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5 things to watch at the Winter Games on Wednesday

By Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 12, 2014
Sidney Crosby celebrates after scoring Canada's second goal during the men's ice hockey gold medal match against Sweden on Sunday, February 23. Most of us know the Winter Olympics through the power of television, as a spectacle in constant motion. Seeing the Games through still photography is a different experience altogether. Here's a look at the most compelling images from the word's best photographers at Sochi 2014. | <i>More photos:</i> <i><a href='http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/08/worldsport/gallery/falling-down-in-sochi/index.html'>Falling down in Sochi </a></i> Sidney Crosby celebrates after scoring Canada's second goal during the men's ice hockey gold medal match against Sweden on Sunday, February 23. Most of us know the Winter Olympics through the power of television, as a spectacle in constant motion. Seeing the Games through still photography is a different experience altogether. Here's a look at the most compelling images from the word's best photographers at Sochi 2014. | More photos: Falling down in Sochi
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mancuso means money when it comes to the most important races
  • U.S. and Canadian women set for much-anticipated meeting in ice hockey pool play
  • Torah Bright will light up the halfpipe
  • Hometown crowd goes wild for Russia's pairs skating performance

(CNN) -- An American skier and skater go for their place in U.S. Olympic lore, the men take the ice for the opening games of hockey, and Kelly Clark tries to bring back another halfpipe gold.

Women's downhill

When is one of the favorites someone who hasn't won a race in the discipline in three years? When it's one of the best big race skiers ever.

Julia Mancuso goes for a fifth Olympic medal, this time in the women's downhill. She is coming off a scintillating race in the super combined where she had the best time in the downhill segment.

No halfpipe medal for Shaun White
Bode Miller falls short in downhill
Johnny Quinn gets stuck again
Bubba Watson: Olympics are too political

So forget that she last won a downhill in the 2010-11 season. Forget that her best performance in one this season was a seventh place. Her opponents still will be watching her closely.

"The Olympics is my redemption," she said after the super combined, where she won bronze.

Who else to watch: The downhill in the super combined made predicting the podium for the downhill a little tricky. Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch is favored to make it two wins in a row at Sochi. Tina Maze of Slovena had a difficult World Cup season, but flew down the course on Monday. Anna Fenninger of Austria and Lara Gut of Switzerland should also be fast.

Men's 1,000 speed skating

Eric Heiden, that's Shani Davis knocking.

Davis skates for his fifth medal in the men's long-track 1,000 meters, a prize that would tie him with the most famous American speed skater of all time -- and with Chad Hedrick.

Now, no one is comparing Davis' achievements to the five gold medals Heiden won in 1980 at Lake Placid -- in just nine days. (And he skated outside! Outside!)

Still, if Davis wins, it'll be the third consecutive time he has won the gold in the event, something no male American Winter Olympian has done.

Who else to watch: Michel Mulder won the 500 meters and is also chasing Heiden, who is the only man to win the 500 and 1,000 in the same Olympics. Mo Tae-bum of South Korea was the silver medalist in Vancouver and won a World Cup race this season.

Ice hockey

It's rare that a women's pool-play game gets much notice, but the two most dominant teams in the world play Tuesday when Canada and the United States go at it.

The two teams respect each other off the ice, says Bleacher Report, but games between the two can be physical and contentious.

They have even come to blows, something pretty rare in international hockey.

Both teams will make the medal round but the game still means a lot to the players. It's like Duke playing North Carolina in basketball (which also happens Wednesday, weather permitting), the Yankees playing the Red Sox or Coke taking on Pepsi.

The men's tournament begins Wednesday with the Swedes, one of the medal favorites, meeting the Czech Republic.

It's a tough matchup for the Swedes right off the bat, and the winner will likely win Group C. The good news is they have Henrik Lundqvist, one of the top goalies in the NHL. The bad news is they will skate without Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen.

Women's halfpipe

If we asked you which snowboarder had won the most events in a career, then you might guess Shaun White, or you might be tipped off by the header for this section and go with Kelly Clark.

Well done.

She's been a champ 70 times but only once won Olympic gold (2002).

She says she riding the best she has in four years.

"I had a great X Games in Aspen last month, and I'm right where I want to be," she said Sunday.

In her way is Australia's Torah Bright. Oh, Torah Bright. Swoooon.

Bright won the hearts of many Olympic viewers in 2010 with her second-run triumph in Vancouver, where she edged Clark.

Who else to watch: Hannah Teter of the United States, who won in 2006 and was fourth four years ago.

Pairs figure skating

It seems like a good bet that Russia will be back on top of the medal podium.

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov had the highest marks ever in the short program and go into Wednesday's free program with a significant lead over Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany.

The crowd went crazy for the home team's performance, cheering and chanting along as the Russians skated.

"The crowd was incredible," Trankov said. "It's very special. We are so happy to have such a moment and this amazing competition in our lives."

Who else to watch: All the teams. Pairs skating is one of the most beautiful events of the Olympic Games and five teams are within five points in the race for the bronze.

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