Will Sasha Cohen be the next American idol? With Michelle Kwan out of the picture, America's only remaining hope for figure skating gold in Turin will have her first chance tonight to capture the hearts (and remote controls) of viewers back home.
Cohen and her two teenaged teammates, Kimmie Meissner and Emily Hughes, will skate today in the first night of the ladies' figure skating event, the short program. Russian Irina Slutskaya is considered the favorite, but a clean program will keep the elegant Cohen within striking distance. With Fox airing a special two-hour, in-your-face-NBC episode of American Idol starting at 8, expect the best skaters to show up after 10 p.m.
NBC's other main prime time offering is the men's 1,500 meters in speed skating, in which three Turin gold medalists - Americans Chad Hedrick (5,000 meters), Joey Cheek (500) and Shani Davis (1,000) will compete. Also entered is teammate Derek Parra, the gold medalist in this event in Salt Lake City.
For those still optimistic about the U.S. men's hockey team (1-2-1), USA network's daytime coverage will include its final preliminatry roundup game against Russia (3-1-0) live at 2 p.m. A win or a tie would guarantee the Americans a spot in the quarterfinals.
- SHARON GINN, Times correspondent