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Ice dancers glide to center stage at Sochi Games

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir compete during the Figure Skating Ice Dance Short Dance Program at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Febr
Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir compete during the Figure Skating Ice Dance Short Dance Program at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Febr

By Keith Weir

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - The climax to the Olympic ice dance competition will be a showdown between the United States and Canada in what should be the most captivating of seven medal events in Sochi on Monday.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White, seeking to become the first Americans to win the Olympic gold, lead going into the decisive free dance. They must hold off a challenge from reigning champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

The first bobsleigh medal of the Games will be decided at the Sanki Sliding Centre. Russian Alexander Zubkov raised home hopes that he could complete his Olympic medal collection by adding gold to the silver and bronze he already has after setting the pace at the halfway stage in the two-man event.

World champion snowboarder Alex 'Chumpy' Pullin takes on a field including medal contenders Markus Schairer of Austria and Norway's Stian Sivertzen in the cross as he aims to give Australia a first gold medal in Sochi.

After China's women failed to turn their dominance of freestyle aerials into Olympic gold, it's the turn of the men with Liu Zhongqing and Qi Guangpu expected to fight it out with Belarussian defending champion Alexei Grishin for the title.

There is a double dose of biathlon after fog forced the postponement of the men's 15-km mass start on Sunday.

Frenchman Martin Fourcade, who has already won two gold medals at these Games, is the favorite for another in a race to be held on Monday morning.

Darya Domracheva of Belarus also hopes to secure a hat-trick of Sochi Olympic titles. She starts the women's 12.5-km mass start as the hot favorite, while Norway's Tora Berger aims to add to her pursuit silver.

Unlike the last two Olympics, where Austria easily won the team ski jumping event, the competition looks like a tightly contested affair. Germany, Japan, Norway and Slovenia all pose a serious challenge and could leave the Austrians empty-handed.

(Editing by Rex Gowar)

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