Today's Athletes To Watch

Winter Olympics

February 14, 2006

Skiing

BODE MILLER

TV: Chs. 11, 4; 8 p.m.-11:30 p.m.

When he's on the course, or off, Bode Miller is always the man to watch. The controversial Miller finished fifth in the downhill Sunday, which, considering the competition and small margin for error, was neither particularly disappointing nor unexpected. He's still a factor whenever he skis, which will be in today's alpine combined - a downhill run followed by two slalom runs. Miller won the silver medal in the combined in 2002, finishing first in the slalom but 15th in the downhill. Not proud of his reputation as a purely technical skier, he has improved significantly since in the downhill.

RANDY HARVEY

Figure skating

YEVGENY PLUSHENKO

TV: Chs. 11, 4; 8 p.m.-11:30 p.m.

Yevgeny Plushenko is the clear favorite to give Russia its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medalist in men's figure skating, a fifth consecutive for skaters from the former Soviet Union. Ukrainian Viktor Petrenko, Plushenko's idol as a young skater, won in 1992. Plushenko, 23, was born in Siberia, but his mother sent him to Volgograd and eventually St. Petersburg so that he could work with better coaches. He and Alexei Yagudin trained under Aleksei Mishin in St. Petersburg, but the two skaters feuded because of the perception that Mishin favored Plushenko. Yagudin moved to Connecticut to train and earned satisfaction when he upset Plushenko for the gold medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics. Plushenko won the silver medal, rallying after a discouraging short program in which he fell on a quadruple jump.

RANDY HARVEY

Luge

COURTNEY ZABLOCKI

TV: USA; 3 a.m.-11 a.m., chs. 11, 4; 4 p.m.-5 p.m.

In four years, Courtney Zablocki went from being a wide-eyed rookie just happy to be at the Olympics to the senior member of the three-woman luge contingent. Zablocki, 25, is the best hope for the U.S. to break its 42-year medals drought in women's singles. Given her record this season and the strength of the field, it will be a difficult task. She failed to finish better than sixth this World Cup season and is ranked ninth overall. But she won her only international medal - a bronze - just two months ago on the Olympic track at Cesana Pariol. After the first two runs of the two-day competition, Zablocki is in fourth place, just .004 of a second behind Tatjana Huefner of Germany.

CANDUS THOMSON

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