the Grand Prix final is December. Evgeni Plushenko, the 2006 Olympic Champion, could be a contender but is almost ten years removed from his best performances.

In pairs, Duhamel and Radford should be in the thick of it near the top of the results. The reigning World bronze medallists are a main contender as both China and Germany have saved their best pairs teams so far for the pairs main event, which is only five days away. The other contenders are reigning World Champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov from the host country and the Chinese pair of 16-year old Peng Cheng and 29-year old Zhang Hao. While relatively new together, Zhang is a 2006 Olympic Silver medallist with his former partner. In all, Canada has an opportunity to enter Saturday’s continuation of the event as the leader.

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