Tuesday, July 10, 2012
EVEN IF YOU'RE A DEDICATED OLYMPICS WATCHER, 84 EVENTS IN 16 DAYS IS ENOUGH TO BRING ON A BRAIN FREEZE. BUT NOT TO WORRY. OUR COURSE MAP OF TIVO-WORTHY EVENTS AND INSIDE TIPS ON RULES, RIVALRIES, CURIOSITIES AND WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN WILL PUT YOUR MIND AT
By ANDREW BEAUJON, LINDSAY BERRA, DALE BRAUNER, SCOTT DeSIMON, DAN GALVIN, EDDIE MATZ, GUEORGUI MILKOV, ALYSSA ROENIGK, CARRIE SHEINBERG
BIATHLON Men's 20K Individual
FREESTYLE SKIING Women's Moguls
NORDIC COMBINED Normal Hill 15K Individual
MEN'S 20K INDIVIDUAL
RAPHAEL POIREE 31 / FRANCE
OLE EINAR BJOERNDALEN 28 / NORWAY
SVEN FISCHER 34 / GERMANY
DID YOU KNOW? Biathlon is rooted in Scandinavian hunting traditions, but it was actually an American who revolutionized the sport back in 1986. Glen Eberle, a former Olympian, introduced a woodsynthetic rifle stock that dropped the gun's weight from 11 pounds to 7.5. That makes a big difference when you have to ski 20K and still have a steady enough hand to hit 25 targets from 50 meters away-especially when each miss adds a full minute to your final time. Poiree took silver in the 12.5K pursuit in Salt Lake City, a feat matched by his wife, Liv Grete, who skis for Norway.
KARI TRAA 32 / NORWAY
JENNIFER HEIL 22 / CANADA
HANNAH KEARNEY 19 / USA
RULES TO LIVE BY To save the best for last, the 16 finalists head down the hill in reverse order of their qualifying score. But the moguls course, which is located in the middle of town and features a 30, 295-yard pitch peppered with four-foot-high mounds, could even the field a bit. So could the subjective scoring system: only 25% is based on time, 50% on turns and 25% on tricks. And those tricks should be pretty sick. Skiers will be heels over heads, as they're allowed to perform inverted moves for the first time. Another first: the finals will go down under the lights.
NORMAL HILL 15K INDIVIDUAL
HANNU MANNINEN 27 / FINLAND
RONNY ACKERMANN 28 / GERMANY
FELIX GOTTWALD 29 / AUSTRIA
KEY TO WINNING The Combined requires fast-twitch muscle power for a 90-meter jump and slow-twitch endurance for a 15K trek. Manninen, the World Cup champ, and Ackermann aren't great jumpers, but they quickly gain in the cross-country leg, which is staggered according to jump results. American Todd Lodwick, strong in the air, must begin skiing with a big lead if he hopes to give the U.S. its first medal in the event's 82-year history.
ALPINE SKIING Men's Downhill
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Men's 30K
Pursuit; Women's 15K Pursuit
LUGE Men's Singles
SHORT-TRACK SPEED SKATING Men's 1,500 Meters
SNOWBOARDING Men's Halfpipe
SKI JUMPING Normal Hill Individual
DARON RAHLVES 32 / USA
BODE MILLER 28 / USA
MICHAEL WALCHHOFER 30 / AUSTRIA
KEY TO WINNING The Kandahar Banchetta slope has four big jumps, and the terrain is always changing. The top of the run is perfect for the 5'9" Rahlves, who should nail the technical side-hill turns that lead into the first and biggest jump. He'll need momentum heading into the rolling midsection, where size matters. Great gliders like Walchhofer (6'3", 209 pounds) will gain here and add drama to the final six sweeping turns. Miller is suited for every section. And don't count out venerable Austrian Hermann Maier.
SHORT-TRACK 1,500 METERS
APOLO ANTON OHNO 23 / USA
LEE HO-SUK 19 / KOREA
AHN HYUN-SOO 20 / KOREA
RIVALRIES Bumping is illegal, but with six skaters on a tight oval, this sport can still be like roller derby at 30 mph. When South Korean Kim Dong-sung was DQ'd for blocking in Salt Lake City, giving gold to Ohno, Kim's outraged countrymen did not soon forget. The U.S. skipped a 2003 World Cup meet in Dechoun, South Korea, after Ohno got death threats.
