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WINTER OLYMPICS

Seven athletes to watch at the 2010 Winter Olympics

Whom to keep an eye on in the build up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

February 13, 2009|Helene Elliott | Los Angeles Times

Figure skater Kim Yu-Na, South Korea

Kim, 18, defeated rival Mao Asada of Japan at the recent Four Continents competition, a test event for the Olympics. A secure jumper, she's also expressive and gets high marks for her skating skills and artistry. She trains in Toronto and should have support from Canadian fans and the Korean community in Vancouver.

Figure skater Patrick Chan, Canada

Most male figure skaters don't peak until their early 20s. Chan, 18, may be an exception. He has won two Grand Prix events and the Four Continents title this season. He absolutely soars when he attempts a triple axel, a difficult, 3 1/2 -rotation jump. The Ottawa native trains in Toronto with Don Laws, who coached American Scott Hamilton to gold in 1984. No Canadian athlete has won gold at an Olympics held on home ice (or turf) but Chan could be the first.

Skier Lindsey Vonn, United States

The biggest souvenirs Vonn (then Lindsey Kildow) took from her last Olympic experience were a cow that she won for triumphing at a pre-Games downhill in Val d'Isere, France, and a lot of bruises from a training crash. The 24-year-old Minnesotan has higher hopes this time: She won the overall World Cup title last season and was set to repeat until she needed surgery to repair a tendon in her right thumb.

Skier Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway

He won gold in the super-combined and bronze in the super-giant slalom at the world championships this year after winning the downhill and giant slalom at the 2007 world championships. Svindal, 26, won downhill and super-G World Cup races at Beaver Creek, Colo., in December, a year after suffering serious injuries on that hill.

Short track SpeedskaterWang Meng, China

Wang, 23, has dominated the World Cup circuit at 500 and 1,000 meters. She was the world champion at both distances last season as well as in the 1,500. China also won bronze in the 3,000-meter relay.

Long track Speedskater Shani Davis, United States

Davis, 26, recently joined Eric Heiden as the only men to win sprint and allround world titles. At Turin he won gold in the 1,000 -- the first African American to win an individual medal in the Winter Games -- and silver in the 1,500. He's favored again at both distances.

Hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, Canada

The grande dame of the women's game shows no signs of slowing at age 30. She was the most valuable player of the 2002 and 2006 Olympic tournaments and has won six gold medals and two silver medals at the world championships.

-- Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times

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