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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 12, 2010

A look at the U.S. hopefuls in events


Advertiser News Services

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Lindsey Vonn

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

U.S. speed skater Shani Davis is said to be in top form as he attempts to win multiple individual medals.

MATT DUNHAM | Associated Press

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Short track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno can become the most decorated Winter Olympics athlete in U.S. history.

DAVID J. PHILLIP | Associated Press

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Once a heavy favorite to bring home a bundle of medals, American Lindsey Vonn now finds her chances jeopardized by a shin injury.

ELVIS PIAZZI | Associated Press

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Alpine skier Bode Millerhopes for a different outcome from the 2006 Games.

GERO BRELOER | Associated Press

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

USA's Shaun White is ready to defend his gold medal in the snowboard halfpipe.

CHRIS SCHNEIDER | Associated Press

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Mirai Nagasu, 16, of the U.S., finished second in the U.S. championships, but is not expected to medal at these Games.

RICK BOWMER | Associated Press

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ALPINE SKIING

DOWNHILL

MEN, Feb. 13

WOMEN, Feb. 17

Best of the U.S.: Lindsey Vonn has won five of the six women's World Cup downhill races and would have been the most prohibitive favorite in Winter Olympics history if not for a shin injury that might sideline her from these Games. Vonn has 31 World Cup victories but is seeking her first Olympic medal. Julia Mancuso ranks No. 9 in the world with two top-10 finishes. Bode Miller, who missed a men's downhill medal in Italy four years ago by .11, has rejoined the U.S. Team and may be rounding into form. Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Canada has the home-mountain advantage.

SUPER COMBINED

MEN, Feb. 17

WOMEN, Feb. 14

Best of the U.S.: Ted Ligety won gold four years ago in Italy, but the Olympic format has been switched to a downhill and only one slalom run, which should benefit the speed skiers.

SUPER GIANT SLALOM

MEN, Feb. 19

WOMEN, Feb. 20

Best of the U.S.: It's Lindsey Vonn's to lose. She has already clinched the World Cup event title and her last victory on tour was the super-G in St. Moritz. The only other remotely ranking American is Julia Mancuso at No. 20.

GIANT SLALOM

MEN, Feb. 21

WOMEN, Feb. 24

Best of the U.S.: Ted Ligety leads the World Cup rankings and won the GS title in 2008. Julia Mancuso was a gold medalist four years ago but has no top 10 finishes this season.

SLALOM

MEN, Feb. 27

WOMEN, Feb. 26

Best of the U.S.: Slim hopes probably rest with Jimmy Cochran or Ted Ligety. Vonn's injury leaves her medal hopes a mystery.

BIATHLON

10 events, from Feb. 13-26

Best of the U.S.: This season, Tim Burke became the first U.S. biathlete to wear the World Cup overall leader jersey and has made three World Cup podiums. Jay Hakkinen's 10th in 20-kilometer event at 2006 Olympics was the best-ever finish for U.S. in individual race.

BOBSLED

Feb. 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 27

Best of the U.S.: The U.S. qualified three sleds in both the two-man and four-man. The big dog, Steve Holcomb, drives USA 1. John Napier pilots USA 2 and Mike Kohn is at the controls of USA 3. While they would like to do well, all three drivers will be focused on the four-man competition the main event. In the women's competition, driver Shauna Rohbock, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist, has won 26 World Cup and four world championship medals. She set the track record at Igls, Germany, this season on her way to a second World Cup win.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

Cross-country skiing

Feb. 15-28

Best of the U.S.: Three-time Olympian Kikkan Randall became the first U.S. female medalist at a major championship when she placed second at the 2009 World Championships in individual sprint. Andy Newell has participated in four World Championships and is one of the top U.S. hopes for a medal in the 1.5-kilometer sprint.

CURLING

Men, Feb. 16-27

Best of the U.S.: John Shuster is the only returning member to the U.S. team, which won the bronze four years ago. The U.S. finished fifth at the world championships; most expect them to finish in the middle of the pack.

FIGURE SKATING

MEN, Feb. 16, 18

Best of the U.S.: One of strongest U.S. men's teams ever, with 2006 veterans Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir, who finished fourth and fifth in Turin, and Jeremy Abbott, winner of last two U.S. titles. Lysacek is reigning world champion and Grand Prix Final winner.

Best of the rest: Three former world champions from Europe (Evgeny Plushenko of Russia, Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland and Brian Joubert of France), plus 2009 world silver medalist Patrick Chan of Canada and two strong Japanese, Daisuke Takahashi and Nobunari Oda, join the U.S. trio in making this an extraordinarily competitive event.

WOMEN, FEB. 23, 25

Best of the U.S.: For the first time since 1994, the U.S. women earned only two Olympic spots based on results at the previous year's worlds. Rachael Flatt, 17, and Mirai Nagasu, 16, won those spots, but neither is favored for a medal.

Best of the rest: If Yuna Kim of South Korea skates error-free, this will be a walkover. Her rivals include two Japanese world champions, Miki Ando (2007) and Mao Asada (2008), the only woman here doing triple axels.

PAIRS, Feb. 14, 15

Best of the U.S.: Two teams from Florida are representing the United States. No chance for either to win the first U.S. pairs medal since 1988; if either Caydee Denney/Jeremy Barrett or Amana Evora/Mark Ladwig make the top eight, that would be a triumph.

Best of the rest: Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, winners of last two world titles, looked like a lock when the season began, but they struggled to second at recent European Championships. Could legendary Russian coach Tamara Moskvina have her fifth Olympic champion team in emigre Yuko Kavaguti (known as Kawaguchi in her native Japan) and Alexander Smirnov, extending Russia's Olympic pairs win streak to 13?