SINGLES LUGE, ITALY
Dubbed "The Cannibal" for the way he devours competition, Zoeggeler has enjoyed a podium climb as steady as his sled is swift: bronze in '94, silver in '98 and gold in 2002, when he crushed Georg Hackl's dream of four golds in a row with a huge victory margin of 1.029 seconds. In the only Winter Olympics sport timed to the millisecond, this guy doesn't waste time. The 32-year-old Zoeggeler has built his career with a strong push at the top and a flawless read to the bottom. He has won on every course in the world, and slides into Torino wearing his fifth World Cup crown. Still need a reason to watch? If he wins his country's first gold of the Games, the Italians will eat it up.
BIATHLON Women's 15K Individual
FIGURE SKATING Pairs Free Skate
SNOWBOARD Women's Halfpipe
SPEED SKATING Men's 500M
PAIRS FREE SKATE
TATIANA TOTMIYANINA 24, MAXIM MARININ 28 / RUSSIA
MARIA PETROVA 28, ALEXEI TIKHONOV 34 / RUSSIA
ZHANG DAN 20, ZHANG HAO 21 / CHINA
DID YOU KNOW? The Russians have won pairs gold for 11 consecutive Olympics, dating back to 1964, while the U.S. hasn't medaled since taking bronze in 1988. But Americans Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, though long shots for the podium, have one thing on their Russian rivals. At the U.S. championships in January, they landed the first-ever throw triple Axel (3 revolutions) in competition, winning their second national title in three years.
GRETCHEN BLEILER 24 / USA
HANNAH TETER 19 / USA
DORIANE VIDAL 29 / FRANCE
RULES TO LIVE BY Americans usually ride the U.S. Grand Prix series, and Europeans ride the World Cup. But at the Olympics, both sides mingle en masse. Torino judging will be based on overall impression (amplitude, variety, difficulty of tricks, use of the pipe and execution). The maximum deduction for a fall is 20% of the score (up from 10% in Salt Lake), so riders are rewarded more for smooth transitions than for tougher tricks. In theory, that favors the more risk-averse Europeans, like 2002 silver medalist Vidal. But look for the U.S. team (including defending gold medalist Kelly Clark) to work within the system and grab a sweep.
JOJI KATO 21 / JAPAN
JEREMY WOTHERSPOON 29 / CANADA
HIROYASU SHIMIZU 31 / JAPAN
KEY TO WINNING The 500 is the only speed skating event in which the best total time of two runs wins. So the strategy is pretty simple: skate fast and don't fall. Wotherspoon, the 1998 silver medalist, learned the hard way. He was favored to win in Salt Lake but then face-planted on his first run. Standing in his way now are three-time Olympic medalist Hiroyasu Shimizu and his countryman Joji Kato-a.k.a. the New Shimizu. Joji made the Japanese World Cup team as a high schooler, and his win at the 2005 Single Distance Championships put the veterans on notice.
ALPINE SKIING Men's Combined
BIATHLON Men's 10K Sprint
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Men's and Women's Team Sprint
LUGE Women's Singles
SPEED SKATING Women's 500M
KJETIL ANDRE AAMODT 34 / NORWAY
BENJAMIN RAICH 27 / AUSTRIA
BODE MILLER 28 / USA
KEY TO WINNING A mash-up of Alpine's two fastest disciplines-downhill, with its 75 mph banzai vibe, and slalom, with its 60-turns-in-60-seconds precision-the men's combined is a frenetic one-day event. After the morning downhill run, skiers tackle two afternoon slalom runs. Best total time wins. Slalom specialists usually have a big advantage because they can quickly make up for any mistakes made in the morning. (Downhillers rarely train for slalom.) Miller took silver in 2002. If he can stay on his feet in the afternoon-he has finished only two slalom events in eight tries this season-he is capable of gold.
SYLKE OTTO 35 / GERMANY
SILKE KRAUSHAAR 35 / GERMANY
TATJANA HUEFNER 22 / GERMANY
RIVALRIES Since the sport was introduced in 1964, the Germans have won 21 of 33 Olympic medals. Look for more of the same in Torino. The only tension here comes from the bad blood between the country's homophonic lugers, Sylke Otto (the defending Olympic champ) and Silke Kraushaar. For years, the two were BFF, but a falling out before the Salt Lake Games turned things ugly. In a 2003 press conference, the two exchanged verbal barbs that earned them a reprimand from coach Thomas Schwab. Although they have put a lid on it since then, there is still plenty of tension to go around: Kraushaar and Otto are Nos. 1 and 2 in the World Cup standings.
