100 Olympic storylines 100 days out from Sochi

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Here are 100 storylines (in no particular order) from now through the beginning of the Games on Feb. 6 and the Closing Ceremony on Feb. 23.

1. Lindsey Vonn‘s return from a knee-shattering crash at the World Championships in February.

2. Evan Lysacek‘s race against time recovering from a torn labrum in his hip to make the U.S. Olympic Team.

3. Will Lolo Jones make the Olympics?

4. World champion Sarah Hendrickson‘s recovery from major knee surgery with an eye on the first Olympic women’s ski jumping competition.

5. Russia’s anti-gay law.

6. The Olympic torch relay‘s trip to space, up a mountain, to the bottom of a lake and other adventures.

7. Who will light the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony? Vladislav Tretiak is a popular pick.

8. The pressure on Alex Ovechkin and Co. to win the first post-Soviet era men’s hockey gold for Russia.

9. The new figure skating team event, which is drawing varied responses.

10. Russian figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko attempting to win a medal in a fourth straight Olympics.

11. Italian luger Armin Zoeggeler attempting to win a medal in a record sixth straight Olympics.

12. South Korean Yuna Kim‘s comeback — beset by injury — to try to defend her figure skating gold.

13. Which goaltender starts for the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team — Jonathan QuickJimmy Howard or, perhaps, Ryan Miller?

14. Which goaltender starts for Canada — Roberto LuongoCarey PriceCorey Crawford or someone else?

15. Could the unemployed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov make the Russian hockey team, and could he play?

16. The U.S. men’s hockey team plays Russia at 7:30 a.m. ET on the second Saturday of the Games.

17. A likely fourth meeting between the U.S. and Canada in five Olympic women’s hockey finals.

18. Potential Olympic team siblings — Alex and Maia ShibutaniAmanda and Phil KesselJocelyne and Monique LamoureuxJoe and Matt MortensenBrad and Bryon WilsonBryan and Taylor Fletcher and Nick and Sarah Hendrickson.

19. The first U.S. man to win three straight Winter Olympic golds in one event. It could be Shaun White in the halfpipe.

source: Getty Images
Shani Davis. (Getty Images)

20. Or Shani Davis in the 1000m.

21. Or Seth Wescott in snowboardcross.

22. Todd Lodwick going for an American Winter Olympic record sixth Olympic appearance.

23. Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks eyeing the first U.S. Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing, and second of any color.

24. Tim Burke eyeing the first U.S. Olympic medal in biathlon.

25. “The King.” Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen needs two medals to take the solo record for most career Winter Olympic medals. Two golds will tie the record for most career golds.

26. Figure skating at noon ET.

27. Alpine skiing at 2 a.m. ET.

28. The new Olympic snowboarding event of slopestyle — Shaun White vs. Mark McMorris.

29. White’s international halfpipe rivals — Switzerland’s Iouri “I-Pod” Podlatchikov and Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, who is 14 and a growth spurt from cresting 5 feet.

30. The most hotly contested U.S. Olympic Trials — women’s halfpipe snowboarding — in a five-event series in December and January.

31. One of the following will not make the U.S. Olympic halfpipe team — 2002 Olympic champion Kelly Clark, 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter, 2006 Olympic silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler, the first woman to land a double cork, Elena Hight, or 2013 World champion Arielle Gold.

32. The reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, Torah Bright of Australia, eyeing three different snowboard events.

33. Alpine skier Ted Ligety going after the top medal haul by an American since Eric Heiden.

34. Julia Mancuso trying to become the first U.S. Alpine skier to win a medal at three straight Olympics.

35. The 20-year anniversary of Lillehammer 1994 — Tonya vs. Nancy, Koss, Blair and Jansen and “The Forsberg.”

36. The Missy Franklin of the Winter Olympics — precocious 18-year-old Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin

37. Jincy Dunne, 16, who could become the youngest woman to make the Olympic hockey team.

38. Miracle on Ice goalie Jim Craig working for a Russian news agency.

39. Johnny Weir analyzing figure skating for NBC.

40. Curling pants.

41. Reigning U.S. curling champion Erika Brown, who was on the U.S. team at the 1988 Olympics, when curling was a demonstration sport. She was 15.

42. Ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White attempting to turn Vancouver silver into Sochi gold. The U.S. has never won an ice dance gold.

43. Davis and White’s biggest competition, who happen to be their training partners. Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the defending Olympic gold medalists.

44. Another figure skater who trains in Detroit, three-time world champ Patrick Chan, trying to become the first Canadian to win men’s singles gold.

45. Quadruple jumps.

46. Twizzles.

47. The “almost girl” Ashley Wagner, aptly named Gracie Gold and the quest to get a U.S. woman back on the figure skating podium.

48. In pairs figure skating, Maksim Trankov‘s pants.

49. Trankov and partner Tatiana Volosozhar trying to restore Russian pairs dominance after golds in every Games from 1964-2006 but no medals in 2010.

50. Viktor Ahn, the three-time 2006 Olympic champion for South Korea now skating short track for Russia.

51. The U.S. short track team without the retired Apolo Ohno and Katherine Reutter

52. 2010 short track double bronze medalist J.R. Celski and his collaboration with Macklemore.

53. The first Olympic aerials competition since 1998 without the late Jeret “Speedy” Peterson.

source: Getty Images
Lindsey Jacobellis. (Getty Images)

54. Lindsey Jacobellis‘ second shot at redemption in snowboardcross.

55. The two best speedskaters of this century — Shani Davis and Sven Kramer — hopefully being paired together as they were in Vancouver.

56. Kramer’s coach, Gerard Kemkers, who had an infamous moment at the 2010 Olympics.

57. Dutch speedskating fans and the Holland House.

58. Ireen Wust, the world’s best all-around female speedskater, who is bisexual.

59. The first U.S. Olympic women’s speedskating medal since 2002, which could come from Heather Richardson or former college basketball player Brittany Bowe.

60. Pin collectors.

61. Reigning Olympic four-man bobsled champion Steve Holcomb and the Night Train 2 sled.

62. American bobsledder Elana Meyers‘ pursuit of Canadian Kaillie Humphries, one of the most dominant athletes across the Olympics.

63. Another Jamaican bobsled team?

64. Speeds at the Sanki Sliding Center bobsled/luge/skeleton track four years after the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in Whistler.

65. Beer-swilling Canadian skeleton slider Jon Montgomery‘s last call.

66. Two American skeleton sliders with remarkable stories — Noelle Pikus-Pace and Katie Uhlaender.

67. Your Daly Nitro.

68. 2004 Olympic 100m silver medalist Lauryn Williams‘ bid to become the fastest Winter Olympian ever.

69. A German woman winning luge gold — or the stunner of the Games if they don’t.

70. The new luge team relay, which uses a touchpad for exchanges.

71. The subtropical weather in Sochi.

72. Joannie Rochette, the Canadian figure skater who won a 2010 bronze medal days after her mother died, in a different role.

73. The medal table, which should be very close after the U.S. won the most medals by a single nation ever in 2010.

74. The addition of eight action sports medal events — men’s and women’s ski and snowboard slopestyle, ski halfpipe and parallel special slalom snowboarding.

75. Slovenian singing sensation Tina Maze coming off the most dominant Alpine skiing season by a man or woman ever.

76. Bode Miller, back after missing an entire Alpine season due to injury and seeking his fifth Olympics and sixth medal (or more).

77. Norway racking up medals in cross-country skiing, led by Petter Northug and Marit Bjørgen.

source: Getty Images
Hannah Kearney. (Getty Images)

78. The first U.S. gold medal of the Games — could it be moguls skier Hannah Kearney again?

79. The Olympic farewell for the first Canadian Olympic champion in 2010, moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau.

80. Aquaman and the U.S. Nordic combined team.

81. Wang Meng, the divisive Chinese women’s short track superstar who can match or beat Apolo Ohno‘s record for most career short track medals.

82. Swiss wizard Simon Ammann, one medal away from tying the Olympic ski jumping career record of five.

83. The U.S. Alpine snowboarder who lives in his car.

84. Meteorite medals.

85. Tiger Woods.

86. The maturation of Seth Jones, who has two months to prove a 19-year-old NHL rookie belongs on the U.S. Olympic Team.

87. New Year’s Day, when the U.S. men’s and women’s Olympic hockey teams will be announced at the Winter Classic.

88. Vladimir Putin, yes, but also Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee president Dmitry Chernyshenko, who has two Twitter accounts.

