With 100 days and counting until the start of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, here are some of the top storylines to keep track of for Team USA and its athletes.
From the mountains to the halfpipe to the ice rinks, U.S. athletes will be competing in everything from sports with decades of history to sports that are just beginning to make history of their own. There will be athletes seeking to earn their first trip to the medal podium and athletes who are hoping to return there. There are the athletes who have become household names and several others who will become them.
We don’t have a crystal ball to know what will happen in Russia this February, but we do have a pretty good idea of what to watch for when the cauldron is lit and the Olympic Winter Games officially begin Feb. 6 in Sochi.100
Will Team USA earn its first Olympic medal in biathlon in Sochi? If Tim Burke has anything to say about it, history will be changed in Russia in February. A two-time Olympian, Burke captured the first world championship medal won by a U.S. biathlete in 26 years when he earned a silver medal in the men’s 20-kilometer individual race at the 2013 IBU World Championships.
Will Susan Dunklee become the second Olympian in her family? Dunklee, a biathlete, posted three top-15 world cup finishes during the 2012-13 season, making her one of three U.S. biathletes to meet the criteria for nomination to the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. Should she compete in Sochi, she will join her father, Stan, as Dunklee-family Olympians. Stan Dunklee competed in cross-country skiing at the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games.
Back in 1998, women’s ice hockey was introduced to the Olympic Winter Games, and Team USA made a dramatic showing by winning the first Olympic gold medal in those Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. But Team USA has not struck gold again in the sport on the Olympic stage since. Archrival Canada has won the last three Olympic gold medals. Can Team USA end Canada’s winning streak and return to the top spot on the podium?
Will Amanda and Phil Kessel both make the U.S. Olympic Team in ice hockey? Phil, a forward for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, has already made one trip to the Olympic Winter Games in 2010 when he was part of the U.S. team that earned a silver medal. Amanda, meanwhile, is hoping to make her Olympic debut in Sochi. Amanda Kessel led the University of Minnesota to an undefeated season and the NCAA title in 2013, and she was honored with the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top player in the nation. Should both Kessels make the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team they would be the first brother-sister combo to compete in the same Winter Games for Team USA in ice hockey.
Speaking of siblings in hockey, will a set of sisters make a return appearance to the Winter Games? Twin sisters Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureaux represented Team USA at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games and came home with silver medals. Perhaps this time in Sochi, they will return with a pair of gold medals.
For the first time, the U.S. women’s ice hockey team will be coached by … a woman. Team USA coach Katey Stone has coached 19 seasons at Harvard and is the all-time wins leader in women’s college hockey with 402 victories. Stone guided Team USA to the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship in Ottawa, Ont.
Can an American luge athlete reach the medal podium at the Olympic Winter Games for the first time since 2002? No U.S. luge athlete earned a medal at either the 2006 or 2010 Olympic Winter Games. But there is a talented crew of sliders hoping to change things in Sochi. Among the top athletes to watch on the men’s side are Chris Mazdzer, who placed 13th in Vancouver, Taylor Morris, Aidan Kelly, Joe Mortensen and Tucker West. Women to watch are 2009 world champion Erin Hamlin, Julia Clukey, who earned a silver medal on the world cup last season, Emily Sweeney and Kate Hansen.
And this year there’s a new medal sport in luge — a team relay. The U.S. relay will be composed of athletes with the fastest times in men’s and women’s singles, and the team with the fastest doubles time during Olympic competition. The relay event is the last of the four luge events on the Sochi schedule.
What are all these new sports to watch in Sochi? The 2014 Olympic Winter Games will mark the debut of several new sports: ski halfpipe (men’s and women’s), ski slopestyle (men’s and women’s), snowboard slopestyle (men’s and women’s), snowboard parallel special slalom (men’s and women’s), women’s ski jumping, biathlon mixed relay, luge team relay and a figure skating team event.
Ski halfpipe, in which athletes perform various tricks while wearing skis in a halfpipe, will be an Olympic sport for the first time in Sochi. The sport debuted at the Winter X Games in 2002. Among the Americans to watch: Maddie Bowman, a world champion in 2012; 10-time X Games medalist Simon Dumont; and 2013 world champion David Wise. Medal contenders Gus Kenworthy and Devin Logan both compete in halfpipe and slopestyle.
