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Winter Olympics 2014 TV schedule: What to watch Thursday

Competition gets underway Thursday at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. NBC will provide television coverage in the US Thursday night.

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The 22nd Olympic Winter Games officially get started Friday in Sochi, Russia. But there will be competition before the Olympic flame is formally lit.

Thursday, three new events will debut in Sochi. In figure skating, there will be short programs in both men's team and team pairs figure skating. Another new event is slopeside snowboarding for both men and women.

NBC will provide television coverage of the Winter Olympics on Thursday night, including snowboarding and team figure skating, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern time. NBC-related cable television networks, such as CNBC, MSNBC, USA, and the NBC Sports Network, will also carry Winter Olympic events from Sochi starting early Saturday morning.

From the Sochi 2014 website, the team aspect in Olympic figure skating is explained:

Team Events in figure skating are a competition between the best national teams. Representatives of the singles and pairs skating perform a short and free program; in ice dancing they complete a short and free dance. Each team may have one sports pair and one dance pair, one male figure skater and one female figure skating.

American Jeremy Abbott is scheduled to skate the short program in the Team Men's competion. In the Team Pairs short program, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir will skate for the United States.

Up in the mountains outside Sochi, qualifying rounds in ladies moguls freestyle skiing will also take place. Hannah Kearney, Heidi Kloser, Eliza Outtrim, and Heather McPhie will represent the US.

Slopeside snowboarding qualifying in both men and ladies divisions is scheduled for Thursday. One familiar face to US snowboarding fans that will not be participating is Olympic gold medal winner Shaun White. The Monitor's Mark Sappenfield reported Wednesday on White's withdrawal from the new event.

"The difficult decision to [forgo] slopestyle is not one I take lightly as I know how much effort everyone has put into holding the slopestyle event for the first time in Olympic history, a history I had planned on being a part of," White said in a statement.

Slopeside snowboarding is described this way at the Sochi 2014 website:

Athletes perform on a slope featuring various forms of obstacles (rails, quarterpipes, and jumps). The technical characteristics of the course are dictated by the rules of the International Ski Federation. The competition is formatted in an elimination system with semifinals and finals, with two runs in each round. The snowboarder with the best results wins.

Even though White has withdrawn, there will be three Americans competing in the men's event: Charles Guldemond, Sage Kotsenburg, and Ryan Stassel.

For the ladies, Ty Walker, Jamie Anderson, Karly Shorr, and Jessika Jenson will be representing the United States in the qualifying portion of the event.

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