Commentary

EVEN IF YOU'RE A DEDICATED OLYMPICS WATCHER, 84 EVENTS IN 16 DAYS IS ENOUGH TO BRING ON A BRAIN FREEZE. BUT NOT TO WORRY. OUR COURSE MAP OF TIVO-WORTHY EVENTS AND INSIDE TIPS ON RULES, RIVALRIES, CURIOSITIES AND WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN WILL PUT YOUR MIND AT

Updated: July 10, 2012, 3:08 PM ET
By ANDREW BEAUJON, LINDSAY BERRA, DALE BRAUNER, SCOTT DeSIMON, DAN GALVIN, EDDIE MATZ, GUEORGUI MILKOV, ALYSSA ROENIGK, CARRIE SHEINBERG

2.11 SATURDAY

FINALS

BIATHLON Men's 20K Individual

FREESTYLE SKIING Women's Moguls

NORDIC COMBINED Normal Hill 15K Individual

BIATHLON

MEN'S 20K INDIVIDUAL

TOP CONTENDERS

RAPHAEL POIREE 31 / FRANCE

OLE EINAR BJOERNDALEN 28 / NORWAY

SVEN FISCHER 34 / GERMANY

DID YOU KNOW? Biathlon is rooted in Scandinavian hunting traditions, but it was actually an American who revolutionized the sport back in 1986. Glen Eberle, a former Olympian, introduced a woodsynthetic rifle stock that dropped the gun's weight from 11 pounds to 7.5. That makes a big difference when you have to ski 20K and still have a steady enough hand to hit 25 targets from 50 meters away-especially when each miss adds a full minute to your final time. Poiree took silver in the 12.5K pursuit in Salt Lake City, a feat matched by his wife, Liv Grete, who skis for Norway.

FREESTYLE SKIING

WOMEN'S MOGULS

TOP CONTENDERS

KARI TRAA 32 / NORWAY

JENNIFER HEIL 22 / CANADA

HANNAH KEARNEY 19 / USA

RULES TO LIVE BY To save the best for last, the 16 finalists head down the hill in reverse order of their qualifying score. But the moguls course, which is located in the middle of town and features a 30, 295-yard pitch peppered with four-foot-high mounds, could even the field a bit. So could the subjective scoring system: only 25% is based on time, 50% on turns and 25% on tricks. And those tricks should be pretty sick. Skiers will be heels over heads, as they're allowed to perform inverted moves for the first time. Another first: the finals will go down under the lights.

NORDIC COMBINED

NORMAL HILL 15K INDIVIDUAL

TOP CONTENDERS

HANNU MANNINEN 27 / FINLAND

RONNY ACKERMANN 28 / GERMANY

FELIX GOTTWALD 29 / AUSTRIA

KEY TO WINNING The Combined requires fast-twitch muscle power for a 90-meter jump and slow-twitch endurance for a 15K trek. Manninen, the World Cup champ, and Ackermann aren't great jumpers, but they quickly gain in the cross-country leg, which is staggered according to jump results. American Todd Lodwick, strong in the air, must begin skiing with a big lead if he hopes to give the U.S. its first medal in the event's 82-year history.

2.12 SUNDAY

FINALS

ALPINE SKIING Men's Downhill

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Men's 30K

Pursuit; Women's 15K Pursuit

LUGE Men's Singles

SHORT-TRACK SPEED SKATING Men's 1,500 Meters

SNOWBOARDING Men's Halfpipe

SKI JUMPING Normal Hill Individual

ALPINE SKIING

MEN'S DOWNHILL

TOP CONTENDERS

DARON RAHLVES 32 / USA

BODE MILLER 28 / USA

MICHAEL WALCHHOFER 30 / AUSTRIA

KEY TO WINNING The Kandahar Banchetta slope has four big jumps, and the terrain is always changing. The top of the run is perfect for the 5'9" Rahlves, who should nail the technical side-hill turns that lead into the first and biggest jump. He'll need momentum heading into the rolling midsection, where size matters. Great gliders like Walchhofer (6'3", 209 pounds) will gain here and add drama to the final six sweeping turns. Miller is suited for every section. And don't count out venerable Austrian Hermann Maier.

SHORT-TRACK 1,500 METERS

TOP CONTENDERS

APOLO ANTON OHNO 23 / USA

LEE HO-SUK 19 / KOREA

AHN HYUN-SOO 20 / KOREA

RIVALRIES Bumping is illegal, but with six skaters on a tight oval, this sport can still be like roller derby at 30 mph. When South Korean Kim Dong-sung was DQ'd for blocking in Salt Lake City, giving gold to Ohno, Kim's outraged countrymen did not soon forget. The U.S. skipped a 2003 World Cup meet in Dechoun, South Korea, after Ohno got death threats.