Men’s and women’s slopestyle skiing events are also new to the Olympic program this year. Slopestyle skiers navigate terrain parks while also performing various aerial maneuvers. Like ski halfpipe, it has been part of the X Games circuit and is just now making its way into the Olympic program. Among the Americans to watch are Tom Wallisch, Nick Goepper, Bobby Brown, Grete Eliassen and Keri Herman.
Who knew the Internet could be a direct path to the Olympic Winter Games? Tom Wallisch made a name for himself by posting videos of his skiing. Now he has a chance to compete in Sochi in slopestyle skiing.
Grete Eliassen suffered a knee injury early in 2012. Her comeback season was highlighted with a bronze-medal finish at the 2013 world championships in Norway. Can her comeback continue with an Olympic berth?
Nick Goepper got his start skiing in what he jokes is the world’s skiing mecca … Indiana. He grew up minutes away from the Perfect North Slopes ski area, where the largest hill has a vertical drop of a mere 300 feet. By comparison, the largest hill at Colorado’s Breckenridge ski area has a vertical drop of 3,398 feet. Goepper hopes his career will reach great heights in Sochi.
Patrick Deneen represented Team USA in moguls in 2010, finishing 19th. Now he is seeking a second Olympic berth and a spot on the medal podium. He earned bronze medals in moguls and dual moguls at the 2013 world championships.
On the women’s side in moguls skiing, Hannah Kearney will be the one to watch. She is a two-time Olympian and the reigning gold medalist. Despite lacerating her liver, breaking two ribs and puncturing a lung during a training session crash in October 2012, Kearney struck gold again at the 2013 world championships.
A four-time national aerials champion and nine-time world cup medalist, Emily Cook is seeking her third Olympic berth. Cook represented Team USA in the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games and then again four years later at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. She was decked out in red, white and blue at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games but had to watch in a wheelchair. She injured both her feet in a training session leading up to those Winter Games.
Dylan Ferguson can relate to Emily Cook’s pain in Salt Lake City. Although Ferguson was named to the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, he was forced to withdraw from the Winter Games due to an emergency appendectomy. He has won the last three consecutive U.S. aerials titles and is hoping to not only make the U.S. Olympic Team in Sochi but to also compete there.
Seven-time X Games medalist Jamie Anderson is seeking her first Olympic berth in the sport of snowboard slopestyle, which will make its debut in the Winter Games in Sochi.
“The Crippler” might not sound like a maneuver most people would want to try, but Gretchen Bleiler takes it on just fine. The Olympic silver medalist in 2006 was the first woman to perfect the move (technically called an inverted backside 540) and is seeking her third Olympic berth — and second medal — in halfpipe snowboarding.
More than a decade after striking Olympic gold in snowboarding halfpipe, Kelly Clark is hoping to return to the top of the medal podium in Sochi — which would mark her fourth trip to the Winter Games. Clark, who won the gold medal in Salt Lake City in 2002, notched her 60th career victory — the most for any snowboarder male or female — in 2013.
Can the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team make it to the medal podium again? The U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team made history at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games by winning its first Olympic medals in the sport. First, Johnny Spillane earned a silver medal and then Billy Demong added a gold medal for Team USA in Vancouver. Demong, Spillane, Todd Lodwick and Brett Camerota also earned a silver medal in the 4x5-kilometer team event, and Spillane earned yet another individual silver.
Who should we watch in Nordic combined in Sochi? Billy Demong is expected to be back on the U.S. Olympic Team in Sochi, as is Todd Lodwick, but there are some young guns to watch as well. Taylor Fletcher, a 2010 Olympian, and his brother, Bryan Fletcher, are both trying to make the team in Sochi. Bryan Fletcher was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when he was 3.
Noelle Pikus-Pace has returned to skeleton after just missing a spot on the Olympic podium in 2010 (she finished 0.10 of a second away from a medal in Vancouver). She retired following those Winter Games but made a comeback last season when she earned silver at the world championships and gold at the Sochi test event. Will she find redemption in Sochi?