OLE EINAR BJOERNDALEN
When it comes to gold medals, the 32-year-old Bjoerndalen-one of only three Winter Olympians to take home four golds in a single Games-is head and shoulders above the competition. And when it comes to training, he moves in rarified air, too: his Austrian lair in Obertilliach is at nearly the same elevation as Italy's Cesana San Sicario. Of course, there's only so much prep work one can do for the brutal San Sicario winds, so Bjoerndalen's Nordic reserve will be tested as he tries to sweep all five biathlon events. If he pulls off the feat, he'll stand alone atop the list of Olympic gold medalists-winter or summer-with a grand total of 10. (He won one gold in Nagano.) Now that would be some lofty perch.
ALPINE SKIING Women's Downhill
FREESTYLE SKIING Men's Moguls
LUGE Men's Doubles
NORDIC COMBINED Large Hill/4x5K Relay
SHORT-TRACK SPEED SKATING Women's 500M
LINDSEY KILDOW 21 / USA
MICHAELA DORFMEISTER 32 / AUSTRIA
JANICA KOSTELIC 24 / CROATIA
DID YOU KNOW? Olympic favorite Kildow expects to hit 80 mph on this nearly two-mile course. But that's mostly because she and several other women's downhillers complained that the hill was too slow after last year's World Cup test event. Sweden's Anja Paerson, who's usually more of a threat in the slalom and giant slalom, won the downhill that day, angering those who specialize in this highvelocity event. But be careful what you wish for, ladies. Thanks to the feedback, the course now has steeper jumps and crazier contours, making for gnarlier runs, better racing-and more spectacular wipeouts.
JEREMY BLOOM 23 / USA
TOBY DAWSON 27 / USA
JANNE LAHTELA 31 / FINLAND
RULES TO LIVE BY Creativity counts, but only so much. One-third and two-thirds of the way down the course are "kicker" jumps that toss skiers 12 feet in the air, where they flip and twist through multiple tricks and then are supposed to land without a bobble to continue their downward plunge. But don't look for any crazy new moves in Torino. Fuddy-duddy Olympic judges frown on innovation during the Games. Nagano gold medalist Jonny Moseley got low scores at the Salt Lake Games for throwing his new unapproved Dinner Roll. One thing you can look for: Lahtela, the defending champ, is the guy most likely to prevent an American sweep.
MARK GRIMMETTE 35, BRIAN MARTIN 33 / USA
ALEXANDER RESCH 26, PATRIC LEITNER 28 / GERMANY
CHRISTIAN OBERSTOLZ 28, PATRICK GRUBER 28 / ITALY
DID YOU KNOW? Grimmette and Martin have momentum on their side, but not because they'll be traveling at 86 mph. The duo took bronze in Nagano, then moved up to silver in Salt Lake. A gold in Torino is the goal, of course, but a medal of any color would make them the first U.S. men to win medals in three consecutive Winter Games. Four-time world and reigning Olympic champs Leitner and Resch beat Grimmette and Martin by .134 seconds in Salt Lake.
BIATHLON Women's 7.5K Sprint
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Women's 10K Classical
FIGURE SKATING Men's Free Skate
SNOWBOARDING Men's Snowboard Cross
SPEED SKATING Men's and Women's Team Pursuit
WOMEN'S 7.5K SPRINT
KATI WILHELM 29 / GERMANY
USCHI DISL 35 / GERMANY
SVETLANA ISHMOURATOVA 33 / RUSSIA
RIVALRIES "Turbo Disl" has won eight medals since women's biathlon made its Olympic debut in 1992. But to get her first individual gold, she'll have to go through World Cup leader Wilhelm, who took up the rifle in 1999 after a ho-hum cross-country showing in Nagano. As a biathlete in Salt Lake City, Wilhelm won three medals, including sprint gold.
