Daily Briefing, Feb. 17
Lindsey Vonn headlines the biggest day of the Olympics for Americans
Shaun White will try for his second straight Olympic gold in the halfpipe today
On the oval, Shani Davis is the heavy favorite in the men's 1,000
VANCOUVER -- "Four years ago, Lindsey Vonn limped to the start of the Olympic downhill in the mountains north of Turin, Italy, deeply in pain from a terrifying training crash that left her lower back and hip bruised and sore. She was a shell of the dynamic racer who was a threat to medal in the race (or win it), but she skied anyway, and finished a game but disappointed eighth."
So wrote SI's Tim Layden on eve of Vonn's first event in Vancouver, which finally comes today (we hope) in the women's downhill. She is the favorite but fighting a bruised right shin, which Layden calls the "most enduring subplot of the pre- and early Games" (Thanks, NBC.)
Vonn headlines the biggest day of the Olympics for Americans, with three major chances for gold, including halfpipe star Shaun White and long-track gold-medal favorite Shani Davis. Other medal events include luge doubles and women's short-track speedskating.
What to Watch
(All times Eastern)
Vonn is the favorite in the women's downhill (2:00 pm), but Maria Riesch of Germany and Sweden's Anja Paerson (who won bronze in Turin) are big threats. Riesch has finished second to Vonn in two races this year and won the last race heading into the Games. Emily Brydon and Britt Janyk are Canada's top hopes. It will be Vonn 's first race since she clinched the World Cup super-G title with a win on Jan. 31; she suffered her injury while training in Austria 10 days before the Opening Ceremonies. Julia Mancuso, Stacey Cook and Alice McKennis will also ski for the U.S. Says Layden: "Vonn has skied three times since the injury -- a single free-skiing run with her husband on Feb. 10, four training runs of slalom on Feb. 14 and a two-part downhill training run on Monday. The first two sessions were encouraging, the third was painful, as Vonn skied down a bumpy, rutted course scarred by a weeklong barrage of rain, snow and temperatures that would soar in the daytime and plunge at night."
Men's hockey offers a tripleheader of games:
- Finland vs. Belarus (3 p.m.): The NHL-heavy Finns, who won a silver medal in Turin, should roll. Forward Teemu Selanne has scored 35 points in Olympic competition, one point short of tying the Olympic scoring record. Teammate Saku Koivu ranks second among active players, with 28 points at the Olympics. Belarus is ranked eighth in the world and finished fourth in Salt Lake City and fifth in Turin.
- Sweden vs. Germany (7:30 pm): The defending Olympic-champion Swedes look to become the first country to win back-to-back golds since the Soviet Union in 1984 and 1988. They are led by NHLers Nicklas Lidstrom, Daniel and Hedrik Sedin, Daniel Alfressson and Johan Franzen. Swede legend Peter Forsburg is seeking to become the seventh men's hockey player to win three gold medals. Germany's best Olympic result is a sixth place finish in 1992.
- Czech Republic vs. Slovakia (midnight): It's worth staying up to say hello again to Czech star and NHL Hall-of-Famer-to-be Jaromir Jagr, who left the NHL two years ago for Russia. The Czech goalie, Tomas Vokoun, leads the NHL in save percentage and shutouts. High-scoring NHL star Marian Gaborik of Slovakia is expected to miss this game with a lacerated thigh. Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara leads the Slovakia blueline.
Snowboarding's $7.5 million man, Shaun White, looks for his second consecutive Olympic gold in the men's halfpipe (4:05 p.m. start; 10:50 p.m. final) two weeks after winning his third X-Games medal. (Only two riders have won back-to-back gold medals in Olympic snowboard history, Switzerland's Phillipp Schoch and Seth Wescott of the U.S.). White won at Cypress Mountain, the Olympic site, last February, so he's familiar with the course. Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland, Scotty Lago of the U.S and Finland's Peetu Piiroinen will be his main contenders. American Louie Vito might also medal here, as might Japan's Kazuhiro Kokubo.
