Eight Golds To Grab, Countless Hurdles

Eight gold medals are on offer Thursday at the Winter Olympics — seven if you don't count the one that's just about hanging around Evgeni Plushenko's neck.

The 23-year-old Russian figure skater goes into the men's free program at the Palevela in the Lingoto Olympic precinct with such a commanding lead — 10 points — that even his closest pursuer, American Johnny Weir, says Plushenko might lose the gold only "if he falls three times, maybe."

Things might be closer in the women's singles skeleton, the head-first competition on sleds which commences on the Cesana Pariol run now that feet-first luge has ended.

For the American team, the luge competition didn't end well. Two-time Olympic medalists Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin won't get a third medal. The pair, presumably in the Olympics for the final time, saw the same trouble that befell skier Lindsey Kildow and slider Samantha Retrosi. They were trying to become the first Olympians ever to win bronze, then silver, then gold, in that order, but they crashed in turn 14 of their opening run in men's doubles luge.

On Tuesday night, the men of the American figure skating team tried their best to beat an unstoppable Russian, but fell short in the short program, CBS' Manuel Gallegus reports.

Winning a gold is likely out of reach for any American skater as long as Russian Evgeni Plushenko is around.

"Realistically I don t think anybody will beat him unless he really makes mistakes," said U.S. skater Johnny Weir. Competition continues for the men Thursday.

Check the schedule of upcoming events.
Track the current medal count here.
In related developments:
  • Some folks think it looks like a doughnut. Others see a bagel. Or a giant Life Saver, or a compact disc. An Austrian Olympian used it as an eye patch. Whatever the view, it really is an Olympic medal. Designed by Italians who thought long and hard about the best way to symbolize their country, the Turin medals are very different from any predecessor — each has a hole in the middle.
  • Wang Meng gave China its first gold medal of the Turin Winter Olympics Wednesday, holding off Bulgaria's Evgenia Radanova by the length of a skate in the women's 500-meter short track final Wednesday night. Anouk LeBlanc-Boucher of Canada took the bronze, getting to the line ahead of China's Fu Tianyu by an even smaller margin. It didn't matter when Fu was disqualified for cross-drafting.
  • Apolo Anton Ohno led the Americans into the finals of the 5,000-meter relay and advanced in the 1,000 on Wednesday night, avoiding the sort of trouble that knocked him out of his first Olympic short track event. Ohno and his teammates — Rusty Smith, J.P. Kepka and Alex Izykowski — beat China to the line to win their semifinal relay race. The top two teams were in comfortable positions after skaters from Japan and Italy collided with 21 laps to go, leaving them far behind.
  • Barely 48 hours after Kildow crashed, she was closing in on the same stretch of the Olympic downhill course where her training run had ended in near disaster. "I was a little nervous, I'm not going to lie," she said. "It was very difficult." Kildow didn't make it to the medals stand — that would have been asking too much — but settled instead for eighth in a race she came to San Sicario with a solid chance to win. Just showing up at the starting gate, though, made her golden to the ski world.
  • The U.S. squad did not get through the quarterfinals today in the new Olympic event of speedskating team pursuit. That means Chad Hedrick will not reach his goal of five gold medals at this Olympics.
  • NHL goalie Dominik Hasek is scheduled for an MRI tomorrow in the Olympic Village. The Czech goalie injured his left hamstring during a hockey opener today in Turin.
  • Toby Dawson is bringing home a bronze medal from the men's moguls at the Turin Olympics. Jeremy Bloom was sixth and fellow American Travis Mayer placed seventh.
  • Not that long ago, Ted Ligety was everything Bode Miller is not: unknown, unsponsored, unaccomplished. Now, thanks both to his own clean, aggressive skiing and errors by Miller and other favorites, Ligety is an Olympic champion (video). Never before a competitor at a Winter Games, never before a winner of any major race, Ligety produced two spectacular slalom runs to pull out the combined event Tuesday night, only the fourth time in Olympic history an American man has collected a gold medal in Alpine skiing.
  • Figure skater Emily Hughes is due to arrive in Turin on Thursday. The newest Olympian's departure from the New York area was delayed by a snowstorm. She'll skate in Turin for the first time on Friday and hold a news conference that day. Hughes is the younger sister of 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes. She's heading to Turin to fill in for injured nine-time national champion Michelle Kwan.
  • Michaela Dorfmeister won Austria's first women's Olympic downhill gold medal since 1980 Wednesday. Canadian-born Dale Begg-Smith won Australia's third Winter Games medal ever. Dorfmeister dominated the bumpy, steep Fraitieve Olympique course, staying in a tuck over the roughest parts and gliding smoothly over the jumps.

    Despite Austria's dominance in ski racing, the reigning World Cup downhill champion was the first woman from her country to win the Olympic downhill since Annemarie Moser-Proell at the 1980 Lake Placid Games.

    In the mountains Thursday, the debut of men's snowboard cross, where four men in each race will swerve and bounce their way down a bumpy course. Some say it's the closest thing the games have to an extreme sport.

    The first gold medals in speedskating men's and women's team pursuits will also be awarded.

    In the more traditional events, the Nordic combined, postponed from Wednesday due to high winds, will be held along with the biathlon women's sprint and the women's 10-kilometer cross-country.

    Back on the ice, six more men's round-robin hockey games are scheduled, including defending champion Canada's game against Germany and the United States against Kazakhstan.

    Weir is not counting on any major flop by his Russian figure skating rival.

    "I just want to have a good time out there," Weir said Wednesday. "I had no real expectations coming in, and now, sitting in second, that's incredible. I'm not expecting anything to happen in the free that I can't control."

    A Russian or Soviet skater has won every men's title since 1992 — Victor Petrenko, Alexei Urmanov, Ilia Kulik and Alexei Yagudin.

    At Pragelato, medal contender Norway's ailing Nordic combined team thought they had a chance to get back into the event following the postponement Wednesday, but that wasn't the case.

    The initial ruling Wednesday to postpone the competition because of high winds would have given the Norwegians extra time to recover, a chance to get back on the start list and another shot. But now they won't be able to compete after all, unless the competition were to be postponed a second time Thursday.

    Coach Frode Moen said his athletes were still sick.

    "They decided to run the competition and it doesn't matter for us because three of the guys are still sick, so we couldn't start anyway," Moen said.

    In snowboarding, 2003 World Cup champion and current leader Xavier Delerue will take an ankle injury into Thursday's race. At least three members of the United States team have a chance of reaching the podium — Jason Smith, Nate Holland and Seth Wescott — while Jasey Jay Anderson and Drew Neilson, both from Canada, could also challenge for a medal.

    Defending champion Kati Wilhelm of Germany is heavily favored in the women's 7.5-kilometer biathlon sprint. Wilhelm has won three of the past five World Cup sprints and placed second in the other two.

    Snow and/or rain are predicted in the hours leading up to the race, so choosing the right skis and wax will be critical. Shooting is not as important in the sprint race because there are only two shooting rounds and misses are penalized by a 150-meter penalty loop instead of a one-minute time penalty.

    Virpi Kuitunen of Finland and Marit Bjorgen of Norway are expected to duel for the gold medal in the 10K classical cross-country event at Pragelato. Kuitunen won a bronze medal in team sprint, her Olympic debut, on Tuesday, and she won her first World Cup just before the games began.

    Swiss slider Maya Pedersen is the favorite in the two-run women's skeleton after finishing with the fastest time in four training sessions and second in the other two.