WOMEN'S 10K CLASSICAL
BECKIE SCOTT 31 / CANADA
MARIT BJOERGEN 25 / NORWAY
HILDE PEDERSEN 41 / NORWAY
KEY TO WINNING Since Torino's course is molto hilly, and there's no skating in this event, skiers will depend heavily on the skill of their wax technicians. Kick wax is applied to the middle of skis to grip the snow at the beginning of every kick; glide wax is put on the front and back tips for friction-free skiing. It's up to the techies to find the right mix. Though the 6,000-foot elevation favors Scott, who trains at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon (roughly the same altitude), the wax could make the difference if conditions are less than ideal.
FIGURE SKATING, RUSSIA
The combination-the linking of jumps in a routine-is the mark of any world-class skater. And Plushenko is quite the impressive combo himself, known as much for his artistry as for his technical chops. Born in Siberia, he moved to St. Petersburg at age 11 to train, and turned so many heads that he was offered a spot with a Russian ballet company. He chose to remain on the ice and became the only skater ever to land the elusive 4-3-3 combination. The 23-year-old defending silver medalist is now the favorite to become the fourth straight Russian male to win singles gold. How big of a favorite? American Johnny Weir says everyone else is skating for second.
ALPINE SKIING Women's Combined
CROSS-COUNTRY Men's 15K Classical
SNOWBOARDING Women's Snowboard Cross
JANICA KOSTELIC 24 / CROATIA
RENATE GOETSCHL 30 / AUSTRIA
LINDSEY KILDOW 21 / USA
KEY TO WINNING Last year in Italy, Kildow wept after two fourth-place finishes at the world championships. The key to medaling in Torino, she says, is to conquer her jitters. Kostelic can make anyone nervous. In Salt Lake, she won gold in the giant slalom, slalom and combined and took silver in the Super G. At the 2005 worlds, she showed her nerves of steel again, winning the downhill.
MEN'S TOP CONTENDERS
JEFF PAIN 35 / CANADA
GREGOR STAEHLI 38 / SWITZERLAND
ERIC BERNOTAS 34 / USA
DID YOU KNOW? Americans won men's and women's gold in 2002, but the ride has been bumpy lately. Coach Tim Nardiello was suspended from the team in December after being accused of sexual misconduct. New coach Orvie Garrett's best hope is Eric Bernotas, who took up skeleton at age 30 after visiting Lake Placid on vacation. The Pennsylvania native had struggled with Tourette's and alcoholism, and he wanted to do something athletic. So he left his masonry job to go belly down, becoming a three-time U.S. champ who's now making his Olympic debut.
WOMEN'S SNOWBOARD CROSS
LINDSEY JACOBELLIS 20 / USA
DOMINIQUE MALTAIS 25 / CANADA
MAELLE RICKER 27 / CANADA
KEY TO WINNING Pushing and shoving are just part of the game in snowboard cross, an X Games staple crossing over to the Olympics. With four riders flying up to 50 mph in a pack, even the slightest bump can dash medal dreams. So the best way to avoid traffic-and have any shot to beat Jacobellis-is to grab the lead right out of the gate. Start fast, finish first, rock the podium.
ALPINE SKIING Men's Super G
BIATHLON Women's 10K Pursuit; Men's 12.5K Pursuit
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Women's 4x5K Relay
SHORT TRACK SPEED SKATING Men's 1,000M; Women's 1,500M
SKI JUMPING Large Hill (Individual)
SPEED SKATING Men's 1,000M
MEN'S SUPER G
BODE MILLER 28 / USA
DARON RAHLVES 32 / USA
HERMANN MAIER 33 / AUSTRIA
RIVALRIES The competition is fierce (Austria's Benjamin Raich, Canada's Erik Guay and Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal will also challenge), but the matchup that really sizzles is the one between Miller and Maier. Miller finished atop the World Cup standings in 2005, knocking Maier, who won gold in Nagano and had dominated Super G for the past decade, to No. 2. Maier missed the Salt Lake Games due to a motorcycle accident. Now The Herminator is back, and he doesn't intend to finish second to Miller in Torino.
JIN SUN-YU 17 / SOUTH KOREA
YANG YANG (A) 29 / CHINA
HALIE KIM 17 / USA
DID YOU KNOW? Yang (A) used to be known as Yang (L), as in large, because she had a smaller teammate known as Yang Yang (S). But the 5'5", 150-pound Yang (L) found the label offensive and switched her designation to (A), which she keeps using even though Yang (S) has retired. (A) was awesome in Salt Lake, winning two golds and a silver. And even though teenager Jin is the new force, (A) is still livin' large.
