Road To The Olympic Games

Great Olympic performances

Canada's Cindy Klassen, Michael Greis of Germany and Italian Enrico Fabris were just some of the Olympians who carved out a place in Olympic history.

As in all past Olympics, a unique group of athletes left their mark on the Torino Games with memorable performances. From charismatic personalities to virtual unknowns, these competitors were able to persevere through the pressure of the Olympics and compete at the highest level.

Names like Canada's Cindy Klassen, Michael Greis of Germany and Italian Enrico Fabris were just some of the Olympians who carved out a place in Olympic history well beyond their athletic careers.

With these great athletes in mind, CBC Sport Online takes a look at the 10 best performers of the 2006 Torino Olympics.

Cindy Klassen - Canada, speed skating

Heading into the Torino Olympics, Klassen didn't pledge to bring home multiple medals but not even the optimistic officials with the Canadian Olympic Committee could envision how this 26-year-old Winnipegger would re-write the history books.

Klassen didn't just break the stereotype of a highly regarded Canadian athlete faltering during the biggest stage – she smashed it.

Klassen won a record five medals and became Canada's most decorated Olympian with six career medals.

She won gold in the 1,500 metres, silvers in the 1,000 and in the newly formed team pursuit and bronze medals in the 3,000 and 5,000 events.

Klassen's first Olympic medal came in the 3,000 at the 2002 Salt Lake Games where she won a bronze.

While she was impressive in all five of her events, the 1,500 competition set her apart.

Paired with defending Olympic champion Anni Friesinger, Klassen blew by her German opponent and won the gold medal by more than a second over teammate Kristina Groves, who took silver.

Klassen wasn't just Canada's most decorated Olympian ever, she became the most successful athlete of the Torino Games, all the while smiling and giggling.

No other Canadian can lay claim to such a feat.

Related: Klassen: Five in a fortnight

Michael Greis - Germany, biathlon

These Games were believed to be the crowning achievement for biathlon legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen.

The Norwegian won the sprint event at the 1998 Nagano Games and, four years later, put on an unforgettable show at the Salt Lake Games.

In a span of nine days, he captured all four biathlon gold medals. In Turin, Bjoernadelen was attempting to surpass countryman Bjorn Daehlie, who won eight gold medals during his legendary cross-country career.

Instead, Greis stole the show and won three gold medals in the 15-km mass start, the 20-km individual and one in the team relay.

It's not like Greis was unknown, but with Bjoerndalen's chase for history and the re-emergence of France's Raphael Poiree, the German wasn't thought of as a real threat.

However, Greis, who ranks fourth in the World Cup standings this season, used a deft shooter's touch along with powerful skiing to overmatch Bjoerndalen and the rest of the competition.

His performance in Turin left Greis emotionally spent and admitted to feelings of disbelief immediately after winning his third gold medal.

Related: Greis great in third biathlon win

Canadian women's hockey team

The Canadian women's hockey team was so dominant that players were criticized for running up the score during the Olympic tournament.

Canada out-scored its first three opponents, Italy, Russia and Sweden, by a whopping margin of 36-1.

The Canadian women then rolled over Finland 6-0 in the semifinal game and were expecting to see their American nemesis in the final. However, led by the heroics of goaltender Kim Martin, Sweden shocked the U.S. in its semifinal matchup.

There would be no miracle win for Sweden in the gold-medal game. Canada thoroughly out-played the Swedes en route to a 4-1 win and a second consecutive Olympic gold medal.

Canada didn't even allow an even-strength goal during the tournament.

While Sweden may have emerged from Turin with legitimate gold-medal aspirations for 2010, Canada remains on top of the hockey mountain.

Related: Canada's golden girls

Enrico Fabris - Italy, speed skating

His bronze medal in the 5,000 metres alone would've placed Fabris among the Italian greats. However, Fabris's star went far beyond a third place finish.

The 24-year-old won a gold medal as part the Italian pursuit team but it was his win in the 1,500 that put him in the same league with alpine skiing legend Alberto Tomba and mountain biker Paola Pezzo.

The 1,500 was billed as a battle between American Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis. The two fiercely competitive teammates sparred prior to the event because of Davis's refusal to participate in the team pursuit, in which the U.S. finished a disappointing sixth.

But unlike his American opponents, Fabris paced himself for the first 500 metres of the race and looked more energetic as he crossed the finish to the delight of the Italian crowd.

Davis and Hedrick blazed through the first portion of their race but struggled at the end.

His remarkable run on the oval gave his loyal fans waving the green, white and red, a reason to rejoice and Fabris, the moniker of king.

