These international skiers figure to be strong contenders for Olympic glory in 2010.
Scandinavian veteran: Anja Paerson, Sweden
The reigning Olympic slalom champion, Paerson has captured medals in every one of the five disciplines except Super-G (one gold, one silver, three bronze) in two Olympic appearances. With over 40 career World Cup victories, she remains a threat in every event, although she seems to be favoring speed events of late. Vancouver will likely be the last hurrah on the Olympic stage for the 28-year-old Swede.
Slalom queen: Maria Riesch, Germany
A Paerson repeat in slalom in 2010 is not predicted because of the recent dominance in the event by Riesch on the World Cup circuit. With five consecutive slalom wins around the 2008-09 New Year, the 24-year-old German became the first skier since Paerson in 2004 to capture four or more straight World Cup wins in one discipline. The close friend of Lindsey Vonn is also capable of reaching the podium in the speed events and the super combined.
Balkan beauty: Tina Maze, Slovenia
The 26-year-old Maze grew up racing against eventual Olympic champion Janica Kostelic. Since the retirement of Kostelic in 2006, she has been the Alpine pride of southeastern Europe. The 2009 world silver medalist in giant slalom, Maze could challenge for medals in the giant slalom as well as both speed events.
Resurgent Austrian: Marlies Schild
Schild should be rounding into shape by the time the Olympics roll around after a broken left leg ruined her entire 2008-09 World Cup season. The 27-year-old fiancée of Benjamin Raich hopes to regain the same mobility that helped her to five medals (two silvers, three bronzes) in slalom and the combined at the World Championships and the Olympics.
Seeking Olympic history: Benjamin Raich, Austria
The soft-spoken Austrian, known to fans as "Benni" and the "Blitz from Pitz," became the first male skier since Alberto Tomba (1988) to win the Olympic slalom-giant slalom double in 2006, and could do "La Bomba" one better by repeating that feat in 2010. A third gold medal, in the super combined, would not be out of the question for the 2008-09 World Cup runner-up at a Whistler venue thought to benefit technical skiers more than gliders.
"Hermann" apparent: Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway
If there is a natural successor to the newly-retired Hermann Maier on the Alpine tour, in terms of popularity and skiing flair, it is Svindal. The 27-year-old Norwegian endured a spectacular crash on the Golden Eagle jump at Beaver Creek in 2007 that left him bed-ridden at a Vail hospital for two weeks with facial fractures, an injured back and ribs and a deep gash in his backside. He did not ski for five months, but made headlines when he won both the downhill and Super-G upon his return to Beaver Creek in 2008. He ended up winning his second overall World Cup title that season.
Never discount the French: Julien Lizeroux
Following the season-ending injury incurred by defending World Cup slalom champion Jean-Baptiste Grange at Beaver Creek in December, Julien Lizeroux looks like the top French medal contender at Whistler Creekside. The 2009 world silver medalist in the slalom and super combined, the popular and outspoken 30-year-old has never competed at the Olympics. French Alpine skiers have a knack of winning on the Olympic stage, however, having captured individual gold medals at the last three Games.
The Butcher is back: Didier Cuche, Switzerland
Cuche is still going strong, 12 years after making his Olympic debut. In fact, the certified butcher may be getting better with age, after winninf a gold and silver medal at the 2009 World Championships. If he is on his game, he could contend for medals in the speed events and the giant slalom. Then he will surely show off his trademark ski flip in the finish area.