Going for Gold!

Meet eight leading female figure skaters, including Americans Sasha Cohen, Emily Hughes and Kimmie Meissner, as they compete for Olympic glory. By Caryn Midler

01 of 08

SASHA COHEN

SASHA COHEN
Patrik Giardino

Country: USA
Age: 21
Where she ranks: No. 1 in the U.S.; No. 2 in the world
Why we'll watch: She's got the look. The 95-lb. California native helped design her Gypsy-style outfit for her short program and a gold number for the long. "I want a dress that makes me feel special and absolutely gorgeous," says Cohen. Snowboarder Shaun White already has his eye on her. "I'm hoping Sasha Cohen digs gold medalists," he told NBC.

02 of 08

IRINA SLUTSKAYA

IRINA SLUTSKAYA
Oleg Naumov/ITAR-TASS/Landov; Koji Sasahara/AP

Country: Russia
Age: 27
Where she ranks: No. 1 in the world
Why we'll watch: A dramatic comeback. The top contender, who suffers from a heart condition, was sidelined in the 2003-04 season; lately, she's been caring for mom Natalya, who's awaiting a kidney transplant. Nobody "had to come back so many times and through so many hard moments like I did," she said last year. If she wins, Slutskaya, will be the oldest ladies' champ since 1908.

03 of 08

EMILY HUGHES

EMILY HUGHES
Paul Hawthorne/Getty; Amy Sancetta/AP

Country: USA
Age: 17
Where she ranks: No. 3 in the U.S.
Why we'll watch: In a storybook twist. New York native Hughes got called to duty after medalist Michelle Kwan dropped out of the games – but she had the foresight to stay in shape between taking the SATs. "She's been killing herself," says sister Sarah, who won the gold in 2002. "So she's prepared."

04 of 08

CAROLINA KOSTNER

CAROLINA KOSTNER
DANIEL DAL ZENNARO/EPA/Landov; MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty

Country: Italy
Age: 19
Where she ranks: No. 3 in the world
Why we'll watch: Ice in the veins. Mom Patrizia was a nationally ranked skater who was coached by Kostner's grandmother; pop Erwin is a former Olympic hockey player; and cousin Isolde was one of Italy's greatest Alpine skiers. Plus, Kostner has heart: She'll auction off her Roberto Cavalli-designed costume for charity.

05 of 08

SHIZUKA ARAKAWA

SHIZUKA ARAKAWA
Landov

Country: Japan
Age: 24
Where she ranks: No. 9 in the world
Why we'll watch: Grace under pressure. The 5'6" skater – who, at 5, just "wanted to wear the pretty costumes" – became Japan's first world champ in a decade when she bested Sasha Cohen in '04. But her real moment in the sun: making her Olympic debut in '98 in front of the Emperor and Empress of Japan (she came in 13th).

06 of 08

JOANNIE ROCHETTE

JOANNIE ROCHETTE
Paul Chiasson/AP; Guang Niu/Getty

Country: Canada
Age: 20
Where she ranks: No. 11 in the world
Why we'll watch: It's personal. The Quebec native is dedicating her routine to her resilient mom, who suffered through the death of her first child, a son, before Joannie was born. Her long program song choice is "L'Hymne à l'amour" ("Hymn to love"). "For all (my parents have) done ... I feel that I HAVE to skate to this," Joannie says in her online journal.

07 of 08

FUMIE SUGURI

FUMIE SUGURI
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty; Paul Chiasson/AP

Country: Japan
Age: 25
Where she ranks: No. 5 in the world
Why we'll watch: She brings the drama. "She is an actress," '92 silver medalist Midori Ito has said of Suguri, the oldest on Japan's powerhouse team of skaters. "Her performance draws us into her world." And it's an emotional one: Suguri recently burst into tears after her solid program at the Japanese championships secured her fifth national title.

08 of 08

KIMMIE MEISSNER

KIMMIE MEISSNER
Rick Bowmer/AP; Carlo Allegri/Getty

Country: USA
Age: 17
Where she ranks: No. 2 in the U.S.
Why we'll watch: It's her first time. Meissner, a Maryland native, will make her Olympic debut in Turin and, despite a few butterflies, says she's "excited and ready to go." The youngest of four (and the only daughter), Meissner first hit the ice at age 6 and has never looked back. "I can't see myself doing anything other than skating."

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