ARMIN ZOEGGELER

SINGLES LUGE, ITALY

Dubbed "The Cannibal" for the way he devours competition, Zoeggeler has enjoyed a podium climb as steady as his sled is swift: bronze in '94, silver in '98 and gold in 2002, when he crushed Georg Hackl's dream of four golds in a row with a huge victory margin of 1.029 seconds. In the only Winter Olympics sport timed to the millisecond, this guy doesn't waste time. The 32-year-old Zoeggeler has built his career with a strong push at the top and a flawless read to the bottom. He has won on every course in the world, and slides into Torino wearing his fifth World Cup crown. Still need a reason to watch? If he wins his country's first gold of the Games, the Italians will eat it up.

2.13 MONDAY

FINALS

BIATHLON Women's 15K Individual

FIGURE SKATING Pairs Free Skate

SNOWBOARD Women's Halfpipe

SPEED SKATING Men's 500M

FIGURE SKATING

PAIRS FREE SKATE

TOP CONTENDERS

TATIANA TOTMIYANINA 24, MAXIM MARININ 28 / RUSSIA

MARIA PETROVA 28, ALEXEI TIKHONOV 34 / RUSSIA

ZHANG DAN 20, ZHANG HAO 21 / CHINA

DID YOU KNOW? The Russians have won pairs gold for 11 consecutive Olympics, dating back to 1964, while the U.S. hasn't medaled since taking bronze in 1988. But Americans Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, though long shots for the podium, have one thing on their Russian rivals. At the U.S. championships in January, they landed the first-ever throw triple Axel (3 revolutions) in competition, winning their second national title in three years.

SNOWBOARDING

WOMEN'S HALFPIPE

TOP CONTENDERS

GRETCHEN BLEILER 24 / USA

HANNAH TETER 19 / USA

DORIANE VIDAL 29 / FRANCE

RULES TO LIVE BY Americans usually ride the U.S. Grand Prix series, and Europeans ride the World Cup. But at the Olympics, both sides mingle en masse. Torino judging will be based on overall impression (amplitude, variety, difficulty of tricks, use of the pipe and execution). The maximum deduction for a fall is 20% of the score (up from 10% in Salt Lake), so riders are rewarded more for smooth transitions than for tougher tricks. In theory, that favors the more risk-averse Europeans, like 2002 silver medalist Vidal. But look for the U.S. team (including defending gold medalist Kelly Clark) to work within the system and grab a sweep.

SPEED SKATING

MEN'S 500M

TOP CONTENDERS

JOJI KATO 21 / JAPAN

JEREMY WOTHERSPOON 29 / CANADA

HIROYASU SHIMIZU 31 / JAPAN

KEY TO WINNING The 500 is the only speed skating event in which the best total time of two runs wins. So the strategy is pretty simple: skate fast and don't fall. Wotherspoon, the 1998 silver medalist, learned the hard way. He was favored to win in Salt Lake but then face-planted on his first run. Standing in his way now are three-time Olympic medalist Hiroyasu Shimizu and his countryman Joji Kato-a.k.a. the New Shimizu. Joji made the Japanese World Cup team as a high schooler, and his win at the 2005 Single Distance Championships put the veterans on notice.

2.14 TUESDAY

FINALS

ALPINE SKIING Men's Combined

BIATHLON Men's 10K Sprint

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Men's and Women's Team Sprint

LUGE Women's Singles

SPEED SKATING Women's 500M

ALPINE SKIING

MEN'S COMBINED

TOP CONTENDERS

KJETIL ANDRE AAMODT 34 / NORWAY

BENJAMIN RAICH 27 / AUSTRIA

BODE MILLER 28 / USA

KEY TO WINNING A mash-up of Alpine's two fastest disciplines-downhill, with its 75 mph banzai vibe, and slalom, with its 60-turns-in-60-seconds precision-the men's combined is a frenetic one-day event. After the morning downhill run, skiers tackle two afternoon slalom runs. Best total time wins. Slalom specialists usually have a big advantage because they can quickly make up for any mistakes made in the morning. (Downhillers rarely train for slalom.) Miller took silver in 2002. If he can stay on his feet in the afternoon-he has finished only two slalom events in eight tries this season-he is capable of gold.

LUGE

WOMEN'S SINGLES

TOP CONTENDERS

SYLKE OTTO 35 / GERMANY

SILKE KRAUSHAAR 35 / GERMANY

TATJANA HUEFNER 22 / GERMANY

RIVALRIES Since the sport was introduced in 1964, the Germans have won 21 of 33 Olympic medals. Look for more of the same in Torino. The only tension here comes from the bad blood between the country's homophonic lugers, Sylke Otto (the defending Olympic champ) and Silke Kraushaar. For years, the two were BFF, but a falling out before the Salt Lake Games turned things ugly. In a 2003 press conference, the two exchanged verbal barbs that earned them a reprimand from coach Thomas Schwab. Although they have put a lid on it since then, there is still plenty of tension to go around: Kraushaar and Otto are Nos. 1 and 2 in the World Cup standings.

