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Olympic Roundup: Olympic competition begins

Feb. 6, 2014 at 2:24 PM   |   Comments

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SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- The 22nd Winter Olympics began on schedule and in glorious weather Thursday with new competitions and familiar faces sharing the spotlight.

On the eve of the opening ceremonies and two days before the first medals were scheduled to be awarded, ill-mannered remarks were directed at one of the most familiar figures in winter sports and officials had to again make changes to one of the playing fields to make it safer.

Russian figure skaters also made a move toward capturing a gold medal in the sport's inaugural team event and U.S. alpine legend Bode Miller put himself back in the spotlight by putting together the best training run for Sunday's downhill.

Miller, at age 36, has collected five medals over the past three Olympics but he is still looking for his first gold in the downhill..

The second Olympics ever held in Russia began at 10 a.m. Thursday (1 a.m. EST) when British snowboarder Billy Morgan, with two torn ligaments in his right knee, rode down a course that had already claimed two high-profile victims.

Morgan and 28 others took part in qualifying for the slopestyle, making its debut in the Olympics. Riders perform tricks along rails and on big jumps while traveling down a slope with a vertical drop of more than 400 feet.

Eight snowboarders qualified directly to the finals -- including Canadians Max Parrot and Sebastien Toutant. Both of them had used their Twitter accounts on Wednesday to criticize American snowboard superstar Shaun White for withdrawing from the slopestyle event.

White suffered a wrist injury during training earlier in the week and Norway's Torstein Horgmo broke his collarbone on the course the first day it opened.

Parrot tweeted White was "scared" to compete and Toutant said, "It's easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can't win."

Both of those comments were quickly deleted from the Twitter accounts and Parrot later apologized.

White is the heavy favorite to win the halfpipe event for the third straight Olympics when it is contested on Tuesday.

Officials had to take some of the sting out of the slopestyle course before the competition began, just as they did Thursday at the women's downhill run. A jump near the bottom of the course sent skiers sailing into the air far longer than expected and only three women were able to finish a training run before the jump was deemed unsafe.

Women's slopestyle qualifying also took place Thursday with Karly Shorr of the United States among those who made it directly to the finals.

American Hannah Kearney, the defending Olympic champion, led the way in qualifying for the freestyle skiing moguls competition.

The only action from Thursday that will count toward an eventual final result came in team figure skating, where competitors from 10 countries are battling for the three medals.

Short and long programs will be skated in men's and women's singles as well as in pairs and ice dancing. Ten points are awarded for the winner of each program, nine for second and on down the line. The team with the most points after all eight programs wins the gold.

American Jeremy Abbott fell during his short program Thursday and thus put the United States in a large hole. He finished seventh and collected only four points. The U.S. pairs team of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir finished fifth in their performance and their six points gave the Americans a total of 10 points and a tie for fifth place.

Russia took the lead with 19 points thanks to a second-place finish in the men's short program by three-time Olympic medalist Evgeny Plyuschenko and a first-place showing in pairs by defending world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov.

Canada was second with 17 points and China was third with 15. The women's and ice dancing short programs will be held Saturday, after which the field will be cut in half.

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