February 8, 2014 in Sports

Athletes skip opening ceremony to put sports first

Jimmy Golen Associated Press
 

Plushenko
(Full-size photo)

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 the next day.

Several figure skaters said Friday they would skip the ceremony’s often spectacular but occasionally tedious parade of athletes to rest up for their competition the next day.

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 tonight. 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, said she will also stay home.

“There’s no point of going, just standing eight hours,” she said. “I’ve been there twice.”

The U.S. and Canadian men’s hockey teams have a different problem: Their NHL players are still committed to their pro teams and haven’t left for Russia yet.

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