Athletes To Watch Today

February 18, 2006

Short track

APOLO OHNO

TV: NBC, Noon-6 p.m. and 8-11:30 p.m. -- Apolo Ohno of Seattle is favored in tonight's 1,000 meters, but anything can happen in short-track speed skating. He also was favored four years ago in Salt Lake City. But all four of the frontrunners, including Ohno, were involved in a crash that wiped them out. The only man standing at the finish was Australia's Steven Bradbury, whose strategy had been to hang back and hope that something bad happened to the skaters in front of him. It was short-track speed skating's version of the tortoise and the hare. Ohno bounced up first and crossed the finish line in second place. This will be his second individual race here. He was also the favorite in the 1,500, which he won in Salt Lake City, but made a tactical error in his semifinal and did not advance to the final.

Randy Harvey

Alpine skiing

HERMANN MAIER

TV: NBC, 8-11:30 p.m. -- They call him the Herminator, and was there really any doubt? We all should've known he'd be back. Hermann Maier, a bricklayer-turned-skier, carved his legend over the past decade, winning more than 50 World Cup victories and becoming an iconic figure in his native Austria. At the 1998 Nagano Games, he suffered a dramatic and devastating crash in the downhill. He got up, though, and won two gold medals in the next six days. But in August 2001, he suffered major injuries in another crash, this time on a motorcycle. He had to be hospitalized for three weeks and couldn't compete in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Maier wasn't competitively skiing full time for more than a year. At these Turin Games, of course, the Herminator is back. He finished in sixth place - just 0.18 of a second away from a medal - in the downhill, and races in the Super G today and the giant slalom on Monday.

Rick Maese

Ski jumping

JANNE AHONEN

TV: NBC, 8-11:30 p.m. -- Janne Ahonen was once a child prodigy. He made his Olympic debut for the Finns as a ski jumper at the 1994 Games. He was just 16 at the time and was supposed to start an era of dominance. Around Finland, he was compared to countryman Toni Nieminen, who won three Olympic medals as a 16-year-old in 1992. Ahonen is in Turin, competing in his fourth Olympics. But he's still chasing his first individual medal. His better event is the normal hill, where he finished in fourth at the past two Games. He finished sixth in that event last week. Today is the large hill, where he finished ninth in 2002. But for the first time, he enters the event coming off a first-place finish in the World Championships, and recently he has been nearly unbeatable in World Cup events. At 28, he's too old to match Nieminen's early success but young enough to still find Olympic gold.

Rick Maese

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