Team USA winter sports athletes certainly had their share of highlight-reel moments in 2013 as they prepare for the Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in February. There were top performances in everything from skiing to figure skating to curling. Some of those athletes have already been nominated to compete in Sochi (pending approval by the United States Olympic Committee) and many others will be securing spots on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team in the next few weeks.
Here’s a look at some of the highlight performances by U.S. winter sports athletes by sport this past year:
Ted Ligety had a remarkable showing at the world championships in February, winning titles in the super-G, super combined and giant slalom. In doing so, he became the first skier since Jean-Claude Killy in 1968, to win at least three world championship gold medals in alpine skiing.
Mikaela Shiffrin also shined at the world championships by claiming the world championship crown in slalom in February. Shiffrin went on to win the world cup title in slalom.
After crashing during the world championship super-G race on Feb. 5, 2013, and tearing her anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in her right knee and breaking a bone in her lower right leg, Lindsey Vonn still went on to win the downhill world cup title at the end of the season. It marked Vonn's sixth consecutive downhill title and her 17th world cup title, surpassing Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell.
In December, Ligety and fellow American Bode Miller placed 1-2 in the world cup giant slalom race in Beaver Creek, Colo., marking the first time the U.S. put two men on a giant slalom podium since 2005.
Tim Burke made U.S. biathlon team history on Valentine’s Day by earning a silver medal in the 20-kilometer individual event at the IBU World Championships in the Czech Republic. The finish marked his first world championships medal and the first for a U.S. biathlete in 26 years.
Sean Doherty made U.S. biathlon history in January when he became the first athlete to win three individual medals in a single world championships competition. He began the 2013 IBU Youth/Junior World Championships with a silver medal in the 7.5-kilometer sprint. The following day, Doherty captured a gold medal in the youth 10-kilometer pursuit with a commanding lead of 28.2 seconds. On the final day of competition, Doherty earned a silver medal in the youth 12.5-kilometer individual race.
Steven Holcomb, pilot of the 2010 Olympic gold-medal four-man team in Vancouver, reached his 50th FIBT/IBSF World Cup medal with his four-man victory Dec. 15 in Lake Placid, N.Y. Of the 50 medals, 25 of them are gold. Holcomb now enters the 2014 new year 7-for-7 in two- and four-man world cup wins this season.
Elana Meyers, a 2010 Olympic bronze medalist, earned her first world cup gold medal as a pilot (with Aja Evans) in Park City, Utah, in early December. Earlier in the year, at the FIBT World Championships in Switzerland, Meyers earned a silver medal (with Katie Eberling) and a gold medal in the mixed team event.
The U.S. men’s two-man bobsled teams made history when they swept the world cup podium in Lake Placid, N.Y., in December. Steven Holcomb/Chris Fogt, Nick Cunningham/Johnny Quinn and Cory Butner/Chuck Berkeley went 1-2-3 for the first ever U.S. men’s sweep in history. One week earlier in Park City, Utah, Elana Meyers/Aja Evans, Jamie Greubel/Lolo Jones and Jazmine Fenlator/Lauryn Williams completed a U.S. women’s sweep of the podium for only the second time in history.
In February, Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins won the team sprint in Val di Fiemme, Italy, to become the first Americans to win a world championship title in cross-country skiing.
Then in March, in her 100th world cup start, Randall clinched the world cup sprint title when she edged Norwegian world champion Marit Bjoergen at the finish line in the Lahti Ski Games in Finland.
Dan Cnossen made his first trip to the world cup podium at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Nordic Skiing World Cup in January in Cable, Wis., marking the first cross-country medal for Team USA in recent history. Then he did it again by claiming a bronze medal in the 15-kilometer event.
An All-Star cast of curlers is Sochi bound as part of Team Erika Brown. The team is made up of athletes who all have Olympic experience: Brown (1998), Debbie McCormick (1998, 2002, 2010), Allison Pottinger (2010), Ann Swisshelm (2002) and Jessica Schultz (2006). The team secured its spot in Sochi after winning the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling in Fargo, N.D., in November. Earlier in the season, Team Erika Brown won the 2013 USA Curling National Championship title in an extra end.
The U.S. men clinched the last spot for Sochi this month. The team, skipped by John Shuster, includes Jeff Isaacson, Jared Zezel, John Landsteiner and Craig Brown (Erika's younger brother). The Shuster rink won the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling in Fargo but had to earn a spot for the United States at an event in Germany to punch its ticket to Sochi.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their second world ice dancing title, beating Canada’s reigning Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in London, Ont., for the title in March. Davis and White became the first U.S. team to win two world championships in ice dancing. In December, they won their fifth consecutive ISU Grand Prix Final crown.
Ashley Wagner became the first woman since Michelle Kwan to win back-to-back titles at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Later in the year, Wagner earned a bronze medal at the ISU Grand Prix Final.
Max Aaron vaulted from an eighth-place showing at the 2012 national championships to claim the U.S. men’s title in 2013.
Gracie Gold rallied from ninth place after the short program to win the free skate at nationals and finish second overall, earning a spot on the world team. In her first trip to the world championships, she placed sixth. Her placement, combined with the fifth-place performance by Ashley Wagner, earned Team USA a third spot at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Team USA won the gold medal at the World Team Trophy event in April in Tokyo. The team, captained by Wagner, finished first, followed by Canada and Japan. A figure skating team event will make its Olympic debut in Sochi.