OLE EINAR BJOERNDALEN

BIATHLON, NORWAY

When it comes to gold medals, the 32-year-old Bjoerndalen-one of only three Winter Olympians to take home four golds in a single Games-is head and shoulders above the competition. And when it comes to training, he moves in rarified air, too: his Austrian lair in Obertilliach is at nearly the same elevation as Italy's Cesana San Sicario. Of course, there's only so much prep work one can do for the brutal San Sicario winds, so Bjoerndalen's Nordic reserve will be tested as he tries to sweep all five biathlon events. If he pulls off the feat, he'll stand alone atop the list of Olympic gold medalists-winter or summer-with a grand total of 10. (He won one gold in Nagano.) Now that would be some lofty perch.

2.15 WEDNESDAY

FINALS

ALPINE SKIING Women's Downhill

FREESTYLE SKIING Men's Moguls

LUGE Men's Doubles

NORDIC COMBINED Large Hill/4x5K Relay

SHORT-TRACK SPEED SKATING Women's 500M

ALPINE SKIING

WOMEN'S DOWNHILL

TOP CONTENDERS

LINDSEY KILDOW 21 / USA

MICHAELA DORFMEISTER 32 / AUSTRIA

JANICA KOSTELIC 24 / CROATIA

DID YOU KNOW? Olympic favorite Kildow expects to hit 80 mph on this nearly two-mile course. But that's mostly because she and several other women's downhillers complained that the hill was too slow after last year's World Cup test event. Sweden's Anja Paerson, who's usually more of a threat in the slalom and giant slalom, won the downhill that day, angering those who specialize in this highvelocity event. But be careful what you wish for, ladies. Thanks to the feedback, the course now has steeper jumps and crazier contours, making for gnarlier runs, better racing-and more spectacular wipeouts.

FREESTYLE SKIING

MEN'S MOGULS

TOP CONTENDERS

JEREMY BLOOM 23 / USA

TOBY DAWSON 27 / USA

JANNE LAHTELA 31 / FINLAND

RULES TO LIVE BY Creativity counts, but only so much. One-third and two-thirds of the way down the course are "kicker" jumps that toss skiers 12 feet in the air, where they flip and twist through multiple tricks and then are supposed to land without a bobble to continue their downward plunge. But don't look for any crazy new moves in Torino. Fuddy-duddy Olympic judges frown on innovation during the Games. Nagano gold medalist Jonny Moseley got low scores at the Salt Lake Games for throwing his new unapproved Dinner Roll. One thing you can look for: Lahtela, the defending champ, is the guy most likely to prevent an American sweep.

LUGE

MEN'S DOUBLES

TOP CONTENDERS

MARK GRIMMETTE 35, BRIAN MARTIN 33 / USA

ALEXANDER RESCH 26, PATRIC LEITNER 28 / GERMANY

CHRISTIAN OBERSTOLZ 28, PATRICK GRUBER 28 / ITALY

DID YOU KNOW? Grimmette and Martin have momentum on their side, but not because they'll be traveling at 86 mph. The duo took bronze in Nagano, then moved up to silver in Salt Lake. A gold in Torino is the goal, of course, but a medal of any color would make them the first U.S. men to win medals in three consecutive Winter Games. Four-time world and reigning Olympic champs Leitner and Resch beat Grimmette and Martin by .134 seconds in Salt Lake.

2.16 THURSDAY

FINALS

BIATHLON Women's 7.5K Sprint

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Women's 10K Classical

FIGURE SKATING Men's Free Skate

SKELETON Women's

SNOWBOARDING Men's Snowboard Cross

SPEED SKATING Men's and Women's Team Pursuit

BIATHLON

WOMEN'S 7.5K SPRINT

TOP CONTENDERS

KATI WILHELM 29 / GERMANY

USCHI DISL 35 / GERMANY

SVETLANA ISHMOURATOVA 33 / RUSSIA

RIVALRIES "Turbo Disl" has won eight medals since women's biathlon made its Olympic debut in 1992. But to get her first individual gold, she'll have to go through World Cup leader Wilhelm, who took up the rifle in 1999 after a ho-hum cross-country showing in Nagano. As a biathlete in Salt Lake City, Wilhelm won three medals, including sprint gold.

