From higher-flying halfpipers to a Ghanaian Alpiner, the Games will pack the 17 days with a memorable mix
1 The Snowboarders
On a halfpipe with walls 22 feet high—four feet higher than in Turin—Team USA riders (below, from left) Kelly Clark, Gretchen Bleiler, Hannah Teter, Scotty Lago, Louie Vito and Shaun White should put on a show. Defending champ White's new trick is a double McTwist 1260, which includes two front flips. Clark (gold in '02), Teter (gold in '06) and Bleiler (silver in '06) could sweep.
2 The Home Team
Canada didn't win a single event at the 1976 Montreal or 1988 Calgary Games, and earned just five medals at the latter. This year's team (whose mantra is "own the podium") should fire up the crowds with multiple golds, led by speedskaters (above, from left) Kristina Groves, Christine Nesbitt and Brittany Schussler. Moguls skier Jennifer Heil could win the first home-soil gold on Day One of competition.
3 The Snow Leopard
Ghana has neither mountains nor snow, but it does have its first Olympic skier. Former safari guide Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, 35, qualified in slalom and giant slalom just five years after taking up the sport while working at an indoor ski area in England. The so-called Snow Leopard (who hopes to raise money to save that animal from extinction) has no delusions of winning a medal; he's out to avoid last place.
4 The Curling
The Games' oddest sport is huge in Canada, where more than a million people compete in it. The home fans expect men's and women's gold, but a surprising challenger will be China's women's team, featuring former gymnasts (above, from left) Zhou Yan, Liu Yin and Yue Qingshuang. The Chinese are making their Olympic curling debut a year after winning the world title. Their coach? A Canadian.
5 The New Sport