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Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Day 6: What to watch


The world's most talked-about shin injury will finally be tested Wednesday. What else should you be watching? From Shaun White to Stephen Colbert, here are our picks:

Kikkan Randall
Alaska's Kikkan Randall is looking to end America's cross-country medal drought.

Alpine Skiing: Women's Downhill
Despite her much-discussed shin injury, American Lindsey Vonn is still the favorite in women's downhill on Franz's Run at Whistler Creekside in British Columbia. She was "very sore" after her training run Monday, but still posted the day's top time. "It was by far the bumpiest course I have ever skied," Vonn wrote on her Facebook page. Teammate Julia Mancuso was second, .39 seconds behind, followed by Austria's Elisabeth Goergl. The second women's downhill training run, scheduled for Tuesday morning, was canceled because of bad weather, but with one run in, the event can go off as scheduled. "I'm a fighter," Vonn says. "I just want to get out there and start competing." Vonn also will face stiff competition from Germany's Maria Riesch, who ended Vonn's perfect record in the World Cup this season by beating her in a downhill race in January. Anja Paerson of Sweden is third in the World Cup standings and won three medals at the Torino Olympics, including a bronze.

Cross-Country Skiing: Women's Individual Sprint Classic
No American has ever won gold in cross-country skiing, but in 2007, Alaska's Kikkan Randall became the first American woman in 29 years to win a Nordic World Cup race. In Torino in 2006, Randall finished ninth in the sprint. It was the best-ever Olympic finish by an American woman in the discipline. But in Italy, Randall was permitted to use the much faster freestyle stride with which she has achieved her best results; skiers use a stride similar to a speedskater's, pushing off on the diagonal. In Whistler, the classical technique, which uses a parallel stride, will be required. "It's a big challenge," Randall says. "But the Olympics are all about seeing what you can do." The current World Cup standings are topped by Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk with Slovenia's Petra Majdic; they should both fare well in Wednesday's race.

Short Track Speedskating: 1,000m
Apolo Ohno's silver medal Monday night in the 1,500 meters was his sixth Winter Olympic medal, tying him with Bonnie Blair's record. He gets his first chance to break the record Wednesday night at Pacific Coliseum in the 1,000. The race is shorter and faster, with more contact. Trying to derail Ohno's plans will be South Korean Lee Jung-Su and fellow American J.R. Celski, the gold and bronze medalists in the 1,500. Five months ago at the U.S. Short Track trials, Celski outskated Ohno in the 1,000m time trials before accidentally stabbing his left leg with his right skate, suffering a gruesome cut that required 60 stitches to close. Doctors told him he might never walk again, much less skate. It's tough not to root for a kid who defied those odds.

Snowboarding: Men's Halfpipe
Before arriving in Vancouver, American snowboarder Shaun White, the defending Olympic halfpipe gold medalist, was considered the heavy favorite to repeat. Now, with the weather conditions forcing many riders to bag their most progressive tricks, that could mean an advantage for European and Asian riders used to competing in less-than-pristine pipes. Only thing is, in the case of White vs. the rest of the world, it's not. At practice Monday evening, White landed his signature double McTwist 1260 and appeared the least affected by the conditions. "The best riders shine through in bad weather," White said in an interview with ESPN The Mag this fall; Wednesday will be White's chance. The remaining two spots on the podium are anyone's to grab. Swiss rider Iouri Podladtchikov and Kazuhiro Kokubo of Japan finished 2-3 at the Winter X Games last month, and Americans Scotty Lago, Louie Vito and Greg Bretz all have the talent, and the runs, to medal.

Women's Ice Hockey: Canada vs. Sweden
On a day when Men's Group 2 powerhouses Finland and Sweden will loosen their legs against Belarus and Germany, the Canadian women will face off against Sweden, having outscored their opponents 28-1 in these Olympics thus far. Sweden can't be taken quite as lightly as Slovakia and Switzerland; the Swedes upset the Americans in Torino in 2006, then fell to the Canadians and took silver. Still, it seems as if Team USA and Team Canada are on a crash course to the final, and there's not much any other country can do about it.

Speedskating: Men's 1,000m
American Shani Davis, the defending Olympic champion and world-record holder in the 1,000 meters, was the hands-down favorite for Wednesday night's race, but the surprise win in Monday's 500 by 21-year-old Korean Mo Tae-Bum, and the fact that Davis pulled out of that race after placing 18th in the first of two heats, has raised some questions. Davis, though, says he pulled out to focus on the two races he has a better chance of winning: the 1,000 and the 1,500. He will have extra motivation Wednesday night at the Richmond Olympic Oval; team sponsor and "Colbert Report" host Stephen Colbert will be in Vancouver, as a fully accredited member of the media, to cheer Davis to victory.