CROSS-COUNTRY

WOMEN'S 10K CLASSICAL

TOP CONTENDERS

BECKIE SCOTT 31 / CANADA

MARIT BJOERGEN 25 / NORWAY

HILDE PEDERSEN 41 / NORWAY

KEY TO WINNING Since Torino's course is molto hilly, and there's no skating in this event, skiers will depend heavily on the skill of their wax technicians. Kick wax is applied to the middle of skis to grip the snow at the beginning of every kick; glide wax is put on the front and back tips for friction-free skiing. It's up to the techies to find the right mix. Though the 6,000-foot elevation favors Scott, who trains at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon (roughly the same altitude), the wax could make the difference if conditions are less than ideal.

EVEGENI PLUSHENKO

FIGURE SKATING, RUSSIA

The combination-the linking of jumps in a routine-is the mark of any world-class skater. And Plushenko is quite the impressive combo himself, known as much for his artistry as for his technical chops. Born in Siberia, he moved to St. Petersburg at age 11 to train, and turned so many heads that he was offered a spot with a Russian ballet company. He chose to remain on the ice and became the only skater ever to land the elusive 4-3-3 combination. The 23-year-old defending silver medalist is now the favorite to become the fourth straight Russian male to win singles gold. How big of a favorite? American Johnny Weir says everyone else is skating for second.

2.17 FRIDAY

FINALS

ALPINE SKIING Women's Combined

CROSS-COUNTRY Men's 15K Classical

SKELETON Men's

SNOWBOARDING Women's Snowboard Cross

ALPINE SKIING

WOMEN'S COMBINED

TOP CONTENDERS

JANICA KOSTELIC 24 / CROATIA

RENATE GOETSCHL 30 / AUSTRIA

LINDSEY KILDOW 21 / USA

KEY TO WINNING Last year in Italy, Kildow wept after two fourth-place finishes at the world championships. The key to medaling in Torino, she says, is to conquer her jitters. Kostelic can make anyone nervous. In Salt Lake, she won gold in the giant slalom, slalom and combined and took silver in the Super G. At the 2005 worlds, she showed her nerves of steel again, winning the downhill.

SKELETON

MEN'S TOP CONTENDERS

JEFF PAIN 35 / CANADA

GREGOR STAEHLI 38 / SWITZERLAND

ERIC BERNOTAS 34 / USA

DID YOU KNOW? Americans won men's and women's gold in 2002, but the ride has been bumpy lately. Coach Tim Nardiello was suspended from the team in December after being accused of sexual misconduct. New coach Orvie Garrett's best hope is Eric Bernotas, who took up skeleton at age 30 after visiting Lake Placid on vacation. The Pennsylvania native had struggled with Tourette's and alcoholism, and he wanted to do something athletic. So he left his masonry job to go belly down, becoming a three-time U.S. champ who's now making his Olympic debut.

SNOWBOARDING

WOMEN'S SNOWBOARD CROSS

TOP CONTENDERS

LINDSEY JACOBELLIS 20 / USA

DOMINIQUE MALTAIS 25 / CANADA

MAELLE RICKER 27 / CANADA

KEY TO WINNING Pushing and shoving are just part of the game in snowboard cross, an X Games staple crossing over to the Olympics. With four riders flying up to 50 mph in a pack, even the slightest bump can dash medal dreams. So the best way to avoid traffic-and have any shot to beat Jacobellis-is to grab the lead right out of the gate. Start fast, finish first, rock the podium.

2.18 SATURDAY

FINALS

ALPINE SKIING Men's Super G

BIATHLON Women's 10K Pursuit; Men's 12.5K Pursuit

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Women's 4x5K Relay

SHORT TRACK SPEED SKATING Men's 1,000M; Women's 1,500M

SKI JUMPING Large Hill (Individual)

SPEED SKATING Men's 1,000M

ALPINE SKIING

MEN'S SUPER G

TOP CONTENDERS

BODE MILLER 28 / USA

DARON RAHLVES 32 / USA

HERMANN MAIER 33 / AUSTRIA

RIVALRIES The competition is fierce (Austria's Benjamin Raich, Canada's Erik Guay and Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal will also challenge), but the matchup that really sizzles is the one between Miller and Maier. Miller finished atop the World Cup standings in 2005, knocking Maier, who won gold in Nagano and had dominated Super G for the past decade, to No. 2. Maier missed the Salt Lake Games due to a motorcycle accident. Now The Herminator is back, and he doesn't intend to finish second to Miller in Torino.

SHORT TRACK

WOMEN'S 1,500M

TOP CONTENDERS

JIN SUN-YU 17 / SOUTH KOREA

YANG YANG (A) 29 / CHINA

HALIE KIM 17 / USA

DID YOU KNOW? Yang (A) used to be known as Yang (L), as in large, because she had a smaller teammate known as Yang Yang (S). But the 5'5", 150-pound Yang (L) found the label offensive and switched her designation to (A), which she keeps using even though Yang (S) has retired. (A) was awesome in Salt Lake, winning two golds and a silver. And even though teenager Jin is the new force, (A) is still livin' large.