Will three be the charm for skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender? A two-time Olympian, Uhlaender hopes to earn a medal in Sochi, which would mark her third trip to the Winter Games. Uhlaender finished sixth in Torino and 11th in Vancouver. Uhlaender, the daughter of the late Major League Baseball player Ted Uhlaender, also is trying to represent the United States in the summer Games in weightlifting. Uhlaender is the 2012 skeleton world champion and earned silver at last season’s Sochi test event.
How many times will Lindsey Van be confused with Lindsey Vonn? Both are skiers who hope to reach the medal podium in Sochi, but Lindsey Van is a world champion in women’s ski jumping and Lindsey Vonn is world and Olympic champion in alpine skiing.
Speaking of women’s ski jumping, what are Team USA’s chances in this new sport for the Winter Games? Women’s ski jumping made an unsuccessful bid to be added to the Olympic program in Vancouver, but its efforts paid off as the International Olympic Committee decided to add the sport to the Winter Games in Sochi. Team USA has several strong women vying for spots on the U.S. Olympic Team including Lindsey Van, Jessica Jerome and Sarah Hendrickson.
Can Team USA reach the medal podium in cross-country skiing for the first time since Bill Koch earned a silver in 1976? There’s a good chance a woman can make history in Sochi. Kikkan Randall dominated the 2012-13 world cup season, finishing first in the final sprint standings and third in the overall standings, marking the highest ranking for a U.S. female cross-country skier in history. She teamed with Jesse Diggins to capture the first U.S. team sprint gold medal at the 2013 world championships.
Apolo Anton Ohno, the speedskater who has won eight Olympic medals (2 gold, 2 silver, 4 bronze) — the most of any American athlete from the Winter Games — will not be in Sochi. Ohno retired, but Team USA should continue to contend for medals in short track speedskating. Among those to watch are J.R. Celski, who claimed bronze medals in the 1,500 and the 5,000-meter relay in Vancouver, Travis Jayner, Eddy Alvarez and Chris Creveling.
Cuba and Miami might not be the usual cities that are mentioned in speedskating circles, but that could change in Sochi. Following in the speed skates of Jennifer Rodriguez, a four-time Olympian and two-time bronze medalist in long track speedskating, Eddy Alvarez is hoping to become the second Cuban-American from Miami to make it the Winter Games in speedskating (although he competes in short track).
Will Macklemore show up in Sochi? Probably not. But the hip-hop artist likely will be following some of the speedskating competition. Shortly after earning two bronze medals in Vancouver, J.R. Celski produced a documentary that featured Macklemore. Titled “The Otherside,” the film debuted at the Seattle International Film Festival in May.
Who are the top short track speedskaters on the women’s side? For Team USA, Lana Gehring, Alyson Dudek, Emily Scott and Jessica Smith are among those to keep track of this season. Gehring and Dudek earned a bronze medal in the 3,000-meter relay in Vancouver, Scott helped lead Team USA to a silver medal at the 2012 world championships and Smith placed third in two world cup events last season.
On the long track speedskating side, one woman to watch is Brittany Bowe. The former college basketball player and 12-year inline skater is trying to make the U.S. Olympic Team in speedskating.
Another woman to follow in long track speedskating is Heather Richardson. She competed in three events in Vancouver, finishing sixth in the 500, ninth in the 1,000 and 16th in the 1,500. Last season alone, Richardson collected 11 world cup medals (5 gold, 5 silver, 1 bronze) and the world sprint championship title.
Ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White have the unusual situation of training alongside their biggest rivals — Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the reigning Olympic ice dancing champions from Canada. The two couples not only train together in Canton, Mich., just outside of Detroit, but they work with the same coach, Marina Zoueva.
Will an American woman reach the medal podium in figure skating in Sochi? After being shut out of the medals in Vancouver (Mirai Nagasu placed fourth and Rachael Flatt was seventh), Team USA has some skaters who could win a medal in Sochi. The best bets? Ashley Wagner, a two-time national champion, and Gracie Gold, the 2013 U.S. silver medalist.
