Winter up: Follow these 15 U.S. medal hopefuls

02/06/2014 5:46 PM

11/12/2014 3:51 PM

Ashley Wagner

Wagner narrowly missed going to Vancouver in 2010 and now, at age 22, she’s earned the third spot on the U.S. women’s figure skating team. But her selection came with controversy. The two-time national champion finished a distant fourth — falling twice and failing to cleanly land two other triple jumps — in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but federation officials looked beyond one bad skate and bumped Mirai Nagasu because of Wagner’s impressive résumé. She joins 18-year-old Gracie Gold and 15-year-old Polina Edwards on the team.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White

Partners on the ice since they were 9, Davis, 26, and White, 25, are the best and probably only hope for U.S. gold in figure skating, and are favored to win the first U.S. gold in ice dancing. They won world titles in 2011 and 2013, and have earned respect for a discipline that used to be mocked as all style, no substance. Davis and White share a coach with and train near Detroit alongside Canadian rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, gold medalists in 2010. Davis and White will skate their long program to Scheherazade by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

Steven Holcomb

Holcomb is pilot of the “Night Train” bobsled that broke the 62-year U.S. Olympic winless streak with a dramatic gold-medal performance at the 2010 Vancouver Games. He’s aiming for double gold in Sochi, in two-man and four-man. Holcomb’s driving savvy should serve him well on Sochi’s curvy, technical track — it’s even got two uphill sections — that is in sharp contrast to the speed layout of Whistler, but the Russians will log a substantial training-time advantage.

Ted Ligety

The world’s best giant slalom skier looks forward to competing on Sochi’s moderately steep but lengthy course. Ligety, 2006 Olympic champ in combined, has won four of the past six season titles in GS. He’s known for his powerful, sharply angled turns and for his nickname-sake company, Shred, maker of helmets, goggles and outerwear. His chief rival is Austrian Marcel Hirscher, and never count out Bode Miller.

Bode Miller

At age 36, Miller says he’s feeling his age as he heads into his fifth Winter Olympics with the U.S. Ski Team. And he’s coming back from knee surgery that cost him the 2013 World Cup season. Still, he has quite the résumé as one of the most successful Alpine skiers in U.S. history: five Olympic medals (including his first gold in the super combined, a silver in the Super-G and a bronze in the downhill at Vancouver), 33 World Cup victories and two World Cup titles. He has extra motivation, though. He says this will be his last Winter Olympics.

Julia Mancuso

With Lindsey Vonn’s injured knee keeping her out of Sochi, Mancuso is expected to fill the medal void on the slopes. The 29-year-old has the Olympic credentials: gold medalist in the giant slalom at Torino in 2006 (she wore a tiara to the podium) and a pair of silver medals in the downhill and combined in Vancouver in 2010 (same number as Vonn). This will be her fourth Olympics — she competed in the combined at Salt Lake City.

Kikkan Randall

If you think cross country skiing is dominated by Norwegians, watch out for this Alaskan. In her fourth Games, Randall, 31, could become the first U.S. woman and the first American to win an Olympic medal in the sport since Bill Koch brought home silver in 1976. Randall has steadily moved up the ranks since finishing 60th in 2002 and placed sixth in the team sprint with Caitlin Compton four years ago — the best finish ever by U.S. women.

Shaun White

The snowboard acrobat, a two-time gold medalist in halfpipe, has dropped out of slopestyle snowboarding, a new event in the Winter Games. That means White will go for only one gold in Sochi as he tries to become the first American man to win an event at three Winter Olympics. Everyone is talking about the latest twist to his halfpipe routine — a frontside double-cork 1440 that adds an extra half revolution to the two flips of the Double McTwist 1260 he performed in 2010. White perfected his newest trick on a secluded halfpipe in Perisher, Australia. He’s been managing an ankle injury this season, yet so far none of his competitors has unveiled tricks even close to White’s in terms of difficulty.

Tom Wallisch

Wallisch is a fan favorite in the sport of freestyle skiing, specializing in the slopestyle discipline where he’s known for his innovative rail routines. The X Games, Dew Tour and world champion combines artistry and athletic skill. Wallisch, a Pittsburgh native, is eager to introduce Olympic viewers to his spinning, flipping, slipping and grabbing tricks.

Jessica Jerome

Jerome became the first athlete selected to the first U.S. Olympic women’s ski jumping team for the sport’s first appearance at the Olympics. After a 10-year battle with Olympic authorities that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, women will get to fly like the men have been flying since 1924. Jerome started jumping in second grade and was a fore-jumper — they test the jumps each day before competition — at the Salt Lake City Games. Her personal record is 138 meters. She’ll join 29 women on the Olympic hill Tuesday.

Shani Davis

Davis, 31, is skating for a golden three-peat in Sochi. The U.S. long-track speedskating star took the gold medal in Torino in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010 and is trying to be the first male speedskater to win the 1,000-meter event in three consecutive Winter Games. He’s also a top contender in the 1,500, in which he claimed silver in Torino and Vancouver.

Tucker Fredricks

Long-track speedskater Fredricks, 29, is taking one more shot at an Olympic podium spot after disappointing finishes of 24th in 2006 and 12th in 2010. The former World Cup champion has been dealing with back pain, and contemplated retirement after a mediocre 2013 season. But the Janesville, Wis., native, encouraged by his wife, who is a former speedskater from Japan, and Japanese rival Joji Kato, will go for the Olympic medal in the 500 meters that has eluded him.

J.R. Celski

Celski takes up Apolo Anton Ohno’s mantle as the top U.S. hope for medals in short-track speedskating. Ohno, 31, retired from competition as an eight-time Olympic medalist and will be in the NBC broadcast booth at the short-track rink. This is the second Olympic bid for Celski, 23. He won two bronze medals (1,500 and 5,000 relay) in Vancouver, and he’s qualified to compete in the 100-, 500- and 1,500-meter events at Sochi.

Julie Chu

Chu, oldest member of the ice hockey team, will make her fourth trip to the Olympics with the goal of beating archrival Canada for the gold medal. The U.S. won the inaugural Olympic women’s hockey tournament in 1998, but Canada has won each gold since. Chu, 31, a former Harvard forward who has played for the Montreal Stars of the Canadian women’s league, is one of 11 returning Olympians that beat Canada at the 2013 world championships in Ottawa. Two of the pre-Sochi U.S.-Canada games have ended in brawls.

— Linda Robertson (The Miami Herald) and Celeste Williams

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