89. Billionaire/Brooklyn Nets owner/Russian biathlon president Mikhail Prokhorov.

90. A just-opened railway connecting the “coastal cluster” with the “mountain cluster.”

91. New venues built for the Games, including Fisht Stadium, site of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

92. Cross-tracking and impeding every night in short track.

93. Competition the night before the Opening Ceremony.

94. Breakthroughs of stars in new Olympic sports, such as Jamie Anderson (snowboard slopestyle), David Wise and Torin Yater-Wallace (ski halfpipe) and Tom Wallisch (ski slopestyle).

95. The Parade of Nations finishing in under three hours.

96. Who’s chosen as the U.S. flag bearer at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

97. The weather inevitable: Alpine skiing events being delayed and/or postponed.

98. The journalism inevitable: feature stories on the last man to finish cross-country’s grueling 50km race.

99. New IOC president Thomas Bach‘s final remarks at the Closing Ceremony.

100. Extensive coverage of the Paralympics.

Who is Italy’s greatest Olympian?

Alberto Tomba
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Italy ranks sixth on the total Olympic medal list, thanks in large part to its fencers. Italian fencers have won a leading 125 medals, more than double the nation’s total in any other sport. The Italians are known for their personalities, from La Bomba to the Cannibal, with six of their best detailed here …

Deborah Compagnoni
Alpine Skiing
Three Olympic Gold Medals

The only Alpine skier to earn gold at three straight Olympics. Compagnoni overcame a broken knee as a junior racer and life-saving surgery to remove 27 inches of her intestine in 1990 to win the Albertville 1992 super-G by 1.8 seconds. It remains the largest margin of victory in the discipline for either gender since 1968. The following day, Compagnoni tore knee ligaments in the giant slalom. She returned to win the GS at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. Compagnoni ended her Olympic career with the biggest rout in a GS at a Winter Games, prevailing by 1.41 seconds in Nagano.

Klaus Dibiasi
Three Olympic Gold Medals

The only diver to win the same individual event three times. The Austrian-born Dibiasi took platform silver in 1964 at age 17, then three straight golds through 1976. Dibiasi was coached by his father, who was 10th on platform at the 1936 Berlin Games. In his final Olympics, Dibiasi held off a 16-year-old Greg Louganis, who would go on to challenge, if not overtake, Dibiasi as the greatest male diver in history.

Eugenio Monti
Six Olympic Medals

Regarded by many as the greatest bobsled driver in history. Monti captured two silver medals in 1956, missed the 1960 Winter Games that didn’t include bobsled, then two bronzes in 1964 and a pair of golds at age 40 in 1968. On top of that, the nine-time world champion is remembered for an act of sportsmanship in 1964. In between runs, Monti lent a bolt off his own two-man sled to a British team whose sled was damaged. The Brits took gold, ahead of both Italian sleds.

Alberto Tomba
Alpine Skiing
Three Olympic Gold Medals

“La Bomba” dazzled by sweeping the giant slalom and slalom at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, after dubbing himself the “Messiah of Skiing“ beforehand. Known for his man-about-town ways, Tomba offered one of his gold medals to East German figure skater Katarina Witt should she fall short in her event. After Witt repeated as gold medalist, the story goes that Tomba showed up with a bouquet of roses and an autographed picture of himself, made out out to “Katerina.” “I used to have a wild time with three women until 5 a.m.,” Tomba once said. “Now I live it up with five women until 3 a.m,”

Valentina Vezzali
Six Olympic Gold Medals

An 18-year-old Vezzali was an alternate for the 1992 Olympics, forced to watch on TV as the Italian women took team foil gold. Vezzali made the next five Olympics, winning medals in all nine of her events, including three straight individual titles, the last as a mom. Vezzali finished her career with nine total Olympic medals, 25 world championships medals, a flag bearer honor at the 2012 Opening Ceremony and as a member of Italy’s parliament.

