Athletes to watch today

Winter Olympics

February 13, 2006|By RANDY HARVEY

Figure skating

TATIANA TOTMIANINA AND MAXIM MARININ

The Russian pairs team of Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin, known as Tot and Max, are two-time world champions and five-time European champions, yet will probably be best remembered for a horrific crash in 2004 at Skate America in Pittsburgh. Marinin was holding Totmianina above his head in an axel lasso lift - the hardest lift for a pairs team - when he dropped her, knocking her unconscious. She was taken to a hospital, where it was determined that she had a concussion as well as shoulder and elbow injuries. She recovered in time to complete the season, capped by a world championship, and they are favored to win the gold medal in the Olympics tonight after finishing first in the short program Saturday night. Either the Soviet Union or Russia has won the pairs gold medal in 11 consecutive Olympics, including 2002 when it was shared with Canada in the Skategate controversy. One of those Russian titles was won by Oleg Vassiliev, along with partner Yelena Valova, in 1984. Vassiliev now coaches Totmianina and Marinin in Chicago.

RENA INOUE AND JOHN BALDWIN

Trying to become the first U.S. figure skating pairs team since 1988 to win a medal, Rena Inoue and John Baldwin are at a decided disadvantage. They finished sixth in Saturday night's short program and must skate almost perfectly tonight to earn a place on the podium. But adversity is nothing new for them. Inoue, 29, was diagnosed in 1998 with lung cancer, a disease that took her father's life the year before. She underwent six months of chemotherapy but has had no reoccurrence. Baldwin, 32, has been skating competitively for 20 years but without much success until he met Inoue six years ago. She had arrived the year before from her native Japan, which she represented in the 1992 and '94 Winter Olympics. She became a U.S. citizen last September. They might not win a gold medal, but they will leave a mark on the sport. At last month's national championships, which they won for the second time, they became the first pair to successfully perform a throw triple axel. They also are a couple off the ice.

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