The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Athletes to watch at the 2010 Olympics

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VANCOUVER, B.C. - A look at some Canadian athletes to watch in the year leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics:

Sidney Crosby

Hockey Sid the Kid will get his first chance to win an Olympic medal. The 21-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S., is a lock to be part of the team that will try and help Canadians forget the embarrassment of the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy, where Canada failed to advance to the medal round. There were questions about why the NHL's first-overall draft pick was left off the 2006 roster. Crosby was only 14 when Canada won gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Some of his teammates from the 2005 world junior championship team, like Dion Phaneuf, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf and Mike Richards, could join him in Vancouver.

Cindy Klassen

Long-track Speedskating

Canada's most decorated Olympic athlete hopes to bring her Midas touch to Vancouver. The 29-year-old Winnipeg native won five medals in Turin, including a gold and two silver. She also won a bronze at the 2002 Salt Lake Games. Klassen decided not to compete this season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery during the summer. She will lead a strong Canadian long-track team that also includes Clara Hughes, Kristina Groves, Denny Morrison, Mike Ireland, Christine Nesbitt, Shannon Rempel and Jeremy Wotherspoon.

Erik Guay

Alpine Skiing

Guay, 27, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., is a threat in both downhill and super-giant slalom. He hopes to become the first Canadian skier to win an Olympic medal since Edi Podivinksy was third in the downhill at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. His best season was 2007 when he had five World Cup podium finishes, including a downhill victory at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Guay, who recently became a father when his fiancee gave birth to a baby girl, leads a strong ski team that also includes Jan Hudec, John Kucera, Manuel Osborne-Paradis, Emily Brydon, Kelly VanderBeek and Britt Janyk.

Jennifer Heil

Freestyle Skiing

The moguls skier made Canada's first medal in Turin a gold and has the chance to do it again next February. The four-time World Cup overall champion took 20 months off to rebuild her body, then won a silver medal in her first competition back. Born in Spruce Grove, Alta., the 25-year-old McGill University student just missed a medal at the Salt Lake Games, then sat out the 2003 season because of shin splints.

Pierre Lueders

Bobsled

Lueders is the most successful bobsled driver in Canadian history and would love to end his Olympic career with a medal on home soil. The 38-year-old Edmonton native shook off a slow start to the season by posting back-to-back two-man victories with brakeman David Bissett in St. Moritz, Switzerland, last month. He won gold in the two-man at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and silver in Turin. He also has collected eight world championship medals.

Steve Omischl

Freestyle Skiing

Omischl would love a podium result in Vancouver to wash the bitter taste of a 20th-place finish at the Turin Olympics out of his mouth. The 30-year-old North Bay, Ont., native, who now lives in Kelowna, B.C., is a three-time World Cup aerials champion. Last season he won six of nine events. Omischl failed to reach the podium in his first two starts this season but then claimed gold at a World Cup at Mont Gabriel. It was his 36th World cup medal.

Hayley Wickenheiser

Hockey

The tournament's most valuable player in Canada's last two Olympic victories, the 30-year-old from Shaunavon, Sask., scores at crucial times for the women's hockey team and creates room for her teammates by drawing defenders. She's taken on a bigger leadership role as captain following the retirement of Cassie Campbell. The five-foot-10, 170-pound Wickenheiser is currently playing in a Swedish men's pro league. Sports Illustrated voted her among its top 25 toughest athletes at No. 20 last year. Wickenheiser was one of only two women on the list.

Chandra Crawford

Cross-Country Skiing

A surprise Olympic gold medallist in the sprint at the Turin Games, it'll be difficult for the 25-year-old from Canmore, Alta., to defend her title in Whistler. This Olympic sprint is a classic-style event and not her specialty, which is skate ski. Crawford's best shot at a medal is in the relay, which is a skate-ski race, with Sara Renner as her partner. Renner and Beckie Scott took silver in the relay at Turin. Crawford is currently dealing with nagging tendinitis in her foot and has yet to race this season.

Charles Hamelin

Short-track Speedskating

The 24-year-old Hamelin is Canada's premiere short-tracker. The Montreal native is currently ranked No. 2 in the world in the 500 and third in both the 1,000 and 1,500. His rivals for gold in those distances are Koreans Lee Ho-Suk and Sung Si-Bak. Canada's short-track team is traditionally a medal-producer at the Olympics and there are high expectations for 2010.

Patrick Chan

Figure Skating

The future of Canadian figure skating would love to capture the country's first men's singles gold in Olympic history. The 18-year-old from Toronto was thrust into the skating spotlight when world champion Jeffrey Buttle retired, and appears capable of living up to the legacy left by Canada's strong male skaters. The two-time Canadian champion was ninth at the 2008 world championships last spring, then opened this season with a back-to-back Grand Prix victories in Ottawa and Paris. He went into the Grand Prix final in December ranked No. 1, but struggled with his triple Axel en route to a fifth-place finish. Canada has never won gold in Olympic men's singles. Brian Orser and Elvis Stojko won two silvers apiece, while Buttle won bronze in 2006 at Turin.

-With files from Canadian Press reporter Lori Ewing

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