DANCE, Feb. 19, 21, 22

Best of the U.S.: The country that has won just two ice-dance medals in the nine Olympics the event has been on the program suddenly is a power. In Meryl Davis/Charlie White, the reigning Grand Prix champions, and Tanith Belbin/Ben Agosto, reigning Olympic and world silver medalists, the U.S. has a shot at its first Olympic gold.

Best of the rest: All eyes will be on reigning world champs Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin to see if they have changed their controversial "aboriginal" costume in the short program (one report has them doing so). In this most subjective discipline of a subjective sport, look for the judges to give love to the hometown team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

FREESTYLE SKIING

MOGULS

FEB. 13, 14

Best of the U.S.: Speedy Patrick Deneen is the reigning world champion, and veteran Hannah Kearney beat defending Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Heil this season at Lake Placid.

AERIALS

Feb. 24, 25

Best of the U.S.: Jeret Peterson, who will be competing in his third Olympics, could push his way on to the men's podium should he land his vaunted "Hurricane" trick.

SKI CROSS

Feb. 21, 23

Best of the U.S.: Bring on another new Olympic sport, and, with the fresh look, comes a couple of familiar faces. The best two hopes happen to be former Alpine stars, Daron Rahlves and Casey Puckett, both men having taken their share of physical punishment, of late, in ski cross.

HOCKEY

MEN, Feb. 16-28

Best of the U.S.: Goaltender Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres holds the key to Team USA's hopes. If he's on, he's equal to anyone in the world. He will have to excel because the defense has holes. Only Brian Rafalski, Chris Drury and Jamie Langenbrunner have Olympic experience. Youngsters such as Chicago's Patrick Kane and Colorado's Paul Stastny must produce.

WOMEN, Feb. 14-25

Best of the U.S.: Defenseman Angela Ruggiero and forward Jenny Potter have a full set of Olympic medals: gold from Nagano, silver from Salt Lake City and bronze from Turin. Goaltender Jesse Vetter of Cottage Grove, Wis., was stellar during pre-Olympic play, and the intuitive play between Joceylne and Monique Lamoureux of Grand Forks, N.D., is what you would expect from twins.

LUGE

Feb. 13-17

Best of the U.S.: The best chance for a medal is Erin Hamlin, the reigning world champion with three bronze medals on the World Cup circuit this season. In each case, she was faster than German Anke Wischnewski, most likely the woman she will have to beat at Whistler.

NORDIC COMBINED

Feb. 14, 23, 25

Best of the U.S.: The Americans are gunning for their first Olympic medal and it's no pipe dream. Led by the "Big Three" Billy Demong, Johnny Spillane and five-time Olympian Todd Lodwick this team possesses the necessary talent and experience.

SHORT-TRACK SPEEDSKATING

Feb. 14-26

Best of the U.S.: Apolo Anton Ohno wants to add more gold to his "Dancing With the Stars" title. He won the 1,500 (2002) and 500 (2006) as well as three other medals and looks solid again. J.R. Celski, back from a horrifying September accident when his leg was slashed by his own blade, looked like a contender before the mishap. Katherine Reutter could become the first U.S. individual women's medalist since 1994.

SKELETON

Feb. 18-19

Best of the U.S.: Katie Uhlaender and Noelle Pikus-Pace have seven world championship medals among them and two sound legs. Pikus-Pace, the 2007 champion, broke her right leg in 2005, when a runaway bobsled slammed into her as she stood along the track. Uhlaender shattered her left kneecap in a snowmobile accident in April and has been slow to recover. In the men's competition, 2006 Olympian Eric Bernotas won a gold medal in Igls, Germany, the penultimate World Cup race of this season.

SKI JUMPING

Feb, 12, 13, 19, 20, 22

Best of the U.S.: Anders Johnson made the team for the 2006 Olympic Games as a 16-year-old and now returns as a veteran. Neither he nor any other American figures to be in the running for a medal.

SNOWBOARD

SNOWBOARD CROSS

Feb. 15, 16

Best of the U.S.: Funny how it works out, but Lindsey Jacobellis probably became more famous for not winning gold in 2006, crashing into the snow when she attempted a bit of show. Nate Holland and Seth Wescott went one-two at the recent Winter X Games in Aspen.

HALFPIPE

Feb. 17, 18

Best of the U.S.: Two possible threats to defending gold medalist Shaun White were in hospitals in Salt Lake City in January. Kevin Pearce suffered a severe brain injury in training and Danny Davis fractured his back and pelvis in a non-snowboarding accident. Louie Vito and Scott Lago, however, are both capable of a podium finish. Gretchen Bleiler and Kelly Clark produced a riveting duel at the X Games, with Bleiler winning by 0.66

PARALLEL GIANT SLALOM

Feb. 26, 27

Best of the U.S.: One of the better stories on the men's side involves the resurgence of Chris Klug, who won a bronze medalist in 2002, a mere 19 months after his liver transplant.

SPEEDSKATING

Feb. 13-27

Best of the U.S.: Shani Davis is the name everyone will remember and is the favorite in both the 1,000 and 1,500. In 2006 in the 1,000-meter race, Davis became the first African American athlete to win gold in an individual Winter Games sport. He won the silver in the 1,500. Tucker Fredricks had podium finishes in each of the World Cups he skated in 2009-10 in the 500. Chad Hedrick and Trevor Marsciano lead the U.S. team pursuit squad, with Davis not participating as expected. Three-time Olympian Jen Rodriguez will lead the U.S. women's team.