A rematch of the 2010 Olympic gold medal men's hockey has come one round earlier at the Sochi Games, with the United States and Canada facing off in the semifinals. Canada won the gold medal four years ago in Vancouver when Sidney Crosby scored in overtime. It was Canada's second gold medal since the NHL began Olympic participation and both came at the expense of the United States. The Canadians also won gold at the Salt Lake City Games over the Americans. While both North American squads won their respective groups in round-robin play, the United States has been the more dominant team in Sochi. The first semifinal today will take place between Sweden and Finland.
American alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, just 18 years old, will go for gold in the women's slalom event today. A native of Vail, Colo., Shiffrin won gold at the 2013 world championships and also claimed the most recent World Cup season title in the event. If she reaches the podium, Shiffrin would become the first American woman to medal in Olympic slalom since Barbara Cochran won gold at the 1972 Sapporo Games. Shiffrin made her Olympic debut in the giant slalom earlier this week and finished fifth. The young American expects to face competition for gold from Slovenia's Tina Maze as well as Marlies Schild of Austria and Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch.
The final women's biathlon event of the is set for today with the running of the 4x6-kilometer relay. Host Russia will try to claim its third straight gold in the event, but it will have to fend off a Belarussian team that will be anchored by Sochi star Darya Domracheva. Domracheva is the first female biathlete to pick up three gold medals at a single Winter Olympics, taking the individual, pursuit and mass start events at these Games. Germany, France and Norway also expect to be in contention for a medal in the relay. The Germans have reached the podium in this event all six times since medals were first awarded at the 1992 Albertville Games.
Canada will go after a third consecutive gold medal in men's curling when it plays Great Britain in the finale at the Ice Cube Curling Center. Canada is playing in its fifth straight gold medal game while Great Britain is trying to win an Olympic medal in men's curling for the first time since the sport was reintroduced to the Winter Games. The British won curling gold at the inaugural 1924 Chamonix Games, but have failed to reach the podium since curling returned to the Olympics in 1998. Up first, China and Sweden will meet in the bronze medal game.
Marielle Thompson will try to make it two straight gold medals for Canada in the women's ski cross. Vancouver champion Ashleigh McIvor has since retired, but fellow Canadian Marielle Thompson was the leader on the FIS World Cup circuit and is among the favorites to reach the podium. Russian ski cross racer Maria Komissarova fractured her spine during training for the event. In the men's event Thursday, Jean Frederic Chapuis led a French sweep of the medal podium.
SHORT TRACK SPEEDSKATING
J.R. Celski, winner of two bronze medals four years ago in Vancouver, moved on to Friday's quarterfinals in the 500 meters by finishing second to Canada's Oliver Jean in his heat earlier in the week. All three medalists from the 1,000-meter race also advanced, including gold medalist Viktor Ahn of Russia. Ahn has two medals in Sochi, placing third in the 1,500 in addition to winning the 1,000. The U.S. also advanced to the finals in the 5,000-meter relay despite a fall from Eduardo Alvarez in the qualifying heats on Feb. 13. Russia, China, the Netherlands and Kazakhstan also made the final, which will take place today. In other short track speedskating action today, Emily Scott and Jessica Smith of the United States will be eyeing medals in the women's 1,000 meters.
The only medals remaining in speedskating are the men's and women's team pursuit competitions. No medals will be awarded today, as the pursuit events will hold heats -- the quarterfinals and semifinals for the men and the quarters for the women. The women will then race in the semifinals and finals on Saturday, when the men will compete for gold as well.