No American woman has won an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing but Kikkan Randall could end the drought at today's cross-country women's sprint (the finals begin at 4:45 p.m.) at Whistler Creekside. Randall won a silver medal in this race at the 2009 world championships and has two top-10 World Cup finishes this season. Other medal contenders include Poland's Justyna Kowalcyk, Finland's Aino-Kaisa Saarinen and Charlotte Kallas of Sweden. In the men's sprint classic (the finals begin at 4:55 p.m.), Emil Joenssen of Sweden is SI's pick for gold, followed by Ola Vigen Hattenstad of Norway and Nikita Krukov of Russia. Andy Newell is the top American contender.
The marquee women's hockey game is Canada vs. Sweden (5:30 p.m.). These two teams met in the championship game in Turin, a 4-1 win by Canada. They also met at last year's championship, where the song remained the same: Canada rolled the Swedes, 7-1. Slovakia will face Switzerland (10 p.m.) in the late game.
Four years ago, Davis skated to gold in the 1000 and silver in the 1,500. Now comes the 1,000 final (7:00 p.m.) in Vancouver, and Davis is a heavy favorite. He went four-for-four at the distance during the World Cup season. His competition will come from Canada's Denny Morrison -- who has two world-championship silver medals behind Davis -- as well as Lee Kyou-Hyuk of South Korea and Simon Kuipers of Holland. Chad Hedrick of the U.S. is currently ranked seventh in the world. American Trevor Marsicano is ranked 13th overall.
Wang Meng is the Great Rollerball of China. The 24-year-old has won 14 world titles in the women's 500 short track (8:00 p.m. start; finals are scheduled for 10:11 p.m.) and is the defending Olympic champion. China's Zhou Yang and South Korea's Lee Eun-byul will be chasing. "Unless I make mistakes, no one else will have any chance to win," Wang told reporters earlier this month in Beijing.
Austria's Linger brothers, the defending doubles luge champions, face stiff competition today (8:00 p.m.) from two German pairs: Andre Florschuetz and Torsten Wustlich, and Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch. The Lingers won the European championship last month, while Florschuetz and Wustlich earned silver in Turin. Austria's Tobias and Markus Schiegl are two-time world champions and finished fourth in Turin. Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin are the best hopes for the U.S. They won bronze in Nagano and silver at Salt Lake but crashed in Turin. The event consists of two runs and begins at 8 p.m. at The Whistler Sliding Center.
There's plenty of round-robin curling action today at the Vancouver Olympic Center. The U.S. women meet Germany (noon) while the U.S. men meet Switzerland (5:00 p.m.). The Germans opened with a 9-5 win over Russia earlier today. Both the U.S. men and women lost their opening round matches. The Swedish men are off to a flying start having beaten defending champion Great Britain. They play Canada (noon) and China (10:00 p.m.).
Apolo Ohno will try to qualify for the finals in the men's 1,000 meters and 5,000-meter relay (8 p.m.). Ohno has six medals in his Olympics career and needs one more to surpass Bonnie Blair as the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian. The finals are set for Saturday.
By The Numbers
7 -- Power-play goals for the U.S. women's hockey team in its 13-0 win over Russia, a U.S. Olympic record.
5 ˝ -- Number of months Canadian curler Kristie Moore has been pregnant. (Moore is an alternate on the team.) She is not the first pregnant Olympain, according to Reuters Canada. Swedish figure skater Magda Julin was three months pregnant when she won the gold medal at the Antwerp Games in 1920.
Quote of the Day
"I think they are starting to look pretty cool. The chicks dig them, but the guys are more doubtful." -- Norway curling skipper Thomas Ulsrud, on his team's uniforms.
What We're Reading Around The Web
1. Step It Up, Or Vancouver's Legacy Could Be Its Errors (by Tripp Mickle, Sports Business Daily)
2. How Canada Can Win Hockey Gold (by Eric Duhatschek, The Globe and Mail)
3. How Canada Lose Hockey Gold (by Roy MacGregor, The Globe and Mail)