THE ZEN OF DESCENT
"You really don't think much when you're actually skiing. It's more instinct; your skiing happens without having to think about it. The whole way down you're pretty much trying to search for the best feeling, feeling the power of every turn and looking for speed the whole way, just an appetite for speed. There are some really scary situations up on the hill. If you make a mistake it can be very dangerous, but you can't be thinking that way. You have to put it all on the line and attack. You really have to be on it the whole way. You have no time for hesitation or a little bobble. You ski perfect or you don't win." - Daron Rahlves, 2001 super-G world champ and downhill gold medal contender
THE WORLD WILL BE THERE
With the exception of a few unconventional blips (the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team, the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan spat), European athletes have traditionally dominated Winter Olympic headlines. Once again, Europe's finest will descend from snow-blown, mountainous places where sports like biathlon (cross-country skiing and shooting) are not only under-stood, but revered. A few names you will likely come to know:
Gianni Romme. The Netherlands. The undisputed king of long-distance speed skating.
Irina Slutskaya. Russia. Seasoned figure skater who has dethroned three-time world champ Michelle Kwan at several major events.
Elvis Stojko. Canada. Explosive figure skater. Three-time world champion, three-time Olympian.
Hayley Wickenheiser. Canada. The Wayne Gretzky of women's hockey. She and her teammates hope to reverse the results in Nagano, where Canada lost to the U.S. in the gold medal game.
Georg Hackl. Germany. The most decorated luge athlete in Olympic history. With gold in Albertville ('92), Lillehammer ('94), and Nagano ('98), in SLC Hackl will attempt to become the first Winter Olympian to win four consecutive gold medals in the same event.