SKI JUMPING, CZECH REPUBLIC
Among his countrymen, Janda ranks just behind Jaromir Jagr on the rock-star scale. So when this humble 27-year-old takes flight in Torino, the hopes of 10 million people will rise with him. Janda was just another ho-hum World Cup performer until last year, when he soared to silver and bronze at the world championships. How'd he find his mojo? Turns out, he gets high with a little help from his friends. Norwegian legend Bjorn Daehlie offered advice on coping with big-event pressure. And to keep the adrenaline flowing, coach Vasja Bajc added parachuting and scuba diving to Janda's training. Now, Janda is aiming to become the first Czech jumper to medal since the 1992 Albertville Games.
ALPINE SKIING Women's Super G
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Men's 4x10K Relay
SPEED SKATING Women's 1,000M
WOMEN'S SUPER G
LINDSEY KILDOW 21 / USA
MICHAELA DORFMEISTER 32 / AUSTRIA
ALEXANDRA MEISSNITZER 32 / AUSTRIA
RULES TO LIVE BY Talk about flying blind. There are no Super G training runs. Skiers get only a quick race-day inspection of the course, which is designed shortly before the Games by a randomly selected representative from a participating nation. The rep, of course, makes sure to play to his or her team's strengths. So if, for example, Austria wins the layout lottery, expect close turns throughout the 30 slalom flags to highlight that country's technical mastery. Unfair? Maybe. But there's no crying in Alpine skiing.
CHRIS WITTY 30 / USA
JENNIFER RODRIGUEZ 29 / USA
CHIARA SIMIONATO 30 / ITALY
RIVALRIES They train together in Park City, Utah, and share a love for snowboarding and Harry Potter. But when Witty and Rodriguez hit the ice, the game is on. Four years ago, Witty won Olympic gold in the 1,000 and Rodriguez took bronze, giving the U.S. multiple medalists in women's speed skating for the first time since 1976. Since the Salt Lake Games, J-Rod is the one who's been ice hot. The Miami native won the 2004 World Cup standings for this event and has been the more consistent skater. Now, with the duo expected to share the podium again in Torino, the only question is, which one will be standing a little taller?
TWO-MAN BOBSLED, USA
Growing up in steamy Del Rio, Texas, Hays didn't exactly dream of someday becoming a bobsledder. Like a good Texan, the 6'3", 235-pound athlete played football (linebacker at Tulsa), and like every smart guy in a rough border town, learned to defend himself (1993 U.S. kickboxing champ). Then, in the summer of 1994, USA Bobsled held tryouts in San Antonio. By Christmas, Hays was racing on the World Cup circuit. He bought his first sled in 1995 with $10,000 he'd won in a martial arts tournament in Tokyo, and three years later he was an alternate driver in Nagano. In Salt Lake, Hays took silver in the four-man event, snapping a 46-year medal drought for the U.S. men's team. Last year, he accidentally ran the sled over his right foot, nearly severing his pinky toe. But he was back on the ice a month later. It's that kind of toughness that has made Hays, at age 36, the topranked two-man driver in the world.
ALPINE SKIING Men's Giant Slalom
TEAM SKI JUMPING Large Hill
MEN'S GIANT SLALOM
BENJAMIN RAICH 27 / AUSTRIA
MASSIMILIANO BLARDONE 26 / ITALY
FREDRIK NYBERG 36 / SWEDEN
DID YOU KNOW? On the surface and the slopes, Raich is so different from a certain high-profile U.S. skier that he has become known as the anti-Bode. While Miller runs his mouth and takes chances on his runs, Raich quietly wins medals and then humbly claims, "I am not a superstar." At the 2005 World Championships, Miller won two golds but failed to finish the three other events. Meanwhile, his Austrian counterpart finished with two golds, a silver and a bronze. Raich is a family man who, with his father, picked out a tree to use as the wooden core of his skis. But inside there's a wild man dying to come out. How else to explain Raich's hobbies: skydiving, bungee jumping and free climbing?