Team USA can send three women’s figure skaters to Sochi, and those three will be named at the 2014 U.S. Championships in January in Boston. Ashley Wagner, who just barely missed a chance to compete in the Winter Games in Vancouver, is the frontrunner, followed by Gracie Gold. Among those vying for a spot on the team are Christina Gao, Courtney Hicks and Agnes Zawadzki.
Gracie Gold switched coaches in September, leaving longtime coach Alex Ouriashev and her training rink outside of Chicago, to work with Frank Carroll in Southern California. A lot has been made about her changing coaches (and locales) so close to the Winter Games, but Carroll knows a thing or two about taking skaters to the Olympic podium. He was a longtime coach for Michelle Kwan and helped Evan Lysacek to an Olympic gold medal in Vancouver.
Gracie Gold is not the only U.S. athlete with the last name Gold trying to make the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. Also watch for Arielle Gold, who is the 2013 world champion in halfpipe snowboarding.
What are Evan Lysacek’s chances of defending his gold medal in Sochi? Right now, it’s pretty slim. Lysacek has not competed since his gold-medal performance in Vancouver back in 2010. He needs to skate in an international competition before the Winter Games to meet a qualification standard, then qualify through January’s national championships.
Which American men are hoping to make the team in figure skating? Reigning national champion Max Aaron is the current quad king in the United States. He is planning on doing three quads in his long program and hopes they vault him to Sochi. Others to watch are 2010 Olympian Jeremy Abbott, U.S. silver medalist Ross Miner, 2012 U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon and 2011 U.S. silver medalist Richard Dornbush. Only two U.S. men can qualify for Sochi.
No U.S. pairs skating team has earned an Olympic medal since 1988 when Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard earned a bronze medal in Calgary. The U.S. can send two pairs teams to Sochi, and among those vying for spots on the team are Caydee Denney, a 2010 Olympian who is competing with John Coughlin; reigning U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir; and Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim.
If Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir make the U.S. Olympic Team, there will be a lot of Russians cheering them on in Sochi. Shnapir was born in Moscow, and although he moved to the United States at a young age, he still has a strong connection to Russia and has relatives there.
How will the figure skating team competition work in Sochi? This event actually will begin the day before the Opening Ceremony and will consist of competition in all four skating disciplines: women’s, men’s, pairs and ice dancing. Scores will be amassed from each discipline and will be combined for an overall team score. Team USA, which captured the World Team Trophy in 2013, is considered a medal favorite in this new event.
Scotty Lago earned a bronze medal in halfpipe snowboarding in Vancouver. He has looked strong leading up to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games as he claimed second place in the 2013 U.S. Grand Prix in Park City, Utah, and earned a silver medal at the world cup Olympic test event in Sochi.
Snowboarder Hannah Teter has won two medals in the past two Winter Games, a silver medal in 2010 and a gold medal in 2006, both in halfpipe. She is looking to earn a third medal in 2014.
Louie Vito is not only a snowboarding star; he also can dance with the stars. Vito, a 2010 Olympian who claimed an X Games gold medal in 2013, competed in season nine of “Dancing With The Stars.”
Will Seth Jones make Team USA’s men’s ice hockey team? It’s still early, but the 19-year-old blueliner has been off to a flying start in the NHL with the Nashville Predators, and there has been talk that he could make the 25-man roster for Team USA in Sochi. Jones is the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones and a graduate of the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Who will be playing in goal for Team USA in the men’s hockey tournament? When USA Hockey held its orientation camp in Arlington, Va., back in August, it invited six goalkeepers: Craig Anderson, John Gibson, Jimmy Howard, Cory Schneider, Jonathan Quick and Ryan Miller. Although Miller was the star in net for Team USA in Vancouver, he has been up-and-down in Buffalo ever since. Quick, considered to be the frontrunner after leading his Los Angeles Kings to the 2012 Stanley Cup, is 7-4-0 with a .907 save percentage this season with Los Angeles.
Will track & field Olympian Lolo Jones represent Team USA in the Winter Games in bobsled? She appears to be close. This past weekend she earned a spot on the national team. Jones, a push athlete, and bobsled driver Jazmine Fenlator placed third at a U.S. selection race Friday in Park City, Utah, and were named to the team the following day.
