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Andy Schooler picks out 10 non-British superstars to watch at the 2010 Winter Olympics
The world's attention will be focussed on Vancouver for a fortnight as the Winter Olympics come to Canada.
Andy Schooler picks out 10 non-British superstars to watch at the 2010 Games.
Lindsey Vonn, alpine skiing
The American skier looks poised to be the golden girl of the Games. She has dominated the World Cup season, particularly in downhill where she has won five of the six races to date, and is on course to be crowned overall World Cup champion for the third year in a row. Also has course form having finished second by 0.01secs here in downhill two years ago. Has put a pre-Christmas wrist injury firmly behind her and will surely be to the fore here. Likely to start favourite for gold in the downhill, super-G and the super-combined. Having been hospitalised at the Turin Games following a training crash, she will be determined to shine this time around.
Evgeni Plushenko, figure skating
Could be one of the stories of this year's Olympics. You may recognise the Russian - he won silver in 2002 before turning that into gold four years ago. Plushenko then retired but has returned to action this season in a bid to win gold again. The comeback is going well too - Plushenko recently won the European Championships, setting a record score in the short programme in the process. American world champion Evan Lysacek and home hope Patrick Chan will be out to thwart him.
Didier Cuche, alpine skiing
The 35-year-old is likely to start the favourite for the blue-riband event of the Games, the men's downhill, despite suffering a setback last month when he broke his thumb. Cuche is a major star in Switzerland where his popularity rivals that of tennis legend Roger Federer. Leads this season's World Cup downhill standings after enjoying wins in Lake Louise and Kitzbuehel. Gold in Vancouver would cap a fine career.
Brian McKeever, cross-country skiing
McKeever will make history in his homeland when he becomes the first man to compete at both the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in the same year. He has only 10 per cent vision but, competing against all-comers, he has managed to win a place on the Canadian team. McKeever races with a guide at Paralympic level but here he will have to memorise the course due to his eye problems. Won't medal but looks set to win many hearts for his triumph over adversity.
Shaun White, snowboarding
For many members of the young generation, the American rates pretty high in the 'cool' stakes. He's a legend in snowboarding circles and he backed up his reputation by striking gold at the last Olympics in Turin in the halfpipe discipline. Known as the 'Flying Tomato' due to his locks of red hair, White should star again in 2010.
Petter Northug Jr, cross-country skiing
Cross-country skiing is a strength-sapping, lung-bursting sport and its current king is Northug, winner of three world titles in 2009. This season the Norwegian arrives here as the leader of the World Cup series by some margin. Looks set to dominate the distance events, but he also holds medal chances in the sprints too. Certainly a name to look out for.
Shani Davis, speed skating
Davis, the first black Winter Olympic individual event champion, looks set to be the one to watch on the ice rink. He won that historic gold in the 1,000m in Turin where he also took silver in the 1,500m. He's now world-record holder in both events and will start favourite for double gold having dominated again this winter. Davis is also set to compete in the 500m and 5,000m, although he has opted out of the 10,000m, foregoing the chance to equal fellow speed-skater Eric Heiden's record of five golds at a single Winter Games.
Ole Einar Bjoendalen, biathlon
The Norwegian is widely regarded as the best biathlete of all time. He claimed four gold medals at the Salt Lake City Games of 2002, adding to one from Nagano four years previous. Also won four titles at last year's World Championships. Should get the chance to win five in Vancouver but form hasn't been great this season so that looks beyond him on this occasion.
Lindsay Jacobellis, snowboarding
The American became a YouTube star for all the wrong reasons in Turin when she attempted a trick and crashed while leading the women's boarder-cross final. She did recover to take silver but the embarrassment of having thrown away gold was considerable. Four years on and Jacobellis remains at the top of her sport - she recently won at the X Games - and will start as the favourite for gold here. It would be some redemption and you can be sure all eyes will be on her.
Benjamin Raich, alpine skiing
The current overall leader of the season-long World Cup series will be hoping for multi-medal success in Vancouver. He's likely to appear in all the disciplines bar downhill, although the tighter turns of the slalom and giant slalom appear his best bet. He is the defending champion in both events.
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