Five For Friday: May 9, 2014
As we kick off the weekend, Team USA athletes will be well represented all over the world, competing in everything from track & field to cycling to volleyball. And there are several ice hockey players who all wore the red, white and blue together just months ago at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games who will be competing against each other as the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs continue this weekend.
As we ready for the weekend, here’s a look at five events to follow:
1) Stanley Cup Playoffs
Many Olympians from Sochi are taking the ice this weekend in second-round games with hopes of ultimately winning the Stanley Cup. The Chicago Blackhawks, led by Olympian Patrick Kane, lead the best-of-seven series against the Minnesota Wild leading into Game 4 tonight in Minnesota. The Wild, which features Olympians Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, are hoping that home ice will help them once again as Minnesota has been unbeaten at home during the postseason. The teams also will face each other Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins could wrap up its series against the New York Rangers tonight even though Olympian Brooks Orpik has been sidelined with an injury. Orpik had missed six games before returning to the lineup Wednesday against the Rangers only to leave the game after a first-period collision.
Olympians will be in action Saturday as Anaheim takes on the Los Angeles Kings and Montreal plays Boston. Cam Fowler, a defenseman for Anaheim, told NHL.com that his experience in Sochi has helped him in the playoffs now. “It was awesome,” Fowler said of his time at the Winter Games. “Obviously it wasn't the final result we were looking for (the U.S. did not medal), but for me getting that experience at such a young age was pretty crucial," Fowler said. "I looked back at a lot of those things that happened. Just being able to prove myself that I can play against the best competition at the highest level in the world, that was a pretty special thing for me. I've been able to kind of carry that with me. Just looking back and thinking through some things that I went through at that level definitely help me now.”
Los Angeles’ roster features Olympic goaltender Jonathan Quick and forward Dustin Brown. There were no Boston Bruins in Sochi but Montreal’s roster features forward Max Pacioretty.
If that is not enough hockey action for you, you can also follow Team USA’s run in the IIHF World Championship, which opens play today. The United States faces host nation Belarus in its first game Friday afternoon. The U.S. plays Switzerland Saturday.
2) NBA Basketball Playoffs
Not to be outdone by their hockey counterparts, many Olympic basketball players will be competing in the playoffs as well this weekend. Among Team USA’s biggest stars vying for an NBA championship is Olympic gold medalist Kevin Durant. Durant gave his mother an early Mother’s Day present when he made his widely replayed MVP speech earlier this week. Now he wants to give his teammates and himself gifts in the form of NBA victories. Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder is tied, 1-1, with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Thunder faces the Clippers Friday night.
Meanwhile, another Olympic champion, LeBron James, hopes to lead his Miami Heat past the Brooklyn Nets. The Heat leads that series, 2-0, entering Game 3 Saturday night in Brooklyn, New York.
3) Track & Field
Several American track & field stars will be in Japan this weekend to compete in the Seiko Golden Grand Prix Tokyo event, the last major track competition before Tokyo’s National Stadium is rebuilt for the 2020 Olympic Games. One of the headliners will be Justin Gatlin, who earned a bronze medal in the 100-meter at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Another U.S. athlete to watch on the men’s side is Nick Symmonds, who earned a silver medal in the 800 at the world championships in Moscow. Top American women to watch are world 1,500 silver medalist Jennifer Simpson and 100 hurdles world gold medalist Brianna Rollins. The meet takes place Sunday in the stadium that was used for the 1964 Games.
Many top American gymnasts have traveled to Daytona Beach, Florida, this weekend with hopes of earning a spot on the U.S. team that will compete at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games Aug. 16-28 in Nanjing, China. The Junior Pan Am Championships determine what countries will represent the Americas in the Youth Olympic Games in individual and group rhythmic gymnastics and men's and women's trampoline. The USA is vying for spots in men’s and women’s trampoline and individual rhythmic gymnastics. For rhythmic gymnastics, the athletes must be 15 years old, and trampoline athletes must be 16 or 17 in 2014. The Youth Olympic Games include athletes ages 15-18.
Two American women, Laura Ryan and Maren Taylor, have advanced to the women’s 3-meter finals at the FINA Puerto Rico Grand Prix after their performances in Thursday’s preliminary and semifinal events. Ryan scored 297.45 points to finish second in semifinal A, and Taylor was third in semifinal B with 300.30 points. The top three from each semifinal advance to the finals. China’s Wu Chunting led all qualifiers with 332.25 points in semifinal A. Taylor was third and Ryan fourth in the preliminaries. The final is set for Saturday.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. A former sports reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, she covered her fifth Olympic Games in Sochi. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today. Material from various news services and press releases from National Governing Bodies was used to compile this report.