published Friday, February 26th, 2010

Final races for Vonn, Ohno

  • photo
    Lindsey Vonn of the United States smiles as she stands in the finish area after the first run of the Women's giant slalom at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010. Vonn crashed in the first run and was eliminated. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — She breezes down the slopes, her blonde hair flapping. He scoots around the short track sporting that famous soul patch, navigating tight quarters in every speedskating race.

Big names already when the Vancouver Olympics started, Lindsey Vonn and Apolo Anton Ohno have lived up to the hype, fighting through occasional adversity to win a couple medals apiece.

Yet each has some unfinished business.

"I'm still here. The Olympics isn't over yet," Ohno said earlier this week. "I am representing the U.S.A. I want to race my best all the way through."

Ohno competes in the 500 meters and the 5,000 relay Friday, his last two events of the Vancouver Games. Vonn's swan song is the same day when she skis in the slalom. Both events will be aired in prime time by NBC.

Also Friday, American Tim Burke competes in a biathlon relay, hoping to salvage what has been a disappointing Olympics. That race is also the final chance for Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen to win gold at the 2010 Games.

Meanwhile, Canada and the United States are inching toward a dramatic matchup for the gold medal in men's hockey. The U.S. plays Finland in one semifinal Friday, and Canada takes on Slovakia in the other.

If the U.S. wins that hockey gold, it could be the biggest American story of these Olympics. There have been plenty of others already. Vonn figured to be one of the headliners at these games, but her Olympics were in doubt at the start thanks to a shin injury. She fought through that to win gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G.

She's motivated enough for more that she'll compete in the slalom — hardly her strongest event — after breaking a pinkie in the giant slalom Wednesday.

Ohno became the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian when he earned his seventh career medal. He has a silver and a bronze at these games, the latter coming after a slip forced him to rally furiously from last place to third. So far, gold has eluded him this year. He won Olympic titles in the 1,500 in 2002 and the 500 four years ago.

He was part of a 5,000 relay team that finished third in the 2006 Games. In the relays, teams of skaters tag in and out trying to keep fresh legs on the ice and set up the strongest competitor to be out for the final lap — good luck trying to follow all that as it's happening.

"Just watch the last four laps, that's all that really matters," Ohno suggested. "Kind of like an NBA game, just kind of show up in the fourth quarter."

Burke and Bjoerndalen wrap up their Olympics with a relay as well. Burke came to the games hoping to provide a biathlon breakthrough for the U.S., but he's been a non-factor, finishing 18th in one race and out of the top 40 in three others. He'll compete in the relay, but the U.S. isn't expected to medal.

Bjoerndalen won a gold at the 1998 Games and four more in 2002, establishing himself as a biathlon great. He won silver in a 20-kilometer race this year, but that's his only medal and he's been out of the top 15 twice.

"These Olympic Games are very disappointing for me. Horrible," he said after placing 27th in the 15-kilometer mass start Sunday. "In the relay, we still have a chance. Everything can happen in relay."

NBC will include the biathlon as part of its late-night coverage. Earlier, NBC will air the U.S.-Finland hockey semifinal. The game will be broadcast live in all time zones — the network showed the Americans' quarterfinal victory over Switzerland on tape delay in the Mountain time zone and for the West Coast.

The U.S. beat Canada 5-3 last weekend, and any rematch would be for gold. The Canada-Slovakia semifinal will be aired on CNBC.

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