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Vancouver Olympics preview

The Winter Olympics open Friday in Vancouver. To get you ready, here is our Two Cents preview.

Just the facts

Related News/Archive

Dates: Friday through Feb. 28

Length: 17 days

Host city: Vancouver, the largest city to host the Winter Olympics and the second Canadian city to do so. Calgary hosted in 1988.

Fun fact: This is only the third time the Winter Olympics have been held in a coastal city. The others: Oslo, Norway, (1952) and Sapporo, Japan (1972).

Medals: The Royal Canadian Mint is producing 615.

Sports

• Alpine skiing

• Bobsled/luge/skeleton

• Cross country skiing/biathlon

• Curling

• Figure skating

• Freestyle skiing

• Hockey

• Speed skating/short-track speed skating

• Snowboarding

• Ski jumping

Interesting Olympic numbers

100 Miles per hour, speed expected to be reached by luge competitors.

90 Miles per hour, speed expected to be reached by bobsled competitors.

70 Rotations by a figure skater in a typical spin, about six per second.

1.96 Miles in the men's downhill, where skiers reach about 63 mph.

170 Heartbeats per minute of biathletes when they stop to shoot.

20 Feet, distance reached above the halfpipe by snowboarders during jumps.

5-7 Seconds spent in the air by typical ski jumpers, who often jump 1.2 times the length of a football field.

42 Weight, in pounds, of the curling rock.

Five (well, six) Americans to watch

Apolo Anton Ohno, short-track speed skating

He already has five medals, which ties him with Eric Heiden for most by an American man in the Winter Olympics. He will compete in four events, and if he wins two medals, he'll pass Bonnie Blair for the most by any American in the Winter Games.

Shaun White, snowboarding

With his long red hair, the "Flying Tomato" might be the most recognizable athlete in these Games. He has won 15 X Games gold medals and is the defending Olympic champ in the halfpipe.

Lindsey Vonn, Alpine skiing

Quite possibly the greatest American female skier ever, Vonn has never won an Olympic medal. That should change this year. She's the favorite in the downhill and super-giant slalom and is the defending world champ in both.

Lindsey Jacobellis, snowboarding

You might remember the free spirit celebrating a run too early in the 2006 Olympics, falling and finishing second instead of winning the gold. She'll try to stay on her board this time and beat Canada's Maelle Ricker to win gold.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White, ice dancing

They've been paired since 1997 and last month won the national title at the U.S. figure skating championships. They are ranked second in the world, but many are picking them to knock off Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who happen to train in Michigan with Davis and White.

Five burning questions about the men's hockey tournament

1. Who is the gold medal favorite? Sweden is the defending champ, but with stars such as Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash, Joe Thornton, Chris Pronger and goalies Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo, the Canadians are the favorites, especially being the home team.

2. Who will challenge the Canadians? Every team in the tournament is capable, but Russia, the Czech Republic and Sweden have the strongest rosters. Our prediction is that the medals will go to the Canadians, Russians and Swedes, in that order.

3. How will the United States do? If goalie Ryan Miller, left, plays out of his mind, it has a shot. But the team selectors appear to have made an effort to turn the page to a younger generation of players.

4. Is there a dark horse? Slovakia features Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa at forward, Zdeno Chara on defense and Jaroslav Halak or Peter Budaj in goal. It just isn't as deep as the favorites. Still, its top lines can play with anybody.

5. Is there another dark horse? Maybe you've forgotten, but Finland took the silver medal in 2006 and traditionally plays defense better than any team in the tournament. Don't count the Finns out.

Three (almost) sure bets

Norway's Ole Einar Bjorndalen will win gold in the 10K biathlon.

Bjorndalen owns five Olympic gold medals and has 92 World Cup victories in his career, making him the greatest biathlete ever.

Canada or the United States will win gold in women's hockey.

There have been 12 women's world championships, and all have had Canada playing the United States for the gold. Canada has won nine times, the United States three. In the three Olympic tournaments, Canada has won two gold medals (2002, 2006) and the United States has one (1998).

South Korea will finally win a medal.

That's never happened in the Winter Olympics, but South Korea's Kim Yu-Na is the reigning world champion in women's figure skating and the favorite to win gold.

Five story lines to keep an eye on

1. The Americans haven't won a gold in men's four-man bobsled since 1948, but they could in Vancouver.

2. Longtime NHL star Jaromir Jagr, 38, returns. He has spent the past two seasons playing in Russia and comes to Vancouver with the Czech Republic.

3. China has never fielded an Olympic curling team until this year, but its women won gold at last year's world championships and should be in the running for a medal.

4. Wild-child American skier Bode Miller tries to make up for a dreadful 2006 Olympics, when he was shut out of the medals. He will compete in five events.

5. American figure skater Evan Lysacek, the 2009 men's world champion and fourth in the 2006 Games, will try to knock off Russia's Evgeni Plushenko, who won the gold medal in 2006 and then retired. Plushenko is coming back after a three-year absence.

Vancouver Olympics preview 02/06/10 [Last modified: Sunday, February 7, 2010 7:05pm]
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