The real question with Lolo Jones might be this: How many bacon cheeseburgers will she eat in Sochi? Jones told reporters that she is eating 9,000 calories a day to beef up for the Winter Games. Her initial goal was to weigh 170 pounds, but she was told that the extra weight could hurt her track career.
Lolo Jones might not be the only track & field Olympian on the U.S. Olympic bobsled team. Joining Jones on the national team as push athletes is Lauryn Williams, two-time Olympic medalist sprinter. Williams did not touch a bobsled until this past July. Williams earned a silver medal in the 100-meter dash in Athens in 2004 and a gold medal as part of the 4x100-meter team in London.
Softball’s loss is bobsled’s gain. Elana Meyers had hoped to become an Olympian in the summer Games as a softball star. But when that plan didn’t work out, she decided to test her skills in bobsled. That worked wonders as she earned an Olympic bronze medal pushing Erin Pac in Vancouver. Meyers, now a driver, was named to the world cup team as the driver of USA-1 this past weekend.
Four women with Olympic experience have formed an All-Star team that they hope can earn a gold medal in curling in Sochi. Erika Brown, a 1998 Olympian who also competed in 1988 when curling was a demonstration sport, is skipping a team that features three-time Olympian Debbie McCormick, 2006 Olympian Jessica Schultz and 2002 Olympian Ann Swisshelm. They are the most experienced team in the U.S. women’s field, but they still have to qualify. The 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling will take place Nov. 10-17 in Fargo, N.D.
Three U.S. women’s curlers — Jessica Schultz, Debbie McCormick and Ann Swisshelm — participated in filming an episode of the TV hit, “The Biggest Loser.” The episode is set to air on Jan. 14. Schultz said she could relate to people who have issues with her weight. Schultz said she has lost close to 30 pounds since competing in the Winter Games in 2006 and now grows a vegetable garden at home in Minnesota to help keep a healthy diet. She now weighs about 130 pounds.
The U.S. men’s curling team is seeking its first (and only) Olympic medal since 2006, when Pete Fenson’s team captured a bronze medal in Torino. Can Fenson, who owns a pizza parlor in Bemidji, Minn., win a gold medal in Sochi? Hold the pepperoni.
How will Mikaela Shiffrin fare in the lead-up to Sochi? Shiffrin, 18, had a breakout 2012-13 season, won the world championships slalom gold medal, four world cup slalom wins and scored a come-from-behind victory in the final race of the season to earn the slalom title. She opened this season in Austria this past weekend finishing a career-best sixth place in giant slalom.
Three-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso is hoping to compete in her fourth Winter Games in Sochi. She competed in the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games, won a gold medal four years later in Torino (giant slalom) and earned a pair of silver medals in Vancouver (downhill and combined).
Chris Fogt knows what it means to serve his country. In addition to representing Team USA in the Winter Games nearly four years ago in bobsled in Vancouver, Fogt also served a year of military duty in Iraq. Fogt’s pilot in Vancouver was John Napier, who retired following the 2010 Winter Games to serve full time in the military. Fogt is part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program and this past weekend was named as one of 11 push athletes on this season’s U.S. bobsled national team. He has a strong shot at making his second Olympic team in Sochi.
Can Bryon Wilson claim another Olympic medal in moguls? Since the 2010 Winter Games, where he earned a bronze medal, he underwent knee surgery. Last season, he earned his first world cup victory and finished the season ranked 10th.
Can two-time Olympian Nate Holland make it to the Olympic medal stand in Sochi? In 2006, the snowboardcross competitor placed 14th, and then in 2010 he finished fourth. He had an impressive 2012-13 season, winning his seventh X Games gold medal, but a broken shoulder blade sidelined him.
The Winter Games will begin 100 days from today, but following the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games will be the Paralympic Winter Games. Team USA captured 13 medals at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. The Paralympic Winter Games are scheduled for March 7-16.