JAKUB JANDA

SKI JUMPING, CZECH REPUBLIC

Among his countrymen, Janda ranks just behind Jaromir Jagr on the rock-star scale. So when this humble 27-year-old takes flight in Torino, the hopes of 10 million people will rise with him. Janda was just another ho-hum World Cup performer until last year, when he soared to silver and bronze at the world championships. How'd he find his mojo? Turns out, he gets high with a little help from his friends. Norwegian legend Bjorn Daehlie offered advice on coping with big-event pressure. And to keep the adrenaline flowing, coach Vasja Bajc added parachuting and scuba diving to Janda's training. Now, Janda is aiming to become the first Czech jumper to medal since the 1992 Albertville Games.

2.19 SUNDAY

FINALS

ALPINE SKIING Women's Super G

BOBSLED Two-Man

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Men's 4x10K Relay

SPEED SKATING Women's 1,000M

ALPINE SKIING

WOMEN'S SUPER G

TOP CONTENDERS

LINDSEY KILDOW 21 / USA

MICHAELA DORFMEISTER 32 / AUSTRIA

ALEXANDRA MEISSNITZER 32 / AUSTRIA

RULES TO LIVE BY Talk about flying blind. There are no Super G training runs. Skiers get only a quick race-day inspection of the course, which is designed shortly before the Games by a randomly selected representative from a participating nation. The rep, of course, makes sure to play to his or her team's strengths. So if, for example, Austria wins the layout lottery, expect close turns throughout the 30 slalom flags to highlight that country's technical mastery. Unfair? Maybe. But there's no crying in Alpine skiing.

SPEED SKATING

WOMEN'S 1,000M

TOP CONTENDERS

CHRIS WITTY 30 / USA

JENNIFER RODRIGUEZ 29 / USA

CHIARA SIMIONATO 30 / ITALY

RIVALRIES They train together in Park City, Utah, and share a love for snowboarding and Harry Potter. But when Witty and Rodriguez hit the ice, the game is on. Four years ago, Witty won Olympic gold in the 1,000 and Rodriguez took bronze, giving the U.S. multiple medalists in women's speed skating for the first time since 1976. Since the Salt Lake Games, J-Rod is the one who's been ice hot. The Miami native won the 2004 World Cup standings for this event and has been the more consistent skater. Now, with the duo expected to share the podium again in Torino, the only question is, which one will be standing a little taller?

TODD HAYS

TWO-MAN BOBSLED, USA

Growing up in steamy Del Rio, Texas, Hays didn't exactly dream of someday becoming a bobsledder. Like a good Texan, the 6'3", 235-pound athlete played football (linebacker at Tulsa), and like every smart guy in a rough border town, learned to defend himself (1993 U.S. kickboxing champ). Then, in the summer of 1994, USA Bobsled held tryouts in San Antonio. By Christmas, Hays was racing on the World Cup circuit. He bought his first sled in 1995 with $10,000 he'd won in a martial arts tournament in Tokyo, and three years later he was an alternate driver in Nagano. In Salt Lake, Hays took silver in the four-man event, snapping a 46-year medal drought for the U.S. men's team. Last year, he accidentally ran the sled over his right foot, nearly severing his pinky toe. But he was back on the ice a month later. It's that kind of toughness that has made Hays, at age 36, the topranked two-man driver in the world.

2.20 MONDAY

FINALS

ALPINE SKIING Men's Giant Slalom

HOCKEY Women's

ICE DANCING

TEAM SKI JUMPING Large Hill

ALPINE SKIING

MEN'S GIANT SLALOM

TOP CONTENDERS

BENJAMIN RAICH 27 / AUSTRIA

MASSIMILIANO BLARDONE 26 / ITALY

FREDRIK NYBERG 36 / SWEDEN

DID YOU KNOW? On the surface and the slopes, Raich is so different from a certain high-profile U.S. skier that he has become known as the anti-Bode. While Miller runs his mouth and takes chances on his runs, Raich quietly wins medals and then humbly claims, "I am not a superstar." At the 2005 World Championships, Miller won two golds but failed to finish the three other events. Meanwhile, his Austrian counterpart finished with two golds, a silver and a bronze. Raich is a family man who, with his father, picked out a tree to use as the wooden core of his skis. But inside there's a wild man dying to come out. How else to explain Raich's hobbies: skydiving, bungee jumping and free climbing?

