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Athletes to watch in Vancouver

Since Sep. 30, 2003, the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) has been preparing for the 2010 Olympic Winter games. According to the official Olympic website, VANOC’s mission is to “Touch the soul of the nation and inspire the world by creating and developing an extraordinary Olympic and Paralympic experience with lasting legacies.”

Although the first modern-style Olympic games began in 1896, the Winter Sports did not separate from the Summer Games until 1924, when the first official Olympic Winter games were held in Chamonix, France. Sixteen nations and 258 athletes (of which only 11 were women) participated in 16 events. This year, VANOC anticipates that approximately 2,500 athletes will arrive in Vancouver to participate in 15 sports.

The United States will send more than 200 athletes north of the border for the games, including several familiar names.

Joining popular athlete Shaun White on the halfpipe will be snowboarder Hannah Teter. Teter’s first Olympic appearance took place in 2006 at the Torino, Italy games. There, Teter overcame a knee injury to secure the event’s gold medal. The snowboarder then decided to use her talent in a positive fashion.

Shortly after winning, Teter formed the charity foundation “Hannah’s Gold.” The organization uses proceeds from the Vermont athlete’s own winnings as well as from maple syrup sales. Teter recently visited the small Kenyan community “Hannah’s Gold” supports, where she promised to help the residents purchase land for agriculture. Vancouver will be Teter’s second appearance at the Olympics. She will participate in the Ladies Snowboarding competition which is scheduled to begin on Thursday, Feb. 18.

Fans of ABC’s hit television show “Dancing with the Stars” will recognize the name Apolo Ohno. The short track skater won the dance competition in 2007 during a break from his sport following Torino. The Seattle native has participated in every Olympic games since 2002.

Ohno has won a total of five Olympic medals, two of which were gold. In Vancouver, Ohno has four chances to skate his way onto the podium. He has qualified for the 500m, 1,000m and the 1,500m distances, as well as the 5,000m relay. Ohno has been training religiously for the games. The speed skating events begin at noon on Feb. 13 and continue through Feb. 20.

In the hype surrounding the Torino Olympics, many pinned their hopes for Alpine skiing gold on Bode Miller. Miller was expected to rule the results board in all five events in which he had qualified. In 2006, he held four separate world titles. However, the skier left Torino without a single medal. He caused some controversy when he remarked to the international media that despite his losses he “got to party and socialize at an Olympic level.” Despite taking time off from the sport to rest an injured ankle, Miller joined Team USA and is headed to the snowy mountains outside Vancouver. He had previously split with Team USA to form Team America on his own. The skier’s return to the official U.S. roster is somewhat controversial. Miller gained negative press in the past when he confessed that he had sometimes hit the slopes while intoxicated.

However, it appears that Miller is in the process of re-shaping his rebel image. The Alpine skiing events run for two weeks beginning Saturday, Feb. 13 until Feb. 27.

The Olympic games promise to be very entertaining. VANOC has estimated that over three billion people worldwide will tune in to watch the 2010 games on television. The U.S. has athletes participating in every event of the Olympic Games.