Of the 13 medals that Team USA claimed in the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, 11 of them came in alpine skiing. Each of the Paralympic alpine medalists from 2010 — Mark Bathum, Alana Nichols, Laurie Stephens, Danelle Umstead and Stephani Victor — is contending for a spot on the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team.
The U.S. military should be well represented on the U.S. Paralympic Team in Sochi. Among the military athletes seeking a spot on the team are Heath Calhoun (retired U.S. Army), Jon Lujan (retired, U.S. Marines), Chris Devlin-Young (retired U.S. Coast Guard) and Tyler Burdick (retired Navy Hospital Corpsman).
What do NASCAR and the Paralympic Winter Games have in common? The Heath Calhoun 400. Calhoun, an alpine skier and U.S. veteran who lost both his legs during the war in Iraq, was the U.S. flag bearer for the 2010 Paralympic Opening Ceremony. Following the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, the Richmond International Raceway named a NASCAR race the Heath Calhoun 400 in his honor.
Alana Nichols was the one of the biggest stars of the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games and is seeking a return to Paralympic glory in Sochi. Nichols is a three-time Paralympian and five-time Paralympic medalist (3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze). Her road to Sochi has been a difficult one, however, as she has been plagued by injuries following a training run. She underwent rotator cuff surgery and is hoping to be back in top form by December.
Tatyana McFadden, who has won a record three wheelchair marathons this year (Boston, London and Chicago) and is seeking a fourth title in New York, is also trying to become a Paralympic athlete in Nordic skiing. McFadden won three Paralympic track gold medals last summer in London.
Another Paralympic sport to watch in Sochi is sled hockey. Team USA won the gold medal in 2010 and in Sochi is hoping to become the first country to defend its Paralympic title. The team, coached by Jeff Sauer, features several top players in Steve Cash, Taylor Chace, Taylor Lipsett and Rico Roman.
An addition to the Paralympic sport lineup in Sochi will be men’s and women’s snowboard cross for athletes with lower limb impairments. Five men and five women will compete for Team USA in snowboard cross. Among those to watch are world No. 1 Evan Strong, No. 3 Keith Gabel and Mike Shea. Amy Purdy, ranked second in the world, and Heidi Jo Duce, ranked third, are among the top U.S. women to watch.
Team USA is looking to medal for the first time in wheelchair curling at the Paralympic Winter Games. The U.S. finished fourth at the 2013 World Wheelchair Curling Championship.
Where is Sochi exactly? The city is a resort town in south Russia near the Black Sea. Dubbed the “Russian Riviera,” it is located about a 30-hour train ride away from the Russian capital of Moscow. Sochi will be the first Russian city to play host to a Winter Games. Moscow hosted the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, which the United States boycotted based on the Soviet Union’s involvement in Afghanistan.
Where will the Olympic torch go before it reaches Sochi? The relay began Oct. 7 and is scheduled to travel through all 83 regions of Russia before arriving in the Olympic Stadium for the start of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The torch reached the North Pole on Oct. 19.
Bobsled driver Jazmine Fenlator knows what it means to bounce back from obstacles. Her family lost its home when Hurricane Irene plowed through the Northeast in 2011. Her teammates helped her family by starting a relief fund and Fenlator got involved in relief efforts herself. Fenlator was named to the U.S. bobsled team this past weekend and hopes she can weather any obstacles ahead as Sochi approaches.
Another bobsledder, push athlete Aja Evans, has a lot of strong athletic genes in her family. Her brother, Fred Evans, is a defensive tackle for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.
Ryan Suter is one of the NHL’s top defensemen for the Minnesota Wild. In 2010, Suter earned a silver medal as a member of Team USA in Vancouver, and he is expected to play a major role if the United States is to win its first gold medal since 1980. Suter has a special connection to the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team as his father, Bob, was a player on that squad. Ryan’s uncle, Gary, played for Team USA in 1998 and 2002.
If Maia and Alex Shibutani qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team, they would be the first set of siblings to represent Team USA in the Winter Games in ice dancing. Siblings have competed together in skating before. The last set of U.S. siblings to skate together in the Winter Games were Natalie and Wayne Seybold in pairs in 1988. The sister-brother pairs team of Kitty and Peter Carruthers earned a silver medal in 1984.