TATIANA NAVKA 30, ROMAN
KOSTOMAROV 28 / RUSSIA
ALBENA DENKOVA 31, MAXIM STAVISKY 28 / BULGARIA
TANITH BELBIN 21, BENJAMIN AGOSTO 24 / USA
RULES TO LIVE BY In the compulsory and original dances, skaters must follow a specific rhythm and specific steps, performed in a prescribed manner at a predetermined spot on the ice. Only in the free dance can they create their own program, usually based on traditional ballroom or folk dancing. Even then, they're required to skate to the rhythm, unlike pairs skaters, who can interpret music. Ice dancers are also prohibited from including spins and jumps and can't perform overhead lifts-so no athletic elements. But hey, you can't beat those costumes.
WOMEN'S TOP CONTENDERS
RIVALRIES Though Canada holds a 40-28-1 edge over the U.S. overall, the score is even in Olympic competition. Team USA won the debut event in Nagano; Canada took gold in Salt Lake City. So this is the rubber match between Angela Ruggiero (USA) and Jennifer Botterill (Canada), each playing in her third Olympics. The forwards were once roommates at Harvard, where both won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best college player. Actually, Botterill won it twice. Now, everyone back in Del Rio is thinking bobsled. And their favorite son is thinking gold.
BIATHLON Men's 4x7.5K Relay
NORDIC COMBINED Large Hill/7.5K Sprint
SPEED SKATING Men's 1,500M
SANDRA KIRIASIS 30, BERIT WIACKER 23 / GERMANY
SUSI-LISA ERDMANN 38, ANNE DIETRICH 25 / GERMANY
SHAUNA ROHBOCK 28, VALERIE FLEMING 29 / USA
DID YOU KNOW? The hard-driving Kiriasis pilots a sled called the Flying Shark, complete with painted-on teeth. But reality bit in 2004, when Kiriasis' house burned to the ground while she and Erdmann were staying there for a nearby event. The misfortune brought the two rivals closer together, though, and now Kiriasis' career is back on track.
CHAD HEDRICK 28 / USA
SHANI DAVIS 23 / USA
ERBEN WENNEMARS 28 / NETHERLANDS
RIVALRIES The strongest and best-conditioned skaters flock to this 33/4-lap event, the prestigious equivalent of the track and field mile. the world record is 1:42:78, held by Hedrick, who took it from Davis. The two Americans have been chipping away at the Dutch domination, using totaly different strategies. Davis, the first African-American to make the Olympic long-track team, goes all-out on the first and second laps, tailing off slightly near the end. Hedrick, by contrast, says he likes the thrill of the chase; that's why he's known as The Exception. They may well share the ice in Torino: the world's top six skaters are guaranteed a spot in the last three pairs. If so, it should prove truly exceptional.
ALPINE SKIING Women's Slalom
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Men's and Women's Individual Sprint
FREESTYLE SKIING Women's Aerials
SHORT-TRACK SPEED SKATING Women's 3,000M Relay
SNOWBOARD Men's Parallel Giant Slalom
SPEED SKATING Women's 1,500M
ANJA PAERSON 24 / SWEDEN
JANICA KOSTELIC 24 / CROATIA
MARLIES SCHILD 24 / AUSTRIA
DID YOU KNOW? The plastic gates you see above the snow are only part of the story. Anchoring each one is a 14-inch spring-loaded polyurethane cylinder that's screwed into the icy hill using a special wrench. As hip-swiveling racers charge downhill, as many as 30% will crash and be DQ'd. But with the gates properly anchored, racers won't knock them loose. And the spring serves another purpose that has changed the sport: the flexibility of the gates allows stars like Paerson, the two-time overall World Cup champ, to ski right over them, taking the fastest, and riskiest, line. Paerson and Kostelic are friends who've monopolized the spotlight for several years, so expect them to give everyone else the gate in Torino, too.
MEN'S PARALLEL GIANT SLALOM
SIMON SCHOCH 27 / SWITZERLAND
PHILIPP SCHOCH 26 / SWITZERLAND
HEINZ INNIGER 25 / SWITZERLAND
RULES TO LIVE BY Confounded by the Latvian judge's scoring of a blindside 720? Yeah, same here. That's why we love the PGS, where it's all about the speed. Racers use stiff, narrow boards that can handle the twists and turns of the gates without losing much momentum. And because the downhillers don't have to worry about aerobatics and board grabs, their decks are longer and sport a lower nose and square back. The only rules you really need to know: Swiss rules (especially the brothers Schoch).