ICE DANCING

TOP CONTENDERS

TATIANA NAVKA 30, ROMAN

KOSTOMAROV 28 / RUSSIA

ALBENA DENKOVA 31, MAXIM STAVISKY 28 / BULGARIA

TANITH BELBIN 21, BENJAMIN AGOSTO 24 / USA

RULES TO LIVE BY In the compulsory and original dances, skaters must follow a specific rhythm and specific steps, performed in a prescribed manner at a predetermined spot on the ice. Only in the free dance can they create their own program, usually based on traditional ballroom or folk dancing. Even then, they're required to skate to the rhythm, unlike pairs skaters, who can interpret music. Ice dancers are also prohibited from including spins and jumps and can't perform overhead lifts-so no athletic elements. But hey, you can't beat those costumes.

HOCKEY

WOMEN'S TOP CONTENDERS

CANADA

USA

SWEDEN

RIVALRIES Though Canada holds a 40-28-1 edge over the U.S. overall, the score is even in Olympic competition. Team USA won the debut event in Nagano; Canada took gold in Salt Lake City. So this is the rubber match between Angela Ruggiero (USA) and Jennifer Botterill (Canada), each playing in her third Olympics. The forwards were once roommates at Harvard, where both won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best college player. Actually, Botterill won it twice. Now, everyone back in Del Rio is thinking bobsled. And their favorite son is thinking gold.

2.21 TUESDAY

FINALS

BIATHLON Men's 4x7.5K Relay

BOBSLED Two-Woman

NORDIC COMBINED Large Hill/7.5K Sprint

SPEED SKATING Men's 1,500M

BOBSLED

WOMEN'S

TOP CONTENDERS

SANDRA KIRIASIS 30, BERIT WIACKER 23 / GERMANY

SUSI-LISA ERDMANN 38, ANNE DIETRICH 25 / GERMANY

SHAUNA ROHBOCK 28, VALERIE FLEMING 29 / USA

DID YOU KNOW? The hard-driving Kiriasis pilots a sled called the Flying Shark, complete with painted-on teeth. But reality bit in 2004, when Kiriasis' house burned to the ground while she and Erdmann were staying there for a nearby event. The misfortune brought the two rivals closer together, though, and now Kiriasis' career is back on track.

SPEED SKATING

MEN'S 1,500M

TOP CONTENDERS

CHAD HEDRICK 28 / USA

SHANI DAVIS 23 / USA

ERBEN WENNEMARS 28 / NETHERLANDS

RIVALRIES The strongest and best-conditioned skaters flock to this 33/4-lap event, the prestigious equivalent of the track and field mile. the world record is 1:42:78, held by Hedrick, who took it from Davis. The two Americans have been chipping away at the Dutch domination, using totaly different strategies. Davis, the first African-American to make the Olympic long-track team, goes all-out on the first and second laps, tailing off slightly near the end. Hedrick, by contrast, says he likes the thrill of the chase; that's why he's known as The Exception. They may well share the ice in Torino: the world's top six skaters are guaranteed a spot in the last three pairs. If so, it should prove truly exceptional.

2.22 WEDNESDAY

FINALS

ALPINE SKIING Women's Slalom

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Men's and Women's Individual Sprint

FREESTYLE SKIING Women's Aerials

SHORT-TRACK SPEED SKATING Women's 3,000M Relay

SNOWBOARD Men's Parallel Giant Slalom

SPEED SKATING Women's 1,500M

ALPINE SKIING

WOMEN'S SLALOM

TOP CONTENDERS

ANJA PAERSON 24 / SWEDEN

JANICA KOSTELIC 24 / CROATIA

MARLIES SCHILD 24 / AUSTRIA

DID YOU KNOW? The plastic gates you see above the snow are only part of the story. Anchoring each one is a 14-inch spring-loaded polyurethane cylinder that's screwed into the icy hill using a special wrench. As hip-swiveling racers charge downhill, as many as 30% will crash and be DQ'd. But with the gates properly anchored, racers won't knock them loose. And the spring serves another purpose that has changed the sport: the flexibility of the gates allows stars like Paerson, the two-time overall World Cup champ, to ski right over them, taking the fastest, and riskiest, line. Paerson and Kostelic are friends who've monopolized the spotlight for several years, so expect them to give everyone else the gate in Torino, too.

SNOWBOARD

MEN'S PARALLEL GIANT SLALOM

TOP CONTENDERS

SIMON SCHOCH 27 / SWITZERLAND

PHILIPP SCHOCH 26 / SWITZERLAND

HEINZ INNIGER 25 / SWITZERLAND

RULES TO LIVE BY Confounded by the Latvian judge's scoring of a blindside 720? Yeah, same here. That's why we love the PGS, where it's all about the speed. Racers use stiff, narrow boards that can handle the twists and turns of the gates without losing much momentum. And because the downhillers don't have to worry about aerobatics and board grabs, their decks are longer and sport a lower nose and square back. The only rules you really need to know: Swiss rules (especially the brothers Schoch).

