Every four years the Winter Games come around, bringing us ice rinks, slopes, jumps, tracks and, of course, the proud athletes who amaze and delight us by performing on them. As the 2014 edition begins later this week, here are a bunch of Yanks and a few internationals to check out…
Shaun White, USA, Snowboarding
It’s been a long time since White wasn’t the star of the Winter Games. He’s worth a reported $20 million, has a formidable collection of Olympic and X-Games gold medals and has garnered 10 ESPY awards. At Sochi, he’ll be competing in Slopestyle (an X-Games staple new to the Olympics) along with Halfpipe, in which he will attempt to three-peat. No pressure or anything…
UPDATE: After sustaining a wrist injury in training, White has announced that he will not, in fact, be competing in Slopestyle. Watch for him in Halfpipe on Tuesday.
Shani Davis, USA, Speed Skating
With Apollo Ohno’s retirement, Shani Davis becomes the USA’s main man in speed skating. He made an impressive showing in Vancouver, taking home gold and silver medals, and he currently holds three world records. Also, he’s allegedly the inspiration for Frozone, a superhero with ice powers from the animated movie The Incredibles. Pretty damn cool.
Nikita Kriukob, Russia, Cross Country Skiing
If there’s one guy to watch for in XC, it’s 28-year-old Kriukob. He took home the Gold in Vancouver and has medaled a total of 21 times across the Olympic Games, World Cup and other competitions. Plus he’s got home snow advantage, right?
Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, Skiing
Svindal failed to medal at the 2006 Games but rebounded to claim three golds in Vancouver. If there were a medal for Most Improved, he would have won that too. Sochi will show whether he’s got staying power.
Alex Gough, Canada, Luge
Gough, 26, has been competing since she was 14, including the past two Winter Olympics. Though she failed to medal at either of them, she has medaled at the FIL Luge World Championships at least once a year for the last three years, making her a serious contender in Russia. Bonus: she has a badass lip piercing.
Lolo Jones, USA, Bobsled
Though she has an impressive track record (literally) as a hurdler, Jones has made big news by shifting sports. She won gold in the mixed team event at the St. Moritz FIBT World Championships in 2013 and was chosen for the U.S. bobsledding team just weeks ago. Now, can she remedy Olympic heartbreak in Sochi? Run Lolo run.
Todd Lodwick, USA, Nordic Combined
At age 37, with a career spanning more than two decades, Lodwick becomes the first six-time U.S. Winter Olympians. After picking up a team silver in Vancouver and winning the 2014 trials, the old fella appears primed for his first individual Olympic medal.
Ashley Wagner, Figure Skating, USA
Despite falling down and finishing 4th at the 2014 U.S. Championships, 22-year-old Wagner is going to the Olympic Games. And that means controversy; 3rd place finisher Mirai Nagasu has been relegated to alternate. That means its up to Wagner to justify her selection by bringing home some shiny hardware.
Sarah Hendrickson, Ski Jump, USA
She sustained a painful knee ligament injury just four months ago, but this young skier is determined to compete, as this is the first time the Women’s Ski Jump is part of the program. The event and this prodigious 19-year-old are definitely worth a watch.
USA Hockey Team
To win, the USA must overcome strong historical rivals like the Soviet Union and Canada. The New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and, yes, Toronto Maple Leafs are strongly represented on the 2014 roster, and you can bet they’ll be fighting for every inch of ice. Do you believe in miracles?