Eurosport - Fri, 12 Feb 17:01:00 2010
Eurosport-Yahoo! take a look at 12 men and women who could become the stars of the Games.
Bode Miller (Alpine Skiing)
Despite winning his first overall World Cup title and two World Championship gold medals in 2005, American Miller failed to add to his two Olympic silver medals, from Salt Lake City, in Turin in 2006.
Miller then quit the United States ski team in 2007 and endured the worst campaign of his professional career, failing to win a race, last season. The bad boy of skiing, who once infuriated officials by admitting that he had skied while "wasted", has since reconciled with the US team.
And Miller has returned to form with impeccable timing, winning the super-combined in Wengen on January 15 to claim his 32nd World Cup win and first for nearly two years.
His apparently irresponsible descents of the ice packed pistes will be one big carefree gamble but he is coming into the sort of form that could see him collecting golds ahead of Switzerland's new star Carlo Janka.
Lindsey Vonn (Alpine Skiing)
All signs point to Vonn topping the podium in Vancouver, the American has dominated women's Alpine skiing for the past three seasons.
Vonn is in sensational form heading into the Games, amassing an astonishing six World Cup victories in January alone. She even made it on to the cover of Sports Illustrated as pictured.
And the 25-year-old showed she has the appetite for the big stage by claiming double gold downhill and Super G at the 2009 World Championships in Val d'Isere.
But Germany's Maria Riesch, who has traditionally played second fiddle in the speed events, will be hot on Vonn's tail in Canada having won her first downhill in more than three years at the final World Cup event before the Games.
Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (Biathlon)
Biathlon is a sport where lung busting effort is combined with testing precision of hitting a target no bigger than a golf ball at 50m. It's like asking a darts player to throw a 180 after completing a commando assault course and Bjoerndalen is the greatest at the art of all time.
Bjoerndalen has won five Olympic gold medals as well as 14 World Championship gold medals. He is also the only ever biathlete to win every single event during the same Winter Olympics, at Salt Lake City in 2002.
Life has not always been plain sailing for the Norwegian, though. Bjoerndalen left Turin four years ago with 'just' two silvers and a bronze. But the 36-year-old has hit back with a vengeance, winning six individual gold medals at the three World Championships since 2006 and twice topping the end-of-season World Cup standings.
Fellow Norwegian Emil Hegle Svendsen is likely to be his biggest rival.
Helena Jonsson (Biathlon)
It will take more than a cold and sore throat to knock Jonsson out of her stride. The Swede was sidelined from the final World Cup event before the Winter Olympics due to illness and has been fighting to regain fitness since.
Jonsson claimed a hat-trick of World Championship medals in 2009 - 10km pursuit gold, mixed relay silver and 12.5km mass start bronze - to add to her 2007 mixed relay triumph.
And the 25-year-old reigning World Cup champion, who also tops the current 2009/10 standings, is sure to be in the running for a maiden Olympic gold in Vancouver with her incredible strike rate in the standing shooting position.
The women's field is littered with World Cup winners and Germany's Magdelena Neuner, the golden girl of the 2007 World Championships, has the potential to clean up but nerves have got the better of her in the past.
Petter Northug (Cross Country)
It will be one celebration up at Callaghan Valley where purpose build stadiums have been built and forests cleared for the both the cross country and biathlon events.
Northug has been touted as a future Olympic champion since winning a record six gold medals at the 2005 and 2006 world junior championships and the 24-year-old began the transformation from genius junior to sensational senior in 2007, claiming 4x10km gold at the World Championships in Sapporo.
Northug went on to claim three world titles at Liberec in 2009, emulating the success of eight-time Olympic gold medallist Bjorn Dahlie who pulled off the same feat in 1993. And he tops this year's World Cup standings with six wins from 14 races.
Norway's men's team failed to win a single gold medal in Turin four years ago but in Northug they now possess one of the most dominant figures in the sport and someone who has arguably the fastest finish the sport has ever seen.
Gregor Schlierenzauer (Ski Jumping)
Watching men fly has an appeal of its own. Of course we love to see the occasional tumble but above all we admire the sheer guts of someone who can release their grip from the last safe haven and embark on a flight of 140m.
