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Daily Briefing, Feb. 23

But the most-talked-about event is the start of the ladies figure skating competition, which features South Korea's transcendent Kim Yu-Na, whom SI's E.M. Swift says is the best female skater he's ever seen when she is at her best. " I don't say that lightly, but Kim is the complete package: elegant, athletic, fast, beautiful, charismatic," says Swift. "Her programs are wonderfully choreographed. She has all the jumps, except the rare (for women) triple axel. Her spins are weightless. But the 2009 World Champion will have to win here before I put her above the likes of past Olympic champions KristiYamaguchi and KatarinaWitt. She'll have to prove she can withstand the suffocating Olympic pressure." That pressure starts tonight.

(All times Eastern)

• The men's giant slalom, a race where each skier make two runs down two different courses on the same slope, could be another big day for the U.S. skiers. Ted Ligety (SI's pick for silver) is the current World Cup leader in the event while Miller has been the star of these Games, with a gold in super-combined, a silver in super-G and a bronze in the downhill. Austria is also primed for a big event with BenjaminRaich (SI's pick for gold) and MarcelHirscher (SI's pick for bronze) and ReinfriedHerbst, the pick of many other publications. France's slalom specialist JulienLizeroux, IvanKostelic of Croatia, Italy's MassimilianoBlardone, Norway's KjetilJansrud and Switzerland's CarloJanka are also medal contenders. The first run comes at 12:30 p.m.

• The U.S. won its first Olympic Nordic combined medal last week thanks to Johnny Spillane's silver in the individual normal hill competition. He'll be back on the course today for the team's large hill competition (competition begins at 1:30 p.m.) as part of a strong American group that finished in three of the top six in the earlier event. SI predicts Germany for gold, the U.S. for silver, and Norway for bronze. ToddLodwick and BillyDemong, both former world champions, join Spillane and veteran BrettCamerota for the U.S. The athletes make one jump off the large hill followed later in the day by a 4x5K freestyle relay.

• The women's 4x6K biathlon (2:30 p.m.) relay won't include German star MagdalenaNeuner, but Germany remains a medal contender with MartinaBeck, AndreaHenkel, SimoneHauswald and KatieWilhelm. Russia is the world champ in the event and the favorite. Sweden and France will also be factors. This is the last opportunity for Sweden's HelenaJonsson and AnnaCarinOlofsson-Zidek, both favorites to reach the podium prior to the Games, to win medals. LannyBarnes, HaleyJohnson, LauraSpector, and SaraStudebaker will compete for the U.S.

• Dutch hero SvenKramer, who has already won gold in the 5,000 and might be the most popular man in Holland these days, is back on the track in the 10,000 (2 p.m.). He holds the world record time (12:41.69) and is SI's pick for gold followed by Norway's HavardBokko and France's AlexisContin. Other contenders include Holland's BobdeJong, who won this race in Turin and is ranked second in the world at this distance; Russia's IvanSkobrev, who won bronze in the 5,000, and South Korea's Seung-HoonLee, the silver medalist in the 5,000. The Dutch have won seven of the last nine Olympic medals at this distance, and Kramer and de Jong are the only competitors here who have times under 13 minutes.

• Women's ski cross makes its Olympic debut today (the finals are at 5 p.m.) and holds great promise for Canada with AshleighMcIvor, KelseySerwa and JuliaMurray. Each are considered medal contenders. France's OphelieDavid, who has won six consecutive World Cup events and is at the top of the World Cup standings, is the one to beat. She is SI's pick for gold. Switzerland's FannySmith and Sweden's AnnaHolmlund must also be considered.

• The streak appears to be on thin ice: Since 1968, the U.S. women have medaled in every Winter Games in the ladies competition (which starts tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Coliseum), but America's best hopes in Vancouver, RachaelFlatt and MiraiNagasu, are longshots to the hit the medal stand. (The U.S. qualified for two ladies spots in Vancouver, failing to earn the maximum three for only the second time since 1924.).

South Korea's Kim Yu-Na, the reigning world champion, is the favorite in the event. A six-time Korean national champion, Kim moved to Canada in 2006 for training and is coached by '84 and '88 Olympic silver medalist BrianOrser. She has not lost a competition in more than a year.

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Then there is Japan's MaoAsada, who became the first woman to land a triple-triple-triple combination in competition -- at the tender age of 12 -- and by '05, she was widely considered the best figure skater in the world. Now 19, Asada is finally eligible for the Olympics. She has won four straight Japanese national titles, two Four Continents championships and a world title in '08, though she finished fourth in the world in '09.

Asada's teammate, MikiAndo, won the '07 world championship, suffered through a miserable two years before finishing third at the '09 world championships. At the Turin Games, Ando finished an ugly 15th, a performance she hopes to extinguish in Vancouver. One of the sad tales in Vancouver is the story of Canadian JoannieRochette, the 24-year-old who finished second (behind Kim) at the worlds last March and has held the Canadian national title since '05. Her mother died of a heart attack earlier this week in Vancouver. For tonight's short program, Kim skates in Group 5 with Asada, while Rochette is in the sixth and final group with Flatt, 17, Ando and Italy's CarolinaKostner, currently second in the world's standings. Nagasu, 16, will skate in the third group.

• Canada-Germany (7:30 p.m.) highlights the quartet of games scheduled for the men's playoff qualification round in men's hockey. The other matchups are Switzerland vs. Belarus (3 p.m.), Czech Republic vs. Latvia (10 p.m.) and Slovakia vs. Norway (midnight). The U.S. plays the winner of Switzerland-Belarus on Thursday.

• The first two heats of the women's bobsled begin at 8 p.m. Americans ShaunaRohbock and MichelleRzepka are medal favorites, along with two strong German teams (CathleenMartini-RomyLogsch and SandraKiriasis-ChristinSenkel). Canada's KallieHumphries and HeatherMoyse and Great Britain's NicolaMinichiello and GillianCooke will also be in the hunt for a podium position. In Turin, Rohbock won silver with ValerieFleming. The other American teams include ErinPac and ElanaMeyers, and BreeSchaaf and EmilyAzevedo. The two-day competition concludes Wednesday.

• The U.S. women's curling team will conclude round robin competition with two games against China (noon) and Switzerland (10 p.m.). With a 2-5 record, they are a longshot to advance to the playoff round.

• 25 -- Medals for Team USA at the Vancouver Games, matching the total medals won by the U.S. four years ago in Turin. The 25 medals are the most medals won by the United States at a Winter Games not held on U.S. soil.

• "I remember the first time I saw him play. I was struck by how skinny he was. Even now, this guy should be doing ads for one of those weight-loss things. He's still a bone rack." -Team USA general manager BrianBurke on U.S. goalie RyanMiller.

• 1. Anxious. Sadder. Sorrier. (by Allan Maki, The Globe and Mail): The hot word in Canada is...sorry.

• 2. The Comfortable Delights of Ski Jumping, With or Without Cowbells (by John Branch, The New York Times): Come fly, with the New York Times.

• 3. Bettman's View Of What's Good For the Game Distorted As Olympics Become Gold Standard(by Roy MacGregor, The Globe and Mail): The NHL is talking tough about keeping its players out of the Olympics.