Armin Zoeggeler
Six Olympic Medals

“The Cannibal” retired in 2014 as the first athlete to earn a medal in the same individual event at six straight Olympics. Zoeggeler earned silver and bronze medals in 1994 and 1998, then overtook German legend Georg Hackl for gold in 2002, followed by winning at home in Torino in 2006. He held on for bronze medals in 2010 and 2014, behind the new German luge star, Felix Loch, who would be coached by Hackl. Growing up on top of a steep hill, Zoeggeler began sledding at age 7 to catch the school bus at the bottom.

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Kurt Angle recalls devastation, exultation of Olympic wrestling gold medal

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Kurt Angle doesn’t remember much from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, but he won’t forget that moment of deep emotional pain.

In the 100kg final, Angle and Iranian Abbas Jadidi were tied 1-1 after regulation and an overtime period.. Eight total minutes of wrestling. They also had the same number of passivity calls, forcing a judges’ decision to determine the gold medalist.

After deliberation, the referee stood between each wrestler in the middle of the mat. He held each’s wrist, ready to reveal the champion to the Georgia World Congress Center crowd — and to the athletes. Angle, now 51, has rarely watched video of the match. But he distinctly remembers, in his peripheral vision, Jadidi’s left arm rising.

“I thought I lost,” Angle said by phone this week. “So right away, I was like, s—, four more years.”

Turns out, the Iranian was raising his own arm. An instant later, the referee suppressed Jadidi. He lifted Angle’s right arm. The wrestler sobbed.

“I had so much emotion because I was devastated and then I was told that I won,” Angle said. “It was a very odd experience. I didn’t know how to handle it. It felt like my father died all over again. That’s how much grief I had. Then, all of a sudden, you won.”

Angle thought of two people immediately after he won, falling to his knees in prayer. First, his father, David, who died in a construction accident when Angle was 16. Second, the 1984 Olympic wrestling champion Dave Schultz, his coach who was murdered by John du Pont six months before the Games.

Angle went on to become one of the most famous U.S. gold medalists of the Atlanta Games, due largely to a two-decade career as a professional wrestler, including as a world heavyweight champion with the WWE.

It would have been different if the referee kept Jadidi’s arm in the air. Angle went into the Olympics knowing it would be his last competition, but only if he took gold. Anything less, and he would continue on, perhaps into his 30s and the 2000 Sydney Games. Despite everything Angle went through just to get to Atlanta.

In the year leading up to the Olympics, Angle lost Schultz, broke his neck at the U.S. Open and, five minutes before each match at the Olympic Trials, received 12 shots of novocaine to numb the pain long enough to advance to the next round. Angle later developed a painkiller addiction.

Angle, a Pennsylvania native, was part of the Foxcatcher club when du Pont shot and killed Schultz. Angle said he wasn’t consulted for the 2014 film “Foxcatcher,” but he thought it was well done save a few instances of dramatic license.

“Unfortunately, I hate to admit this, but if it weren’t for Team Foxcatcher, I probably wouldn’t have won my gold medal,” Angle said. “I probably wouldn’t have known Dave Schultz, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did. It sucks because, to have to thank John du Pont for the ability of allowing me to pay me to wrestle full time and win a world championship [in 1995] and Olympic gold medal, that was huge, but he killed Dave Schultz. The club would have thrived to this day. It just sucks it turned out the way it did, because it made me the best wrestler in the world. Dave Schultz had a lot to do with that, but a lot of wrestlers that followed could have not had to worry about money and could have trained and competed.”

Angle shared his gold medal with, he estimated, thousands of people before housing it in a safe.

“The gold was wearing off,” Angle said. “One kid, I remember, I was at an elementary school, and he grabbed my medal by the ribbon and started twirling it around real fast. He let go of it, and it hit the wall. There’s a big dent in my gold medal. That was the last time I brought it to an elementary school.”

Angle announced in 2011, at age 42, that he was training to come back for the 2012 Olympic Trials. He never made it, calling it off with a knee injury.

“But I trained hard for it,” Angle said, noting he still kept up appearances with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. “I will tell you this, I wouldn’t have made the team. My goal was to place in the top three. I just missed the [thrill of] competition.”

It meant that Angle’s last match remained that Olympic final. His last moment as a freestyle wrestler having his arm raised.

“All I wanted to do was win a world championship and an Olympic gold medal, and I did them both,” Angle said, sobbing, just off the mat that night in Atlanta. “If I died tonight, I’d be the happiest man in the world.”

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