Five events, five golds on Thursday at Turin Games

There's no down time at the Winter Olympics on Thursday just five events on the program, and golds to be presented in all five.

At the top of the list is the free program in women's figure skating, where American Sasha Cohen has the slimmest of leads over world champion Irina Slutskaya.

Slutskaya is trying to complete a Russian clean sweep of figure skating golds her comrades already have won the men's, pairs and dance at these games.

Elsewhere Thursday, on the fourth-last day of the games, gold medals will be presented in women's curling where Switzerland plays Sweden in the final  men's aerial skiing, women's parallel giant slalom and the women's 4X6-kilometer biathlon relay.

The 21-year-old Cohen is ahead by just .03 of a point over Slutskaya and .71 over Japan's Shizuka Arakawa.

Cohen has two world championship silver medals, one behind Arakawa in 2004 and the other behind Slutskaya last year. Until Michelle Kwan wasn't healthy enough to skate in the U.S. nationals in January, Cohen had never won the American title, finishing second four times.

In 2005, Cohen was within three points of Slutskaya after the short program, but some sloppy jumps and an off-balance landing cost her. The previous season, she had shaky landings on her opening jumps in the free skate.

She said she may have learned from those disappointments.

"It's not always about being the most talented, it's about sticking it out," she said. "This sport rewards the tough people."

Anette Norberg hopes another spectacular shot will give Sweden gold on Thursday in the women's curling final. Her takeout on the final shot of the game gave her team a 5-4 win over Norway in the semifinals on Wednesday.

The Swedes advanced to the gold medal match against Switzerland, which beat Canada 7-5.

Canada and Norway will meet to determine the bronze medal.

At Cesana in the Italian Alps, Germany is hoping to defend its relay biathlon title from 2002 and also try to match the gold won by the men in the same race.

"We don't feel any pressure," coach Uwe Mussinggang said. "We have enough medals and we're in a good situation, so we don't have to feel nervous."

Germany's women have won three medals so far, two silvers by Martina Glagow, in the 15km race and the 10km pursuit, and a gold by Kati Wilhelm, in 10km pursuit.

Glagow, the only newcomer on the relay team that won the gold in Salt Lake City, will go out first Thursday, followed by Andrea Henkel and Katrin Apel with Wilhelm skiing the final leg.

"I hope to have made a good decision," Mussinggang said.

Each biathlete will shoot twice, the first time prone and the second from the more difficult standing position. They get eight .22-caliber bullets to make five targets, but if they go through the first five in their clips, they must load each bullet individually after that. For each of the black, circular targets left standing, the skier must circle a 150-meter penalty loop.

Han Xiopeng of China leads the men's aerials going into the final round. Dmitri Dashinski of Belarus is second and Canada's Warren Shouldice third.

Shouldice, ranked third in the World Cup standings, is having the best season of his career coming into the Turin Games.

"It's been a great year," Shouldice said. "We've got more jumps to land here and it will be an even better year."

Shouldice broke his neck in the summer of 2002 when he over-rotated a triple-flip off of a water ramp, a common training tool for aerialists.

The favorite in the women's parallel giant slalom is Daniela Meuli of Switzerland, the defending World Cup champion. She comes into the event having won a World Cup race at Plan de Corones, Italy, in mid-January, reports AP.


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