JANICA KOSTELIC

ALPINE SKIING, CROATIA

After she put her stamp on the Salt Lake Games, winning three golds and a silver, her country returned the favor, putting Kostelic on a postage stamp. The 24-year-old skier has come a long way from her peripatetic childhood, during which she and her brother slept in the family car as their father shuttled them from race to race. Despite 11 knee operations and the removal of her thyroid gland, Kostelic has remained a dominant force. She was the 2005 slalom world champ, and in December she finally added the giant slalom to her list of World Cup event titles-proving that no matter what the Croatian postal service says, she really can't be licked.

2.23 THURSDAY

FINALS

BIATHLON Women's 4x6K Relay

CURLING Women's

FREESTYLE AERIALS Men's

FIGURE SKATING Women's Free Skate

SNOWBOARD Women's Parallel Giant Slalom

FIGURE SKATING

WOMEN'S FREE SKATE

TOP CONTENDERS

IRINA SLUTSKAYA 26 / RUSSIA

SASHA COHEN 21 / USA

CAROLINA KOSTNER 18 / ITALY

KEY TO WINNING It might be the triple Axel-or not. Only a handful of women have nailed the jump, which is actually 3 rotations. At the 2005 Grand Prix in Tokyo, 15-year-old Mao Asada beat Olympic favorite Slutskaya by landing a triple. Then, at the 2005 Japanese championships, Asada won silver by landing a history-making two triples in her free skate. Alas, she is too young to qualify for the Games. So will anyone leg out a triple in Torino? Watch for 16-year-old American Kimmie Meissner, who landed one for a bronze at the 2005 nationals, and for Cohen, who has worked on the jump for several years. Or watch for Slutskaya to dazzle with Axel-less but otherwise perfect skating.

SNOWBOARD

WOMEN'S PARALLEL

GIANT SLALOM

TOP CONTENDERS

DANIELA MEULI 24 / SWITZERLAND

JULIE POMAGALSKI 25 / FRANCE

URSULA BRUHIN 35 / SWITZERLAND

DID YOU KNOW? PGS riders are the only competitive snowboarders who wear tight suits, use stiff plastic boots and try to beat the clock, making them iconoclasts in a sport that otherwise rewards style and flash. But the ski-type attire goes with the skitype event, in which two boarders race on side-by-side gated courses. Meuli has long been a serious student of the sport, while Pomagalski is a grad student in management. Maybe Bruhin, a former pastry chef, just enjoys the fancy lines they all take.

JERET PETERSON

FREESTYLE AERIALS, USA

This man's world is spinning-and that's a good thing. The 2005 World Cup aerials champ is the most talented twister on the U.S. ski team. His newest trick, The Hurricane, which he will attempt in Torino, is the most ambitious in the sport's history. The move requires five spins and three flips performed 55 feet above the snow. Quintuples are so risky that competitors must be approved to even attempt them. "When I'm in the air, it's like I'm stuck in a hurricane," Peterson says. "You have no idea where you'll land. You just have to feel it." If he lands it cleanly, the trick will be worth more points and judged at a higher degree of difficulty than the gold jump from Ales Valenta (Czech Republic) in 2002. And then Peterson might never come down.

2.24 FRIDAY

FINALS

ALPINE SKIING Women's Giant Slalom

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Women's 30K Freestyle

CURLING Men's SPEED SKATING Men's 10,000

ALPINE SKIING

WOMEN'S GIANT SLALOM

TOP CONTENDERS

ANJA PAERSON 24 / Sweden

JANICA KOSTELIC 24 / Croatia

TANJA POUTIAINEN 25 / Finland

RIVALRIES Kostelic is a medal hog, Poutiainen was last year's giant slalom World Cup champ and Paerson took the overall crown. But Americans Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Kildow, both 21, are the biggest rivals on the hill. Mancuso, a free spirit from Squaw Valley, Calif., says she'd rather be a snowboarder; Kildow, who grew up carving little Buck Hill in Burnsville, Minn., is all about putting in the work. The two have been battling since they were 13. With 54 World Cup top-10s between them, they form the strongest U.S. duo since Picabo Street and Hilary Lindh-even if they don't agree on the best way down the mountain.

CURLING

MEN'S TOP CONTENDERS

SWEDEN

CANADA

NORWAY

RULES TO LIVE BY If only the whole world lived by the official rules of curling. Though all curlers play to win, rule No. 1 is play fair. That's why teams and coaches come together to attend a "pre-event meeting" with the chief umpire and a rules official. Competitors never attempt to humble their opponents, and foul language is expressly banned. At the same time, sharing is encouraged: teammates can exchange brushes with each other (but never their corn brooms). And the most courteous of curling's rules? No smoking during play!

