2006_02_skwanout.jpgIt's the end of an Olympic era as an emotional Michelle Kwan has pulled out of the 2006 Winter Olympics because of injury. Kwan's withdrawal means that Long Island native (and sister of 2002 Gold Medal winner Sarah Hughes) Emily Hughes, will be heading to Italy as the alternate for the team. Doubting her ability to compete at 100%, Kwan said, "I respect the Olympics too much to compete and I don't feel I can be at my best.'' While some may question whether Kwan should have been there in the first place, Gothamist feels that withdrawing like this is a classy act by the two-time Olympic medalist.

The first gold medal of the games for the United States went to Chad Hedrick in the men's 5,000 meter speedskating event. Those following the Olympics are already familiar with his much-publicized story. Hedrick, a Texas native, was in Las Vegas playing blackjack and watching Derek Parra win a gold medal at the 2002 games - the two were former inline skating rivals. After that, he returned to speedskating and entered the games with the possibility of winning 5 gold medals.

In snowboarding, as expected, Shaun White blew away the competition in the halfpipe. Nicknamed "Il Pomodoro Volante" (The Flying Tomato) by the Italians because of his red hair, White won the competition on his first run in the finals where he completed consecutive 1080 grabs followed by a frontside 9 and a backside 9. In his last run, White was too tired to attempt his backside 1080. Danny Kass, the 2002 silver medal winner, finished second again.

Image from NBCOlympics.com