|ESPN.com: Winter Olympics||[Print without images]|
All eyes will be on Shani Davis on Monday, as the American speedskater goes for gold in the men's 500 meters event. What else should you be watching? Here are our picks:
Alpine Skiing: Men's Downhill
This event has already been rescheduled a few times due to weather conditions at Whistler Creekside, but looks set to finally begin Monday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. ET. It will be Bode Miller's first of a planned five races here at these Games.
Cross-Country Skiing: Men's 15K
All eyes will be on Norwegian Petter Northug, cross-country skiing's newest superstar. At 24 years old, he already owns eight individual World Cup titles, along with five additional podiums, and he's leading the current World Cup overall standings. It will be up to Czech Lukas Bauer, Swede Marcus Hellner and Italy's Pietro Piller Cottrer to keep Northug from his first Olympic medal. Also racing with a chance to medal is 30-year-old American Kris Freeman, a three-time Olympian who has overcome Type 1 diabetes to become one of the most successful American cross-country skiers in history. In Vancouver, the 15K will be the first of his five events.
American Erin Hamlin has her work cut out for her at the Whistler Sliding Center on Monday evening. The Remsen, N.Y., native won gold at the 2009 World Championships in Lake Placid in February 2009, nearly two-tenths of a second ahead of Germany's Natalie Geisenberger. A miracle, her teammates called it. Why? Because the Germans had won 99 consecutive World Championship, World Cup and Olympic races dating back to 1997, and no non-German woman had taken World Championship gold since 1993. Now, Germans Geisenberger, Tatjana Huefner and Anke Wischnewski hold the top three spots in the World Cup standings. They'll be eager to start a new winning streak.
The sport of snowboardcross was so popular in its Olympic debut in Torino that the IOC added its sister sport, skiercross, to this year's program. Hands down one of the most exciting events in the Olympic lineup, snowboardcross is also one of the most difficult to predict. Anyone who saw the women's final in Torino knows it's not just about being fastest down the hill. To win requires a mix of speed, technical prowess, luck, patience and crash-avoidance skills. This year's race should not disappoint. The Americans field the strongest team, led by 2006 gold medalist Seth Wescott and five-time defending Winter X Games champ Nate Holland. The thrilling Holland-Wescott final at Winter X in January provided a taste of what's to come on Monday. But if anyone is going to stop the U.S. from landing a one-two punch, chances are it will be Austrian Markus Schairer, the reigning World and World Cup champ.
Speedskating: Men's 500M
It seems long distances belong to Dutchman Sven Kramer, middle distances to American Shani Davis. But there is no clear favorite for Monday night's sprint at the Richmond Olympic Oval. The hometown crowd will try to will Jeremy Wotherspoon, of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, to gold in his last Olympic hoorah. Wotherspoon won a silver medal in Nagano, his first Olympics, but has crashed and burned -- sometimes literally -- in each Olympics since. The world-record holder will face tough competition from Koreans Lee Kang-Seok and Lee Kyou-Hyuk, Mika Poutala of Finland and Tucker Fredricks of the United States.
Figure skating: Pairs free skate
We've previously mentioned how China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo had a chance to beat reigning world champs Aliona Savchekno and Robin Szolkowy of Germany in the pairs competition. On Sunday night, the Chinese duo (they are also married) set a new world record with a score of 76.66 in the short program, besting their own mark of 75.36 from January. But Savchenko and Szolkowy were almost as brilliant (75.96), while the Russian team of Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov is in a close third (74.16). Heading into tonight's free skate, just 5.38 points separate first from fifth, leaving all three medals up for grabs.