ALPINE SKIING, CROATIA
After she put her stamp on the Salt Lake Games, winning three golds and a silver, her country returned the favor, putting Kostelic on a postage stamp. The 24-year-old skier has come a long way from her peripatetic childhood, during which she and her brother slept in the family car as their father shuttled them from race to race. Despite 11 knee operations and the removal of her thyroid gland, Kostelic has remained a dominant force. She was the 2005 slalom world champ, and in December she finally added the giant slalom to her list of World Cup event titles-proving that no matter what the Croatian postal service says, she really can't be licked.
BIATHLON Women's 4x6K Relay
FREESTYLE AERIALS Men's
FIGURE SKATING Women's Free Skate
SNOWBOARD Women's Parallel Giant Slalom
WOMEN'S FREE SKATE
IRINA SLUTSKAYA 26 / RUSSIA
SASHA COHEN 21 / USA
CAROLINA KOSTNER 18 / ITALY
KEY TO WINNING It might be the triple Axel-or not. Only a handful of women have nailed the jump, which is actually 3 rotations. At the 2005 Grand Prix in Tokyo, 15-year-old Mao Asada beat Olympic favorite Slutskaya by landing a triple. Then, at the 2005 Japanese championships, Asada won silver by landing a history-making two triples in her free skate. Alas, she is too young to qualify for the Games. So will anyone leg out a triple in Torino? Watch for 16-year-old American Kimmie Meissner, who landed one for a bronze at the 2005 nationals, and for Cohen, who has worked on the jump for several years. Or watch for Slutskaya to dazzle with Axel-less but otherwise perfect skating.
DANIELA MEULI 24 / SWITZERLAND
JULIE POMAGALSKI 25 / FRANCE
URSULA BRUHIN 35 / SWITZERLAND
DID YOU KNOW? PGS riders are the only competitive snowboarders who wear tight suits, use stiff plastic boots and try to beat the clock, making them iconoclasts in a sport that otherwise rewards style and flash. But the ski-type attire goes with the skitype event, in which two boarders race on side-by-side gated courses. Meuli has long been a serious student of the sport, while Pomagalski is a grad student in management. Maybe Bruhin, a former pastry chef, just enjoys the fancy lines they all take.
FREESTYLE AERIALS, USA
This man's world is spinning-and that's a good thing. The 2005 World Cup aerials champ is the most talented twister on the U.S. ski team. His newest trick, The Hurricane, which he will attempt in Torino, is the most ambitious in the sport's history. The move requires five spins and three flips performed 55 feet above the snow. Quintuples are so risky that competitors must be approved to even attempt them. "When I'm in the air, it's like I'm stuck in a hurricane," Peterson says. "You have no idea where you'll land. You just have to feel it." If he lands it cleanly, the trick will be worth more points and judged at a higher degree of difficulty than the gold jump from Ales Valenta (Czech Republic) in 2002. And then Peterson might never come down.
ALPINE SKIING Women's Giant Slalom
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Women's 30K Freestyle
CURLING Men's SPEED SKATING Men's 10,000
WOMEN'S GIANT SLALOM
ANJA PAERSON 24 / Sweden
JANICA KOSTELIC 24 / Croatia
TANJA POUTIAINEN 25 / Finland
RIVALRIES Kostelic is a medal hog, Poutiainen was last year's giant slalom World Cup champ and Paerson took the overall crown. But Americans Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Kildow, both 21, are the biggest rivals on the hill. Mancuso, a free spirit from Squaw Valley, Calif., says she'd rather be a snowboarder; Kildow, who grew up carving little Buck Hill in Burnsville, Minn., is all about putting in the work. The two have been battling since they were 13. With 54 World Cup top-10s between them, they form the strongest U.S. duo since Picabo Street and Hilary Lindh-even if they don't agree on the best way down the mountain.
MEN'S TOP CONTENDERS
RULES TO LIVE BY If only the whole world lived by the official rules of curling. Though all curlers play to win, rule No. 1 is play fair. That's why teams and coaches come together to attend a "pre-event meeting" with the chief umpire and a rules official. Competitors never attempt to humble their opponents, and foul language is expressly banned. At the same time, sharing is encouraged: teammates can exchange brushes with each other (but never their corn brooms). And the most courteous of curling's rules? No smoking during play!
