BATTLES TO WATCH

These pre-Olympic encounters could provide almost as much drama as the Games
November 14, 2005

FIGURE SKATING

Michelle Kwan vs. Sasha Cohen and the Young Guns The U.S. has five outstanding women's skaters fighting for three Olympic berths. All have medal potential--and question marks. Michelle Kwan, 25, who has won five world titles but only silver and bronze at the Olympics, has not significantly upgraded her program and must adapt to a new scoring system that emphasizes difficult jumps and spins. Sasha Cohen, 21, a sublime talent with Gumby-like flexibility, must overcome a history of injuries and slipups under pressure. Kimmie Meissner, 16, last year became the first U.S. woman to land a triple Axel since Tonya Harding in 1991, but this will be her debut season at the international senior level. Emily Hughes, also 16, has the pressure of living up to older sister Sarah, the 2002 gold medalist. And Alissa Czisny, 18, a Bowling Green sophomore who has dazzled this fall, must show staying power. Key event: U.S. championships, Jan. 7-15 in St. Louis.

ALPINE SKIING

BODE MILLER vs. DARON RAHLVES Last year Miller, 28, became the first American since 1983 to win the World Cup overall title. But Rahlves, 32, is also coming off a strong season and has the talent to beat Miller in the downhill and the Super G. Key event: FIS World Cup, Jan. 20-22 in Kitzbuhel, Austria.

LONG-TRACK SPEED SKATING

SHANI DAVIS vs. CHAD HEDRICK These two have monopolized the world all-around title for the last two years. Davis, 23, the reigning champ, was a 2002 Olympian in short-track skating; he hopes to make history in Turin by becoming the first American to skate in both sports at the same Games. Hedrick, 28, the '04 champion and winner of 10 world titles as an in-line skater, is better at longer distances. Key event: U.S. championships, Dec. 27-31 in Kearns, Utah.

WOMEN'S HOCKEY

U.S. vs. CANADA These teams have won every world or Olympic title. The U.S. won this year's world championships (in a shootout). As a prelude to a near-certain rematch in the Turin final, they'll play three games on U.S. ice--and none will feel like an exhibition. Key games: Nov. 27 in Columbus, Ohio; Dec. 1 in Chicago; and Dec. 30 in St. Paul.

TWO PHOTOSMATTHEW STOCKMAN/GETTY IMAGES (KWAN); RICK RICKMAN/CORBISSPIN CITY Kwan (left) will vie with the rookie Meissner.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)