The 2014 Winter Olympics are approaching their conclusion in what has been an exceptional display of athletic prowess in Sochi, Russia. Friday marks the 14th full day of competition, with a full schedule of eight medal events creating plenty of drama.
Several countries are within striking distance of the United States' lead in overall medal count, but Norway is atop the overall ranking on Sochi2014.com thanks to its unmatched 10 gold medals. That should help drive the most-decorated nation's athletes to continue performing at a high level as these individual showcases unfold.
While there are sure to be thrills for extreme sports lovers in skiing and stunning short-track speedskating to witness, Olympic fans will be treated to easier viewing on Friday, too. Men's curling wraps up with the battle for the gold medal and the consolatory bronze-medal game preceding it.
Here is a closer look at when all the events get underway, along with the updated medal count and a preview of what to watch for on Day 14 of these Winter Games.
|Event||Time ET||Time GMT||Time MSK|
|Men's Curling - Bronze-Medal Game (China vs. Sweden)||3:30 a.m.||8:30 a.m.||12:30 p.m.|
|Ladies' Freestyle Skiing - Ski Cross Finals||5:41 a.m.||10:41 a.m.||2:41 p.m.|
|Men's Curling - Gold-Medal Game (Canada vs. Great Britain)||8:30 a.m.||1:30 p.m.||5:30 p.m.|
|Women's Alpine Skiing Slalom Final||11:15 a.m.||4:15 p.m.||8:15 p.m.|
|Women's 4x6-kilometer Relay Biathlon||11:30 a.m.||4:30 p.m.||8:30 p.m.|
|Men's 500-meter Short-Track Speedskating Finals||12:43 p.m.||5:43 p.m.||9:43 p.m.|
|Ladies' 1,000-meter Short-Track Speedskating Finals||12:53 p.m.||5:53 p.m.||9:53 p.m.|
|Men's 5,000-meter Relay Short-Track Speedskating Finals||1:18 p.m.||6:18 p.m.||10:18 p.m.|
Day 14 Preview
The first medal at stake will be in the men's curling, as China and Sweden battle for the bronze medal. China put up a strong fight against the perpetual champion Canadians in the semifinals, but fell short in losing 10-6.
Sweden may be outmatched in this one despite a respectable effort in the Winter Games to date, because China has all the makings of turning into a legitimate challenger to Canada in the years to come.
Which American is likelier to win a gold medal?
Then comes a bit more of a jolting competition in terms of pace and overall excitement in the ladies' ski cross finals, where the entire event—qualifying, quarterfinals and so on all the way to the final—will take place on Friday. With a course of many twists and turns and only lasting 1,000 meters, just about anything can happen.
Marielle Thompson of Canada figures to be a favorite for the gold, having won two World Cup competitions already this season, per The Canadian Press.
After that, the medal scene returns to curling, where Canada skip Brad Jacobs will seek to lead his team to the gold medal against Great Britain. Soren Gran, who coaches the underdog team, doesn't like the Canadian team's antics.
"The aggressive style we have seen from the Canadians here, that's something I don't like about the sport," said Gran, per QMI Agency (via 24hrsVancouver.ca). "I don't think it helps anyone. It doesn't help the player and it doesn't help his teammates."
Things are already getting a little heated before these two countries take to the pebble in the Ice Cube Curling Center, which should only fire up Jacobs and Co. even more to seize the gold.
The women's biathlon relay should offer another compelling test of endurance, and it will be interesting to see if Norway can maintain its general dominance in endurance skiing.
Capping off the skiing for the day will be the women's Alpine skiing final run in the slalom, where previous 2014 gold-medal winners Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany and Slovenia's Tina Maze will seek to add to their hardware collections. The USA's Mikaela Shiffrin is also competing in what is her best event, and she figures to challenge for the podium.
This is the moment Shiffrin has been waiting for, as she expressed in an interview with The Associated Press' Howard Fendrich:
I've been preparing for this for my entire life, really. Whether I knew it or not at the time, every single instance, every event that's happened to me — it's been preparation for this and preparation for whatever happens in my future. I've always been really aware of that.
Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden noted how Shiffrin's No. 6 starting position may be a disadvantage, though:
For Fri slalom, Mikaela Shiffrin will start No. 6. Not optimal. USA skiers have had lousy Olympic bib draws.— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) February 20, 2014
Ending the day will be a trio of short-track speedskating events. The men's 500 meters starts the showcase in the Iceberg Skating Palace, and it is followed by the ladies' 1,000 meters before everything concludes with the men's 5,000-meter relay.
The best American hope in the men's 500-meter sprint is J.R. Celski, who fared well in qualifying, and as Chris Daniels of King TV in Seattle alluded to, he holds the world record for the event:
BTW - Federal Way's JR Celski is WR holder in 500m Short Track. Skated a conservative race today, given conditions, to advance. #Sochi2014— Chris Daniels (@ChrisDaniels5) February 18, 2014
All of this should culminate in yet another wonderful and exciting day at the Winter Olympics.
To look ahead to Day 15, though, ice hockey should continue to dominate headlines. The men's semifinals are scheduled for Friday, and they threaten to overshadow all that goes on in the other eight medal events, so hockey fans will get their fill with Saturday's bronze-medal game.
The participants are likely to be Canada and Finland, if the previous games in the tournament are any indication. Sweden was the No. 1 overall seed, and the USA have been on an offensive tear.
Also to take place on Saturday are the ladies' and men's parallel slalom snowboarding finals, along with the men's biathlon relay and Alpine skiing slalom finals. That promises to continue escalating the action with the end of the Winter Games coming on fast.