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Five Americans to watch at Winter Olympics

Posted: February 11, 2010 11:21 a.m.
Updated: February 11, 2010 11:44 a.m.

In this Jan. 21, 2010 photo, Pierre Vaultier, of France, right, makes his way to gold as he's followed by Graham Watanabe, top, of the United States, who took silver, and Shaun Palmer of the United States, follows for bronze in the FIS World Cup Snowboard Cross finals in Stoneham, Quebec.

 
Here's a look at five of the hottest United States athletes who will be spinning, skating and skiing for gold at the Winter Olympics:


Lindsey Vonn
Event: Alpine skiing
Age: 25
From: Vail, Colo.

The skinny: By the time these Olympics come to a close on Feb. 28, they might be renamed the "Vonn-couver Games," if Vonn recovers from a painful shin injury that has limited her training. Vonn, the best women's skier in U.S. history, is entered in all five racing disciplines (downhill, super giant slalom, combined, giant slalom and slalom) and favored to win gold in the first three. She has 31 World Cup wins, nine this season, but is looking for her first Olympic medal. As a 16-year-old at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, she was sixth in the combined. At the 2006 Turin Games a crash in training put her in the hospital, but she still managed to finish eighth in the downhill, seventh in the Super G and 14th in the slalom.


Apolo Anton Ohno
Event: Short track speedskating
Age: 27
From: Seattle

The skinny: The skater who made soul patches cool again has been the top short track speedskater in the U.S. since 2001, winning national titles ever year. He added to his celebrity with a win on television's "Dancing With the Stars" in 2007, and now has a chance to bolster his athletic rep by breaking Bonnie Blair's record of six medals won by a U.S. Winter Olympian. In the 2002 Salt Lake Games and 2006 Turin Games, Ohno won a total of five medals (two gold, one silver, two bronze), matching speedskater Eric Heiden's five from the 1980 Lake Placid Games. Ohno, who often drove to Vancouver to compete and train while growing up in Seattle, will compete in four events and his best opportunities to reach the medal stand are in the 500- and 1,000-meter races. Canada's Charles Hamelin and the South Koreans are expected to provide the stiffest competition.


Shaun White
Event: Snowboard, halfpipe
Age: 23
From: Carlsbad, Calif.

The skinny: White, who turned pro when he was 13, remains the face of snowboarding. He's the defending Olympic champion, and despite hitting his head in a recent fall at the Winter X Games is favored to repeat on the 22-foot-high halfpipe walls at Cypress Mountain. The redhead unveiled a new trick this year -- a Double Mctwist 1260. It includes two front flips and if he pulls it off, odds of anybody dethroning the "Flying Tomato" are slim.


Angela Ruggerio
Event: Hockey defenseman
Age: 30
From: Harper Woods, Mich.

The skinny: This is the fourth and final Olympics for Ruggerio, who has been on gold (1998), silver (2002) and bronze (2006) medal-winning teams. Captain Natalie Darwitz is the scoring threat for the Americans, but Ruggerio, a four-time All-American from Harvard who has played in more hockey games (244) for the U.S. than any other player, is the glue. She would like serve on the IOC some day, but first hopes to lead her team to another gold. Despite having won the last two world championships, the U.S. will arrive in Vancouver as underdogs to Canada, the two-time defending Olympic champs. Not only do the Canadians have home-ice advantage this year, they also hold a 7-3 edge over the U.S. the past year.


Evan Lysacek

Event: Figure skating
Age: 24
Hometown: Los Angeles

The skinny: Lysacek is America's best hope for a gold medal in any individual skating event. He's not the man to beat -- that title goes to defending Olympic champion Yevgeny Plushenko of Russia -- but Lysacek, fourth in Turin in 2006, is confident after winning the World Championships in Los Angeles and the Grand Prix Final in Tokyo in 2009. He's coming off a so-so second-place performance at the U.S. Nationals in Spokane (Jeremy Abbott was first; Johnny Weir third) in which he fell on a quadruple toe. If he hits the quad in Vancouver, Lysacek has the athleticism, artistry and technical program to upset Plushenko. The last American male to win Olympic gold was Brian Boitano at the 1988 Calgary Games.


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