Sports

The top Americans to watch in Vancouver

Shani Davis, speedskating

No American is a more prohibitive gold-medal favorite in an individual event than Davis, 27, of Chicago, the reigning world-record holder at 1,000 and 1,500 meters. Davis, who will skate four events at the Richmond Oval, is heavily favored at the middle distances, and a medal threat in the 5,000. His chief competition in the 1,500 might come from a teammate, America's Chad Hedrick, who beat Davis at that distance once this season.

Trevor Marsicano, speedskating

While most of the cameras will be following Davis, Hedrick and a lot of Dutch guys around the Richmond Oval, look for Marsicano, a largely unheralded kid from Ballston Spa, N.Y., to potentially steal the show in speedskating. Marsicano, competing in his first Olympics, comes off a 2009 season that saw him emerge as a contender at multiple distances. And the Richmond Oval's comparatively slow ice is much to his liking: Marsicano, 20, won four World Championship medals there last March.

Apolo Ohno, short-track speedskating

At 27, short-track's greatest international superstar gets one more chance to show all his young fans that he actually had a pretty serious hobby before "Dancing With The Stars." Two medals from moving past Bonnie Blair as U.S. Winter Olympian with the most, Ohno enters the Games with five medals from Salt Lake and Turin, and will get shots at four more in Vancouver - in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters, and team relay.

Ted Ligety, alpine skiing

While Bode Miller slumped in bars and skied off course, Ligety put it all together at the 2006 Turin Games, winning a surprise gold medal in the combined. In 2008, Ligety expanded his repertoire by fleshing out his speed-race skills, but still managed to win the World Cup giant-slalom title. He's been a frequent podium resident on the current World Cup circuit this season, and seems to be peaking at the right time. Look for Ligety, 25, to be a medal threat in both slaloms and the combined at Whistler. One of his chief competitors could be Miller, 32, back for another run at the Olympics despite his earlier assertion that a medal would mean "less than nothing" to him. If Miller is clicking on all cylinders, the U.S. could have a formidable men's alpine duo.

Bill Demong, Nordic combined

It has to end someday. And Demong is the perfect guy to end it. America's winless streak in the Nordic combined, which couples ski jumping with cross-country ski racing, could finally end at Whistler Olympic Park. Demong, 29, a double medalist at the 2009 World Championships, and teammates Johnny Spillane, 29, and Todd Lodwick, 33, all are considered medal threats in several events, and could prove a formidable force in the team competition. While Demong and the once-retired Lodwick shocked the world with their four medals at last year's worlds, Spillane has had the hot hand this season, and appears to be peaking just in time for Olympic competition.

Steve Holcomb, bobsled

Holcomb followed up his four-man bobsled world championship - the first for the U.S. in 50 years - this summer with a strict training regimen that included plenty of couch time. Not that he's lazy; bobsledders spend as much time in the gym as anyone, a necessity to get that 500-pound sled moving from a standing start. But Holcomb, 29, and other drivers rely on hand-eye-coordination the rest of the way down the course. How does Holcomb, whose black "Night Train Express" sled will be among the favorites at Whistler Sliding Centre, keep those skills honed? Video games. Hour after hour. Look for Holcomb and his World Cup-winning crew to be right in the mix.

Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, women's ice hockey

They're young. They're hilarious. They play on the same line and find one another on the ice without even thinking. Count on this: Identical twins Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux are about to leap onto your TV screens. Part of a concerted youth movement on the talented U.S. women's hockey team, the 20-year-old sisters from Grand Forks, N.D., come from a big hockey family, and play with a freewheeling style likely to take the Olympic world by storm.

Evan Lysacek, figure skating

At the recent U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, defending world champion Lysacek called the event, where he finished second, little more than "practice" for the Olympics. He will need that practice, plus a bit more, to win gold in Vancouver, now that defending gold medalist Evgeni Plushenko of Russia has put himself back in the mix. But Lysacek, 24, who finished fourth in Turin as a much-less-polished skater, has shown the sort of grace, consistency and athleticism to be one of the few men in the world who could knock the older Plushenko from his perch.

Kikkan Randall, cross-country skiing

In years past, being America's top female cross-country skier didn't exactly raise a lot of medal hopes at the Olympics, where the U.S. has a lone medal among men and women in history. Not so this year, when Randall, 27, of Anchorage, Alaska, is considered a strong threat in the sprints. Randall, ninth in the sprint event in Turin four years ago, last year became the first U.S. woman ever to win a medal at the Nordic world championships. She's expected to lead a strong charge from a talented group of U.S. skiers that also includes male counterparts Andy Newell, Kris Freeman, and Leavenworth's Torin Koos. The team is determined to bring home the first cross-country ski medal since Bill Koch's silver in 1976.

Tim Burke, biathlon

If medals in nordic combined and cross country are finally in order, why not biathlon, as well? Burke, the first American biathlete to wear the yellow bib as the overall World Cup points leader, is poised to make history by winning the first American medal in the European-dominated sport that combines cross-country skiing and target shooting. Burke, 28, of Paul Smiths, N.Y., has three World Cup podium finishes this season - unprecedented for an American. He'll compete in the 20-kilometer individual, the 10K sprint and the 15K mass start at Whistler Olympic Park.

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