Dan Bylsma will be one of Sidney Crosby’s biggest fans … until the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games begin. During the NHL season, Bylsma is the coach of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and Crosby is the team’s captain. But come the Winter Games, Bylsma will be coaching Team USA. Crosby, a Canadian, scored the game-winning goal in overtime to beat Team USA for the Olympic gold medal in Vancouver.
Alpine skier Bode Miller is focused on his own Olympic goals this season. But he is also helping the Paralympic Movement through a program called “Gateway to Gold.” The program is designed to identify talent and identify people with physical and visual disabilities to Paralympic sports. Miller became involved with the program because of a childhood friend, Cam Shaw-Duran, who was paralyzed after a car crash. With Miller’s help, Shaw-Duran has gotten involved in skiing.
One of the most outspoken Team USA Olympians, skater Johnny Weir, will not be competing in Sochi, but he will be there as a broadcaster. Weir, who skated in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Games, recently announced he is joining the broadcasting team for NBC.
If Jincy Dunne makes it to Sochi she would be the youngest player to skate on the U.S. women’s ice hockey team. Dunne, who turned 16 in May, would be three days younger than Lyndsay Wall, who represented Team USA in the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
Hilary Knight, a forward who helped lead Team USA to a silver medal in 2010, wears No. 21 on her uniform in honor of another U.S. women’s hockey great: Cammi Granato. Granato was a member of the 1998 Olympic gold-medal winning team.
Marco Sullivan is glad he decided not to retire. Although he has endured more injuries than anyone ever should have to go through — from a concussion to separated shoulders to knee injuries — Sullivan is now seeking a spot in Sochi. Should he make the team, it would be his fourth trip to the Winter Games.
Julie Chu has earned a medal with Team USA’s women’s hockey team for the last three Winter Games, earning two silver medals (2002, 2010) and a bronze medal (2006). The only color she is missing is gold, which is why the 31-year-old is hoping she can finally reach the top spot on the podium in Sochi.
The U.S. men’s hockey team will be announced during the NHL’s Winter Classic, a game pitting the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs Jan. 1 in Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. There should be a good crowd on hand to witness the announcement. A college hockey game played in Michigan Stadium between Michigan and rival Michigan State drew a crowd of 113,411 in 2010.
When it comes to moving, Ashley Wagner knows how to pack. The figure skater grew up in a military family and was born on a U.S. Army base in Heidelberg, Germany. She began skating while living in Alaska and has since lived in several states, including Virginia, Kansas, Delaware and Washington State. The two-time U.S. champion currently lives and trains in Southern California.
Elena Hight is a two-time Olympic halfpipe snowboarder from … Hawaii. Born in Kauai, she later moved to Lake Tahoe. She has said that if she stayed in Hawaii she probably would have become a pro surfer.
Torin Yater-Wallace became the youngest Winter X Games medalist in 2011 when he earned a silver medal in ski superpipe at the age of 15. Yater-Wallace, who turns 18 in December, now has six X Games medals to his name (2 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze).
Kate Hansen didn’t let a little thing like a broken bone in her right foot prevent her from pursuing her Olympic dreams. Earlier this month, Hansen won her second consecutive luge seeding race with the broken bone to earn a spot on the world cup team. Hansen will join Julia Clukey, Erin Hamlin and Summer Britcher in the first five world cup races this season.
Where in the world is Shaun White these days? The two-time Olympic snowboarding champion was training on a secluded 300-foot private halfpipe in Perisher, Australia, earlier this month. Leading up to the 2010 Winter Games, White trained on a private halfpipe in Colorado.
NBC will broadcast 50 hours of the Paralympic Winter Games. And, for the first time, all events will be live streamed on TeamUSA.org. NBC and NBC Sporst Network will combine to air 50 hours of television coverage for March’s Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, starting March 7 with the Opening Ceremony. It will be followed by daily coverage of all five Paralympic sports in the Sochi program, before the Winter Games’ Closing Ceremony is broadcast March 16.