Schlierenzauer heads to Vancouver as a seasoned veteran but is in fact just 20 years old. The Austrian began competing at senior level at the age of 15 and his rise to the top of the sport has been nothing short of remarkable.
Schlierenzauer finished fourth in the overall World Cup standings in 2007 and second in 2008 before claiming the crown in 2009 with a record number of points after becoming only the fourth jumper to win six consecutive events
Schlierenzauer has 31 individual World Cup triumphs to his name, including the Vancouver event last season and six in his last 10 events, but will face a strong challenge from double champion in 2002, Simon Amman.
Andre Lange (Bobsleigh)
Quite simply, Lange is one of the greatest athletes to grace the sport of bobsleigh. In Turin, the German became only the fifth driver in history to successfully navigate the two-man and four-man gold medal double.
Lange also won four-man gold in Salt Lake City, while his list of honours 14 World Championship and 17 European Championship medals is as impressive as any.
If Lange can claim the Olympic four-man title in Vancouver once more, he will become the first bobsleigh racer to win three consecutive titles in the same event.
And, despite heading to Canada as a 36-year-old veteran, Lange is red-hot favourite to do so.
Sidney Crosby (Ice Hockey)
Hockey's place in Canadian culture is closer to religion than a simple sporting pastime, a unifying force in a country of 33 million people that is often split by politics and language. The pressure on home ice will be huge but Crosby is one man who can handle it.
Wayne Gretzy successfully guided Canada to their first Olympic gold for half a century in 2002 but the reigning champions failed to reach the medal round in Turin, instead finishing a lowly seventh.
Gretzky was widely criticised for leaving rising star Crosby out of Canada's 2006 Olympic ice hockey team. Now the 22-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins forward and Russia's Alexander Ovechkin are the biggest stars in the NHL since Gretzky.
Crosby was the first name on Steve Yzerman's roster this time out having taken league MVP honours in 2007 and leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup last season.
Kim Yu-Na (Figure Skating)
Yu-Na Kim carries the hopes of a nation on her shoulders as she bids to become South Korea's first Olympic figure skating champion.
But the 19-year-old has the pedigree to succeed and is ranked as world number one going into the Games.
Yu-Na became the first ever woman to break the 200 point mark with her sensational gold medal winning performance at the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles.
The teenager's rise to the top has almost mirrored that of Japanese rival Mao Asada 2008 world champion when Yu-Na claimed bronze and the battle between the Asian duo will be one of the most intriguing duels of the Games.
Shaun White (Snowboarding)
White is easily identifiable off the snow for his red hair but it is on the slopes that The Flying Tomato' is at his most striking.
San Diego-born White has long dominated the Winter X Games, accumulating 10 gold medals since 2003.
But it was at the Winter Olympics in Turin that the 23-year-old shot to mainstream stardom, delivering halfpipe gold for the United States ahead of compatriot Daniel Kass.
And White heads to Vancouver with a deadly new trick under his belt the Double McTwist 12, or two flips and three-and-a-half spins and his sights set on a second podium-topping performance.
Apolo Ohno (Short Track)
Ohno became the youngest United States national short-track champion with victory as a 14-year-old in 1996 and six years later Ohno was stood atop the Olympic podium.
The Washington-born skater, inspired to try the sport after watching the 1994 Lillehammer Games, glided to 1500m victory on home ice in 2002 before sprinting to success over 500m four years later.
Ohno took a break from competitive action after Turin but could not breaking the winning habit, guiding Julianne Hough to victory in the 2007 series of reality show Dancing with the Stars.
Now Ohno is bidding to become the most successful US Winter Olympian of all time, he already has five Olympic medals and one more win will take him past the record of Bonnie Blair.
Sven Kramer (Speed Skating)
In the Netherlands, speed skating is almost a national obsession and the Richmond Olympic Oval will be a sea of orange clad supporters.
Dutch star Kramer struck silver as a teenager at the Turin Games in 2006, finishing second in the 5000m before taking bronze in the team pursuit.
Kramer has since dominated the 5000m and 10,000m, claiming a hat-trick of World Championship golds in both events in 2007, 2008 and 2009, while teaming up with his compatriots to deliver identical success in the team pursuit.
And Kramer also has a host of world records to his name, smashing the 5000m and 10,000m marks three times between November 2005 and November 2007, while also playing his part in setting the team pursuit standard.