SPEED SKATING, GERMANY
Not many Winter Olympians are all that recognizable out of their lycra (never mind in it). Then again, not many look like Friesinger. Nicknamed Sexy Anni by the European tabs, she has become almost as well-known for her nearly nude photo shoots, feuds with teammates and spicy exchanges with the media as she is for her commanding performances on the ice. When she's on, the 2005 world allaround champ makes it look easy-perhaps because she is one of the few skaters who still battles the elements and trains outdoors. But the 29-year-old also has a maddening tendency to drop races that should be hers. The daughter of a Polish Olympian (Jana Korowicka, who skated in Innsbruck) and a West German junior champion, Friesinger comes to Torino with an eye toward proving she has finally reached her prime. We already know she's a hit with millions of Internet surfers.
MEN'S 10,000 METERS
CHAD HEDRICK 28 / USA
CARL VERHEIJEN 30 / NETHERLANDS
SVEN KRAMER 19 / NETHERLANDS
RIVALRIES Winning requires patience, stamina and strategy, all of which are fortes of Hedrick and Verheijen. On Dec. 4, Verheijen set a new world record of 12:57:92. On Dec. 31, Hedrick finished in 12:55:11. But in the Netherlands, it's clear who's the favorite. While Verheijen was earning his medical degree after the 2002 Games, the hardpartying Hedrick became a celebrity. One Dutch scribe even dubbed him "the Paris Hilton of speed skating."
ALPINE SKIING Men's Slalom
BIATHLON Women's 12.5K Start; Men's 15K Mass Start
SHORT-TRACK SPEED SKATING Men's 500M; Women's 1,000M; Men's 5,000M Relay
SPEED SKATING Women's 5,000M
GIORGIO ROCCA 30 / ITALY
TED LIGETY 21 / USA
KALLE PALANDER 28 / FINLAND
RIVALRIES Four years ago, Utah native Ted Ligety was the slalom forerunner, skiing the course in advance of the race to check the timing systems. This year, he'll challenge the frontrunner, Rocca, Italy's best hope for a skiing medal in Torino. Riding high on adrenaline following the birth of son Giacomo on Nov. 21, Rocca won five straight World Cup slalom events. Ligety ascended the podium three times in the same span, taking two bronze and one silver, when he finished just sixtenths of a second behind Rocca. (It's the American whose flamboyant style should remind fans of Italian legend Alberto Tomba.) "My real enemy right now is Ted," Rocca said after the race. "He is a very strong opponent."
TOP CONTENDERS (DRIVERS)
MARTIN ANNEN 31 / SWITZERLAND
TODD HAYS 36 / USA
ANDRE LANGE 32 / GERMANY
KEY TO WINNING It's all about the start. Four supersize men in spiked shoes must push a 462-pound sled 50 meters in less than five seconds. Then, at more than 40 mph, they wedge their bodies-driver first, brakeman last-into the cramped interior. On the Olympic track at Cesana Pariol during the January 2005 World Cup, the Swiss team led by Annen set the course start record (4.68 seconds) on the way to gold. Even if he doesn't prevail on the track, Annen is still a big cheese: at home in Arth, he is a professional cheese maker.
CROSS-COUNTRY Men's 50K Freestyle
MEN'S 50K FREESTYLE
FRODE ESTIL 33 / NORWAY
TOBIAS ANGERER 28 / GERMANY
JENS FILBRICH 26 / GERMANY
DID YOU KNOW? Most of us recognize classical cross-country skiing: those long, straight strides on parallel tracks used in all Olympic events through 1994. Freestyle, which debuted in 1998, uses whatever technique gets the job done. Skiers favor shorter, stiffer skis with boots that offer more ankle support, and they push off from their inside edges, making choppier strokes. They also push one another like crazy at the mass start.
MEN'S TOP CONTENDERS
KEY TO WINNING Stopping the puck. U.S. defenseman Chris Chelios, who's 44 entering his fourth Games, is also the third-oldest player ever to set foot on Olympic ice. But despite his experience, the U.S. isn't favored for a medal. In a short tournament where goaltending can steal the show, internationally inexperienced U.S. netminders Rick DiPietro and Robert Esche are no match for the likes of Canada's Martin Brodeur (2002 gold), Swedish Elite League champ Henrik Lundqvist and 2005 world champ Tomas Vokoun of the Czech Republic. Of course, overall depth never hurts, either. The Canadians could field two teams, and both would be favored for a medal.