Day 9: What to watch

February, 20, 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Team USA is relying on Shani Davis, Julia Mancuso, Lindsey Vonn and Apolo Ohno to add to its fast-growing medal count. Chances are it could be a golden Saturday in Vancouver. Our picks for what to watch today:

Freestyle skiing: Women's aerials qualifier
Last season, China had seven of the top 12 women in the World Cup standings, and the Chinese are led here in Vancouver by Li Nina, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist and three-time reigning world champion. To say they are favored is an understatement. But U.S. skier Emily Cook could stop their sweep and add yet another medal to the quickly growing count for Team USA. Cook, 30, made the U.S. team in 2002 but injured her feet so badly in a training run a few weeks before the Olympics that she missed two seasons and had to relearn how to walk. Now fully recovered, the former gymnast is skiing better than ever and believes she can better her best performance yet: fourth at the 2009 world championships.

Alpine skiing: Women's super-G
The talk heading into these Olympics was all Lindsey all the time. At the ski racing venues in Whistler, spectators have been showing up with signs touting the "Vonncouver" Olympic Games. But the talk headed into Saturday's Super G race is all about Julia Mancuso, whose two silver-medal performances are making her the super surprise of this Olympics. Mancuso has done well this season in the super-G, a speed event that favors technical skiers. Mancuso flew into Vonncouver in her teammate's shadow and under the radar. But come Saturday, all eyes -- and all the pressure -- will be on her.

Long-track speedskating: Men's 1,500 meters
Shani Davis makes his bid for a second gold medal at these Games in the distance at which he is most dominant. Davis is the reigning world champion and world-record holder (1:41.04) in the 1,500 meters, and he won four of the five World Cup events leading up to the Olympics. The one accolade he is missing is Olympic gold. In 2006, Davis took silver to Enrico Fabris of Italy, who is also competing here in Vancouver. But the most likely skater to stop Davis' bid for gold is not Fabris. It is Canada's Denny Morrison, the former world-record holder, 2008 world champion and Davis' former training partner. With the home crowd cheering him on, Morrison just might skate the race of his life.

Ski jumping: Men's individual, long hill
Three-time Olympic champion Simon Ammann of Switzerland outjumped his biggest rival, Austrian Gregor Schlierenzauer, in the individual qualification round Friday afternoon. Earlier, the Austrians complained that Ammann was using bindings that were not FIS-approved. But the controversy over the bindings, which were found to be legal, didn't bug Ammann one bit. "I am Olympic champion because I am the best jumper, not because I have this equipment," he said. On Saturday, he'll have another chance to prove his case.

Bobsled, first run
On Friday afternoon, pilot Beat Hefti suffered a head injury when Switzerland 1 crashed at the Whistler Sliding Centre. Hefti had won gold in four of the eight World Cup races he raced in this season, but will now be unable to compete. It was the 13th crash in training runs this week. Latvia's Janis Minnis also will be missing; he was flown by helicopter to a Vancouver hospital Feb. 11 with appendicitis. Now, Hefti's Swiss teammate Ivo Rueegg and German driver Thomas Florschuetz are favored for gold. Although not the medal threat he is in the four-man bobsled, American Steven Holcomb also will compete.

Short-track speedskating: Men's 1,000 meters
American Apolo Ohno, who qualified for the finals of the men's 1,000 on Wednesday night, has a chance to best Bonnie Blair's record of six Winter Olympic medals in the finals at Pacific Coliseum. "Full Circle. Can you dig it? It's an honor to represent the USA again tomorrow. I will give everything I have. Races will b fast!" Ohno posted on Twitter on Friday afternoon. Fast enough, he hopes, to beat teammate J.R. Celski and South Korea's Si-Bak Sung, who set an Olympic record of 1:24:245 in the qualifier.

Alyssa Roenigk

ESPN The Magazine senior writer
Alyssa Roenigk is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and whose assignments covering action sports, Olympics and football have taken her to six continents and caused her to commit countless acts of recklessness. In 2012, she joined the X Games TV broadcast team and ordered additional pages for her passport (follow @ESPN_Alyssa on Twitter).



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