ANNI FRIESINGER

SPEED SKATING, GERMANY

Not many Winter Olympians are all that recognizable out of their lycra (never mind in it). Then again, not many look like Friesinger. Nicknamed Sexy Anni by the European tabs, she has become almost as well-known for her nearly nude photo shoots, feuds with teammates and spicy exchanges with the media as she is for her commanding performances on the ice. When she's on, the 2005 world allaround champ makes it look easy-perhaps because she is one of the few skaters who still battles the elements and trains outdoors. But the 29-year-old also has a maddening tendency to drop races that should be hers. The daughter of a Polish Olympian (Jana Korowicka, who skated in Innsbruck) and a West German junior champion, Friesinger comes to Torino with an eye toward proving she has finally reached her prime. We already know she's a hit with millions of Internet surfers.

SPEED SKATING

MEN'S 10,000 METERS

TOP CONTENDERS

CHAD HEDRICK 28 / USA

CARL VERHEIJEN 30 / NETHERLANDS

SVEN KRAMER 19 / NETHERLANDS

RIVALRIES Winning requires patience, stamina and strategy, all of which are fortes of Hedrick and Verheijen. On Dec. 4, Verheijen set a new world record of 12:57:92. On Dec. 31, Hedrick finished in 12:55:11. But in the Netherlands, it's clear who's the favorite. While Verheijen was earning his medical degree after the 2002 Games, the hardpartying Hedrick became a celebrity. One Dutch scribe even dubbed him "the Paris Hilton of speed skating."

2.25 SATURDAY

FINALS

ALPINE SKIING Men's Slalom

BIATHLON Women's 12.5K Start; Men's 15K Mass Start

BOBSLED Four-Man

SHORT-TRACK SPEED SKATING Men's 500M; Women's 1,000M; Men's 5,000M Relay

SPEED SKATING Women's 5,000M

ALPINE SKIING

MEN'S SLALOM

TOP CONTENDERS

GIORGIO ROCCA 30 / ITALY

TED LIGETY 21 / USA

KALLE PALANDER 28 / FINLAND

RIVALRIES Four years ago, Utah native Ted Ligety was the slalom forerunner, skiing the course in advance of the race to check the timing systems. This year, he'll challenge the frontrunner, Rocca, Italy's best hope for a skiing medal in Torino. Riding high on adrenaline following the birth of son Giacomo on Nov. 21, Rocca won five straight World Cup slalom events. Ligety ascended the podium three times in the same span, taking two bronze and one silver, when he finished just sixtenths of a second behind Rocca. (It's the American whose flamboyant style should remind fans of Italian legend Alberto Tomba.) "My real enemy right now is Ted," Rocca said after the race. "He is a very strong opponent."

BOBSLED

FOUR-MAN

TOP CONTENDERS (DRIVERS)

MARTIN ANNEN 31 / SWITZERLAND

TODD HAYS 36 / USA

ANDRE LANGE 32 / GERMANY

KEY TO WINNING It's all about the start. Four supersize men in spiked shoes must push a 462-pound sled 50 meters in less than five seconds. Then, at more than 40 mph, they wedge their bodies-driver first, brakeman last-into the cramped interior. On the Olympic track at Cesana Pariol during the January 2005 World Cup, the Swiss team led by Annen set the course start record (4.68 seconds) on the way to gold. Even if he doesn't prevail on the track, Annen is still a big cheese: at home in Arth, he is a professional cheese maker.

2.26 SUNDAY

FINALS

CROSS-COUNTRY Men's 50K Freestyle

HOCKEY Men's

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

MEN'S 50K FREESTYLE

TOP CONTENDERS

FRODE ESTIL 33 / NORWAY

TOBIAS ANGERER 28 / GERMANY

JENS FILBRICH 26 / GERMANY

DID YOU KNOW? Most of us recognize classical cross-country skiing: those long, straight strides on parallel tracks used in all Olympic events through 1994. Freestyle, which debuted in 1998, uses whatever technique gets the job done. Skiers favor shorter, stiffer skis with boots that offer more ankle support, and they push off from their inside edges, making choppier strokes. They also push one another like crazy at the mass start.

HOCKEY

MEN'S TOP CONTENDERS

CANADA

SWEDEN

CZECH REPUBLIC

KEY TO WINNING Stopping the puck. U.S. defenseman Chris Chelios, who's 44 entering his fourth Games, is also the third-oldest player ever to set foot on Olympic ice. But despite his experience, the U.S. isn't favored for a medal. In a short tournament where goaltending can steal the show, internationally inexperienced U.S. netminders Rick DiPietro and Robert Esche are no match for the likes of Canada's Martin Brodeur (2002 gold), Swedish Elite League champ Henrik Lundqvist and 2005 world champ Tomas Vokoun of the Czech Republic. Of course, overall depth never hurts, either. The Canadians could field two teams, and both would be favored for a medal.