Day 8: What to watch

February, 18, 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Bode Miller, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto are among the Americans going for gold Friday. Here are our picks for the top events to watch:

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Bode Miller
Alain Grosclaude/Getty ImagesBode Miller can add to his medal collection Friday.

Alpine Skiing: Men's Super-G
Super-G combines the speed of downhill with the more technical turns of giant slalom, and it will require racers to steer through 35 gates on the same Dave Murray course as the downhill. It starts slightly lower than the downhill, just above the area known as Toilet Bowl, and descends through the Weasel, the Sewer and Boyd's Chin. The field is wide open. Didier Cuche of Switzerland is the 2009 world champ, and despite his age (36) and broken right thumb, should contend for gold. Austrian Michael Walchhofer leads the current World Cup standings, with Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal and Austrian Benjamin Raich in second and third. Americans Ted Ligety and Bode Miller also have been World Cup champs in this event, and Canadians Manuel Osborne-Paradis and Robbie Dixon can't be ruled out on their home hill.

Ski Jumping: Men's Individual Long Hill, Day 1
Although weather has had an effect on nearly all of the outdoor events at the Vancouver Games, the ski jumping hill at Whistler Olympic Park has been dubbed "perfect." It uses high-tech cooling machinery to ensure the grooves on the run are identical for every athlete and insulated covers and tarps to protect from sun, wind, rain and snow. Switzerland's Simon Ammann, who won the first gold medal of the 2010 Olympics on the normal hill last Friday, is a favorite. He recorded the longest training jump on the long hill, at 143 meters. Austria, though, boasts four of the five best jumpers in the world, who will be looking to redeem themselves after a disappointing performance on the normal hill. Gregor Schlierenzauer was last year's World Cup champ, and Thomas Morgenstern won large hill gold in 2006.

Figure Skating: Ice Dance Compulsory Dance
The U.S. has never been a force to reckon with in ice dance, but this year, two American teams -- Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, plus Meryl Davis and Charlie White -- have medal potential. Davis and White are the U.S. champs, and Belbin and Agosto are the defending silver medalists. The return of 2008 world champs Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France (they've been absent for 15 months; Delobel had surgery for a shoulder injury and, 4&189; months ago, gave birth to her first child) adds depth to an already deep field that includes defending world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia and Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Virtue and Moir have medaled at the past two world championships and are Canada's best hope for figure skating gold; they will be the last of the 23 pairs to skate Friday night.

Men's Hockey: Belarus vs. Sweden, Czech Republic vs. Latvia, Finland vs. Germany
Reigning gold and silver medalists Sweden and Finland will be in action again Friday in a packed lineup at Canada Hockey Place. Tune in to get your fill of European superstars Peter Forsberg of Sweden and Jaromir Jagr of the Czech Republic; the two former NHL standouts haven't played in North America in almost two years. Jagr had a goal and an assist in the Czechs' first win, over Slovakia; Forsberg, who has battled foot, back and groin problems, was held pointless against Germany.

Skeleton: Men's and Women's Finals
Medals will be awarded after the skeleton athletes take their third and fourth runs at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Friday evening. So far, the hometown team is looking good. On the women's side, Mellisa Hollingsworth of Eckville, Alberta, the current World Cup leader and gold-medal favorite, is in third place, .39 seconds behind Amy Williams of Great Britian. Kerstin Szymkowiak of Germany is second. Canadian Jon Montgomery of Russell, Manitoba sits in second place, behind World Cup leader Martins Dukurs of Latvia. Russian Alexander Tretyakov is third. American women Noelle Pikus-Pace and Katie Uhlaender are in fifth and ninth place, respectively, while Zach Lund is in eighth place for the men. All of the races are close, and on a fast track like Whistler's, anything can happen. Says Hollingsworth: "A couple tenths is really nothing."