At the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in March in Voss, Norway, Team USA captured goldmedals in halfpipe and slopestyle skiing. David Wise won the halfpipe world title, while Tom Wallisch captured the slopestyle crown. In addition, Torin Yater-Wallace took the silver medal in the halfpipe and Nick Goepper earned a bronze medal in slopestyle. On the women’s side, Grete Eliassen earned bronze in slopestyle.
Hannah Kearney, the 2010 Olympic champion moguls skier, won the world moguls championship andearned a bronze in the dual moguls event at the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in March in Voss, Norway. On the men’s side, Patrick Deneen earned two bronze medals in that event in moguls and dual moguls.
The United States won the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in January in Ufa, Russia. Team USA defeated Sweden, 3-1, for the gold medal. Goaltender John Gibson was named the tournament MVP (1.36 goals-against average; .955 save percentage) while Rocco Grimaldi scored twice in the gold-medal game.
Team USA’s women’s hockey team beat rival Canada for the IIHF world championship gold medal in Ottawa, Ont., in April. Team USA beat Canada, 3-2, in the gold-medal game with the game-winner coming from Amanda Kessel.
The U.S. sled hockey team claimed the silver medal at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships in April in Goyang, South Korea. Canada beat the United States, 1-0, for the gold medal. Taylor Chace was named the top defenseman of the tournament.
Patrick Kane, a member of the 2010 Olympic silver-medal winning team in Vancouver, helped lead his NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup in June. Kane won the Conn Smythe Trophy, becoming only the fourth American to be named the MVP.
Erin Hamlin earned her third nomination to the U.S. Olympic Team in December after placing fifth in Whistler, British Columbia.
Chris Mazdzer, a 2010 Olympian, earned back-to-back world cup silver medals in December and was nominated to compete for Team USA in Sochi. His medal in Whister, British Columbia, marked Team USA’s first men’s world cup medal in seven years. Earlier in the year, Mazdzer finished sixth at the world championships.
Bryan Fletcher, Taylor Fletcher, Billy Demong and Todd Lodwick joined forces to capture a bronze medal at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in February in Val di Fiemme, Italy, marking the first time that U.S. Nordic combined skiers had medaled in a team relay at worlds.
In December, Todd Lodwick placed himself in the record books once again when he won the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Nordic Combined, earning himself a nomination to the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team and becoming the first American to receive six Olympic Winter Games nominations.
After a nearly-three year break from the sport, Noelle Pikus-Pace earned silver individually and gold in the team event at the world championships in January. Pikus-Pace finished her stellar 2012-13 season by earning gold at the world cup in Sochi, Russia, in February. In December, Pikus-Pace obliterated a 12-year-old track record on her home track in Park City, Utah, en route to world cup gold.
Matt Antoine earned his first career world cup gold medal in Lake Placid, N.Y., in December, continuing a breakout season. Antoine started the season with a seventh place finish in Calgary, Alberta, then earned bronze in Park City, Utah, for only his second career world cup medal, before topping the podium in Lake Placid.
U.S. teenager Sarah Hendrickson claimed the world title in women’s ski jumping in February in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Hendrickson had a 347-foot, 9-inch effort on her first jump and scored 253.7 points for the title. She became the second American woman to claim the world title as Lindsey Van won it in 2009.
Jessica Jerome became the first female ski jumper ever nominated to a U.S. Olympic Team when she won the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Ski Jumping in December, finishing two points ahead of Lindsey Van. Women's ski jumping will make its Olympic debut in Sochi.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White won his sixth consecutive superpipe title at the Winter X Games in January in Aspen, Colo.
Also in January, Arielle Gold captured the title at the FIS World Snowboarding Championships held at the Stoneham Mountain Resort in Quebec. Justin Reiter earned a silver medal at that same event in parallel slalom.
Kelly Clark had an unbelievable showing in 2013, earning two X Games gold medals, winning the Burton U.S. Open and winning a test event in Sochi.
Lindsey Jacobellis returned to the snowboardcross world cup podium for the first time in nearly two years when she won in December in Lake Louise, Alberta. It was Jacobellis’ first competition since January 2012.
Evan Strong, Heidi Jo Duce and nine other athletes were nominated to the 2013-14 U.S. Paralympics Snowboard National Team, which is the first national team in the sport.
Heather Richardson won the world sprint championship title in record-setting fashion in January in Kearns, Utah. Richardson’s win marked the first time an American woman won the title in eight years. Her overall total of 148.015 points also set a new world record.
Brittany Bowe won the 1,000-meter long track speedskating event in world-record speed, finishing in 1 minute, 12.58 seconds in November at the Utah Olympic Oval. She beat the previous record of 1:12.68 set by Canada’s Christine Nesbitt in Calgary in 2012. U.S. teammate Heather Richardson also broke the record but finished in second in 1:12.61.
J.R. Celski joined Chris Creveling, John-Henry Krueger, Jordan Malone, Jeff Simon and Eddy Alvarez to defeat Russia, South Korea and the Netherlands to win the gold medal in the 5,000-meter relay team event in November at the 2013 ISU Short Track World Cup in Kolomna, Russia. It was the third podium – and second gold medal – of the season for the relay team, giving them enough points to win the overall world cup title in that event. It was the first world cup overall 5,000-meter relay victory for Team USA in the 16-year history of the event.
This report used various news releases and reports from National Governing Bodies, the United States Olympic Committee and U.S. Paralympics to compile this report.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. A former sports reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, she has covered two Olympic Games and two Olympic Winter Games. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.