The U.S. Olympic Committee is offering fans a chance to catch some of the Olympic spirit at various events between now when the Winter Games begin Feb. 7-23. Today, in New York City’s Times Square, will be a celebration for the 100-day countdown to the Winter Games. The Road to Sochi tour will make several other stops throughout the United States. Among them are: Nov. 2-3 at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.; Nov. 14-16 in Fargo, N.D.; Dec. 7-8 in Dallas; Dec. 28-29 in Utah Olympic Park; Jan. 3-4 in Kearns, Utah; and Jan. 10-12 in Boston. For the full schedule, click here.
Why are all these U.S. athletes wearing blue mittens with “Go USA” on them? Because it’s part of a marketing program through Team USA to help support U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Fans can purchase a pair for $14 at TeamUSA.org.
Can Sarah Hendrickson make a comeback from a nasty knee injury in time to compete in Sochi? Hendrickson won the 2013 world championship in women’s ski jumping and was considered the favorite for a gold medal in Sochi before she blew out her knee during a training jump in Germany at the end of August. Although she underwent successful surgery, her biggest opponent now is time. She has 100 days and counting.
Can Lindsey Vonn make a comeback from a nasty knee injury in time to compete in Sochi? Vonn had hoped to return to the slopes this past weekend in Soelden, Austria, but postponed her competitive return to a world cup Nov. 29 in Beaver Creek, Colo. Vonn, one of the biggest stars in Vancouver in winning a gold medal in the downhill and a bronze in the super-G, tore her ACL and MCL in her right knee and fractured her tibia in a crash back in February at the world championships.
Ted Ligety won three world championships in 2013 — becoming the first men’s alpine skier to achieve this feat since the great Jean-Claude Killy won four world titles in 1968. How will Ligety, nicknamed “Shred,” fare in Sochi, which would mark his third trip to the Winter Games? He competed in 2006 and won a gold medal in combined and also skied in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
Bode Miller is back. And if he makes the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team, it will mark the skier’s fifth trip to the Winter Games. Sidelined for 20 months after missing last season because of a knee injury, Miller returned to the slopes this past weekend in Soelden, Austria, placing 19th. In his previous four trips to the Winter Games, Miller has earned five medals (1 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze).
Can Meryl Davis and Charlie White become the first American team to win an Olympic gold medal in ice dancing? The 2010 Olympic silver medalists became the first U.S. team to win a world title in their sport in 2011 and then won a second world crown in 2013. By winning Skate America earlier this month, they have now won 13 consecutive Grand Prix events.
How can Billy Demong top his experience in Vancouver? A four-time U.S. Olympian in Nordic combined, Demong became the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in a Nordic combined event (10-kilometer large hill) and he was part of the 4x5-kilometer team that captured a silver medal. Hours after winning his gold medal, he proposed to longtime girlfriend, Katie Koczynski. The couple was married in the Olympic city of Lake Placid, N.Y., in July 2010. As if all of that isn’t enough, Demong was selected as the U.S. flag bearer for the 2010 Closing Ceremony.
Can Shaun White, Shani Davis and Seth Wescott all win their third consecutive Olympic gold medals in Sochi? White, one of the most recognizable names in the Winter Games, has won the gold medal in the halfpipe in 2006 and 2010. He is also trying to compete in slopestyle in Sochi. Although he is not favored to win the slopestyle event, White still is one of the top contenders for gold in the halfpipe. Davis is the two-time defending Olympic champion in the 1,000-meter speedskating event. Wescott is the only man to win the snowboardcross Olympic gold medal since the event made its debut at the Winter Games in 2006.
“Night Train” driver Steven Holcomb was key in leading Team USA’s four-man bobsled team to its first Olympic gold medal since 1948 when he drove to a gold medal in Vancouver. Can he do it again? Who might help him achieve that goal of double gold? Chris Fogt, Steve Langton, Justin Olsen and Curt Tomasevicz are in the running.
How many medals will Team USA claim in Sochi? The 2010 U.S. Olympic Team won the most medals of any country in Vancouver with 37 (9 gold, 15 silver, 13 bronze). With new sports in the Olympic program and several returning Olympians, there is a good chance Team USA will top that medal total in Sochi.
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.