Related: Italian ice king Enrico Fabris

Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske - Germany, bobsleigh

Lange and brakeman Kuske heard the talk but were unfazed.

Prior to the Torino Olympics, a German newspaper reported that the team had gained an unfair advantage by using illegal treated runners, which made the sled quicker.

As if Lange needed more motivation to prove he's the best driver in the world, the German became only the fifth pilot to ever win gold in the two- and four-man event at the same Winter Games.

But to really understand Lange's driving brilliance, one should look no further than the second heat of the two-man competition.

Already in first place following a terrific first run, disaster almost struck Germany 1 when Kuske, regarded as one of the best brakeman in the world, slipped while attempting to get into the sled at the push start. Fortunately for the Germans, Kuske was able regain control but it was Lange's flawless driving that allowed the team remain on top.

Even Canada's Pierre Lueders paid tribute to Lange and said he had no problems settling for a silver medal in that race.

Ahn Hyun-soo and Jin Sun-yu - South Korea, short track

South Korean short-track skaters delivered legandary performances at the Torino Olympics.

The top-ranked male skater in the world, South Korea's Ahn Hyun-Soo, took home three gold medals. He won the men's 1,000 metres in Olympic-record time, claimed gold again in the 1,500 and another as a member of the men's relay team. He was followed closely by compatriot Lee Ho-Suk who took silver in the 1,000 and 1,500.

On the women's side, Jin Sun-Yu also reeled in three short-track gold medals from the Torino Olympics. She won gold in the 1,000, 1,500 and another as a member of the women's relay team. Her teammate Choi Eun-Kyung was a silver medallist in the 1,500 and she too skated to gold for the relay team.

The only Olympic event the South Korean's didn't dominate was the men's and women's 500.

Related: Koreans dominate short-track events

Felix Gottwald - Austria, Nordic Combined

Austrian Felix Gottwald took home three medals from all three nordic combined disciplines. That's a definite upgrade on his double bronze medals from the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

Gottwald won the nordic combined 7.5-kilometre sprint competition and took a silver medal in the individual normal hill event at the Torino Olympics.

If that wasn't enough, he was also member of Austria's gold-medal team in the large hill team event.

While the Torino Games were a source of frustration for Finnish star Hannu Manninen, who dominated the World Cup circuit, Gottwald cashed in.

Related; Austria's Gottwald skis to gold

Austrian alpine skiers

The only alpine event of the Torino Olympics in which Austria failed to win a medal was the women's giant slalom.

On the slope in Sestriere, Italy, it was the first time a country swept the medals in an Olympic men's slalom race, and the fifth time there had been a sweep of any alpine skiing event. Austria has three of those sweeps.

Three Austrians filled the podium in the men's slalom event. Benjamin Raich won gold, Reinfried Herbst took silver, while Rainer Schoenfelder captured bronze.

Those three medals brought Austria's alpine medal count at the Torino Olympics to 14, the most any country has won in a single Winter Games.

Related: Austrians sweep slalom

Team Gushue - Canada, Curling

Team Gushue brought home Canada's first-ever Olympic gold medal in men's curling.

Brad Gushue, the 25-year-old skip and his St. John's-based rink of third Mark Nichols, second Russ Howard and lead Jamie Korab curled brilliantly to a 10-4 win over Finland in eight ends during the gold medal game in Pinerolo, Italy.

It was a golden day for Canada and an especially triumphant day for their Newfoundland supporters.

School kids were even given the afternoon off by Newfoundland and Labrador Education Minister Joan Burke. She called Friday's match a historic moment for Newfoundland and Labrador. Offices closed early across the province and a massive crowd of fans gathered at Mile One Stadium in St. John's to watch the final.

Their cheers resonated all the way to Torino and team Gushue delivered.

Related: Gushue wins curling gold

Thomas Morgenstern - Austria, Ski Jumping

Ski jumper Thomas Morgenstern has emerged as the star of Austria's team at the Torino Olympics. His teammate, alpine skiing sensation Hermann Maier stepped aside.

Maier was one of the pre-Torino favourites to win the giant slalom, but the legendary 'Herminator' was unable to bring home a gold medal for Austria and had to settle for the bronze.

In his Olympic debut, Morgenstern, 19, showed all the poise and maturity of an Olympic veteran by stunning a field that included defending world champion Janne Ahonen of Finland to lead an Austrian 1-2 finish in the Olympic K120 large hill competition.

Morgenstern's win turned heads as the young Austrian ranks sixth in the World Cup standings and hadn't won on the circuit this season.

Related: Austria's new Olympic star: Thomas Morgenstern