TORINO, Italy – The Hughes family is on another Olympic vacation.
Four years ago, it was Salt Lake City with daughter Sarah Hughes — who made the trip worthwhile with a stunning gold-medal victory. This February, it's Torino with younger daughter Emily Hughes — who wound up packing at the last minute after an achy Michelle Kwan pulled out of the games.
Could it be a case of deja Hughes?
Probably not. But the Long Island teen, whose elder sibling is in Torino for support, makes her Olympic debut Tuesday. She'll follow America's dysfunctional Olympic family, the men's speedskating team, where the backbiting and backstabbing are right up front.
The bad blood flows between a pair of gold medalists, U.S. skaters Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick. Davis' decision to skip one event may have cost Hedrick a gold medal, and the former inline skater from Texas wasn't pleased.
The pair go head-to-head in the men's 1,500 meters, which shapes up as one of the premier races in Torino. The feuding teammates will be joined by a third American: Joey Cheek, who rose above the bickering by:
• Winning a gold and a silver of his own.
• Donating his $40,000 in USOC prize money to a charity benefiting children in war-torn areas.
The combination — call it sweet and sour skaters — is the main course on NBC's prime-time Olympic coverage Tuesday. The 8 p.m.-11:30 p.m. EST program will also include Vonetta Flowers' long-shot hope of repeating as gold medalist in the women's bobsled, along with the preliminaries of the women's aerials skiing competition.
The NBC hour-long afternoon show, beginning at 4 p.m., focuses on the gold medal in the Nordic combined. And there's plenty of live coverage of men's hockey as the preliminary round wraps up with the U.S. men playing Russia live at 2 p.m. on the USA network and Universal HD.
Emily Hughes sat in the rafters at Utah's Delta Center four years ago, cheering her sister to victory. Now Sarah will return the favor at the women's figure skating, always an Olympic must-see.
Their results are unlikely to coincide, as 17-year-old Emily enters the competition with little real chance as the third and last skater on the U.S. team. Her teammate Sasha Cohen, along with Russian world champion Irina Slutskaya, are among the favorites.
Another newcomer, 16-year-old Kimmie Meissner, rounds out the American team. Italian Carolina Kostner will enjoy the backing of the home crowd.
"I'm going to go out and skate my best," Hughes said. "Whatever happens, happens."
The best of the best from the U.S. speedskaters are all going in the 1,500 — the three American gold medalists from Torino. Cheeks won the 500, Davis won the 1,000 and Hedrick won the 5,000. The race that prompted the ill will was one where only Hedrick participated: a new three-man competition called the pursuit.
Davis sat out the race, focusing instead on winning the 1,000. The decision incensed Hedrick, particularly when the team with Davis' replacement failed to get out of the preliminary heats.
Davis' gold medal made him the first black athlete to win an individual gold in the Winter Olympics, yet Hedrick was unimpressed. "Shani skated fast today," said Hedrick, who didn't bother to offer congratulations to Davis.
This is an event where both Hedrick and Davis are among the world's elite. Davis held the world record until Hedrick broke it a few months ago.
The American hockey team is riding a two-game losing streak into Tuesday's matchup with the 3-1-0 Russians, but it likely won't keep the U.S. out of the medal round. Only a U.S. loss, coupled with a Latvian win by double-digit goals, would submarine the squad of NHL stars.
On the bobsled run, defending Olympic champion Flowers and partner Jean Prahm were mired in ninth place after Monday's first two runs. America's best hopes for a women's bobsled medal now rest with Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming, who finished the day in third place — just .01 seconds off a silver.
The final two runs are Tuesday.
The freestyle women's aerials competition finally gets underway after a delay caused by heavy snow. Emily Cook is considered the best U.S. hope in the event, four years after she missed the Salt Lake City games when a bad landing left her with broken bones and torn ligaments in both feet.
Teammate Jana Lindsay joins Cook in the aerials, where a dozen skiers will qualify for the medals round.
For hockey nuts, MSNBC is providing 11 hours of live coverage of the Olympic men. The puck drops first at 5:30 a.m. for Latvia-Kazakhstan, and wraps up at 4:30 p.m. with Canada and the Czech Republic.