SOCHI, Russia — Many athletes at the Sochi Olympics decided to stay off their feet for the opening ceremony because they’ll be on their skates or skis today.
Several figure skaters said Friday they were skipping the ceremony’s often spectacular but occasionally tedious parade of athletes to rest up for their competition today. The U.S. women’s hockey team had a meeting after practice Friday, and decided not to march in the opening ceremony to rest up for today’s game against Finland, a noon start local time.
“We’re here to compete for a gold medal,” U.S. forward Julie Chu, who already has two silvers and a bronze, said before the meeting. “The opening ceremony is a very special part of the Olympics, but isn’t it more [important] to win a medal?”
The opening ceremony showcased the country’s post-Soviet identity to the world, but the parade of 3,000 athletes at past Olympics has been known to drag on like a classic Russian novel. Athletes often have to line up an hour or more before the opening ceremony starts, and they could still be on their feet five hours later.
That’s why three-time Olympic figure skating medalist Evgeni Plushenko, who might otherwise have been a candidate to be the host country’s flag-bearer, said he would not attend to rest for the team events on Sunday. American skater Ashley Wagner said ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White told her their legs felt heavy for a few days after marching in Vancouver four years ago.
“Of course, I have a fear of missing out, but I’m here to compete,” Wagner said. “So we’re having a viewing party, and I get to go hang out in Charlie White’s room.”
Finnish women’s goalie Noora Raty, a three-time Olympian, also stayed home.
“There’s no point of going, just standing eight hours,” she said. “I’ve been there twice.”
Jesse Vetter is back in goal for the U.S. women’s hockey team.
The No. 1 goaltender when the Americans played Canada in the gold-medal game in Vancouver four years ago will get the start when the United States opens against Finland.
“She’s just playing great,” U.S. coach Katey Stone said after the team’s last full practice before the opener. “She’s doing her job, and we just decided to go with Jesse.”
Vetter was a three-time NCAA champion at Wisconsin and the winner of the 2009 Patty Kazmaier Award given to the top player in women’s college hockey. She went 3-1 with the U.S. Olympic team that won a silver medal in Vancouver in 2010.
Backups Brianne McLaughlin and Molly Schaus were also on the U.S. team four years ago. They split time in the Vancouver opener, a 12-1 victory over a Chinese team that wasn’t a contender and managed only seven shots.
Vetter played the rest of the games, allowing one goal on 42 shots in three games before a 2-0 loss to Canada in the gold-medal game.
Stone, who is in her first Olympics as head of Team USA, has not said whether she will split playing time among her goalies or use one exclusively.
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Fabienne Suter of Switzerland led the second women’s downhill training session at the Olympics, which went off without problem after a key jump was shaved down.
Suter clocked one minute, 42.70 seconds. Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein was second, 0.11 behind, and Anna Fenninger of Austria was third, 0.23 behind, although she missed some gates.
Suter has won four World Cup races, but only one of those was in downhill, in Bansko, Bulgaria, five years ago.
After Thursday’s opening session was delayed and then re-run due to the height of the final jump, organizers cut it down to a minor bump.
Defending overall World Cup champion Tina Maze was fifth, and American teammates Stacey Cook and Julia Mancuso placed sixth and 10th, respectively.
American Heidi Kloser had to pull out of the Olympics after injuring her right leg during a training run before moguls qualifying.
Kloser tore knee ligaments and broke her femur following a crash Thursday night, only moments before she was supposed to head to the starting gate.
Kloser’s father, Mike, posting on his Facebook page, said Heidi asked him if he still considered her an Olympian, even though she didn’t make it to the starting line in her first games.
“We said, of course she is,” Mike Kloser wrote.
Course workers added 130 feet to the biathlon track because it was too short.
The loop should measure 1.6 miles. Even though a 5 percent deviation is allowed by the rules, the track at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center came up short.
“We had an issue with the length, but we made a change, which takes care of it,” biathlon’s technical delegate at the Olympics, Max Cobb, said.
First doubts about the track length came from the Norwegian team, and they proved right after IBU officials measured the course on Thursday.
On the World Cup circuit, most courses are inspected four days before the actual competition though IOC rules are different, leaving organizers less time for adaptions, if needed.