Finally, the much talked about Sochi Olympics are upon us. Though much of the talk thus far has revolved around the politics surrounding the games, now the focus shifts to what the Olympics were originally about—the world’s best athletes in competition at the highest level, with country pride on the line.
As usual the United States is sending a truckload of Olympians (new record of 230 to be exact) to Russia to make our country proud.
Though there will be no Lindsey Vonn (injured) on the slopes or Apolo Ohno (retired) on the ice, there are plenty of exciting American athletes to watch.
Here are 10 American athletes, in no particular order, that should be in the spotlight:
10. Bode Miller, Alpine Skiing—Miller was already a must-see athlete at previous Olympics and Sochi will mark the fifth Olympic Games for the 36-year-old. Currently Bode owns a U.S.-record five Olympic alpine medals, including a gold in the super combined at the Vancouver Games in 2010. Though his age would seem to slow him down a bit, Miller is reportedly 20 pounds lighter than he was four years ago.
9. Lolo Jones, Women’s Bobsled—With Jones’s appearance in the Sochi Games, she becomes just the 10th athlete (her bobsled teammate Lauryn Williams is the 9th) to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games. Previously, the track and field star went to both Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012 but came away empty-handed after competing in the hurdles. Currently she’s one of three brakemen on the women’s team.
8. Steve Holcomb, Men’s Bobsled—On the men’s side of the bobsled, Holcomb and his team come to Sochi with high expectations. Holcomb’s squad (he’s the driver) won gold at the Vancouver Games—the first time the U.S. men had won the four-man event since 1952. Holcomb, also the driver on the two-man team, is looking for the Americans’ first gold in that event since 1936.
7. Eliza Outtrim, Freestyle Skiing—The 28-year-old Outtrim, who hails from Hamen, Conn., specializes in the moguls and dual moguls where she has 11 top-5 finishes in World Cup action, including five podium finishes. She’s also a 13-time finisher in NorAm competitions—including 7 golds.
6. Ted Ligety, Alpine Skiing—Though teammate Bode Miller may be the better on the slopes, Ligety may be the one to come home with more hardware. The 29-year-old is making his third appearance at the Winter Games, and though he was shut out four years ago, he took gold in the alpine event in 2006. More recently, Ligety took home three golds in the World Championships last year.
5. Gracie Gold, Women’s Figure Skating—Gold is making her Olympic debut and if she lives up to her name, she’ll be the first American woman to bring home the top prize since Sarah Hughes in 2002. The 18-year-old has been a fast riser this season, having won the national championships in January. Still at this point, Team USA would settle for any medal in this event after being shut out in 2010.
4. Patrick Kane, Men’s Hockey—Kane, who plays right wing for the Chicago Blackhawks, has won a pair of Stanley Cup titles in his six-plus seasons in the NHL. The three-time All-Star finished fifth in goals last season with 23 and is currently seventh with 27 this year. Though Team USA’s famous gold in the 1980 Games may never be topped as far as upsets are concerned, it would be quite an accomplishment if Kane led the hockey team to its first gold since.
3. Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing—No Vonn, no problem. Though Vonn is the bigger star, Shiffrin looks like the next one, with her signature event being the slalom. The 18-year-old is currently the reigning world champion in the slalom, but is considered a medal contender in the giant slalom as well. The 2012 World Cup Rookie of the Year also won last year’s World Cup title in the slalom. Still somewhat unknown around the world, these Sochi Games could be her coming-out party.
2. Shaun White, Snowboard—White is probably the biggest U.S. name left and he’s down to one event—the halfpipe, which he has dominated. White is the two-time defending champion in the event and until someone else proves they can beat him, he’s still the favorite. He’s also one of the most decorated on the slopes with eight Winter X Game titles in the superpipe and another five in the slopestyle.
1. Shani Davis, Speed Skating—The 31-year-old Davis enters these games the same as Shaun White—as the reigning two-time champion. Davis’s event is the 1,000 meter race and should he win it again, he’d be the first American to win three golds in the same event. History is not on his side though, as no one before him had ever even repeated as champion in the 1,000 meter race. Three would be amazing.