Team USA Looks To End These Gold-Medal Droughts At The PyeongChang Olympics

By Karen Price | Feb. 15, 2017, 5:28 p.m. (ET)
Team USA huddles around the net before the gold-medal game against Canada at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Bolshoy Ice Dome on Feb. 20, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

 

Women’s ice hockey made its Olympic debut in 1998, and from the very start it was bound to come down to the United States versus Canada in the still-young sport as it existed for women.

Led by Cammi Granato, Karyn Bye, Angelo Ruggiero and goaltenders Sarah Tueting and Sara DeCosta, Team USA defeated its archrival twice, including 3-1 in the final game to win the gold medal and finish the first Olympic tournament undefeated at 6-0.

In 2002, however, Canada took hold of the gold and hasn’t let go. Canada has won gold in each of the last four Winter Games, a streak seen previously in hockey only by the Soviet Union men’s team in 1964-76 and Canada’s men’s team from 1920-32. 

The U.S. women have won three silver medals and one bronze during that time, but 20 years after getting the inaugural gold, Team USA hopes to bring home its second next year in PyeongChang, South Korea. Team USA is in a strong position to do it, too, having won the last three world championships, including an overtime victory against Canada in 2016 on Canadian ice. 

Here are some other U.S. teams and athletes hoping to end gold-medal droughts of at least 12 years in their events in 2018:

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Lindsey Vonn competes in women's downhill at the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup on Jan. 22, 2016 in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

Alpine Skiing

The same year the U.S. women won hockey gold, Picabo Street earned the last gold medal for the United States in women’s super-G. Lindsey Vonn got a bronze medal in 2010, however, and hopes to be at 100 percent by this time next year and get another chance to bring home the gold. In men’s super-G, 2014 Olympic silver and 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Andrew Weibrecht hopes to return and give the United States its first gold. Should Bode Miller return to competition, he could also make a play for that historic win. Also in alpine skiing, Mikaela Shiffrin could give Team USA its first medal in the women’s giant slalom since Julia Mancuso won gold in 2006.

Bobsled

Steven Holcomb shattered a 62-year U.S. gold-medal drought when he piloted a four-man sled to Olympic gold in 2010. Now, after winning a two-man bronze medal in 2014 and breaking a medal drought of the same length, the three-time Olympian will seek to end another drought in 2018 by winning the first U.S. two-man gold since Ivan Brown and Alan Washbound won in in 1936. On the women’s side, Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers were the last duo to earn gold, which they did back in 2002 when the women’s event debuted. Two-time Olympian Elana Meyers Taylor, who won bronze as a brakeman in 2010 and silver as a driver in 2014, and Jamie Greubel Poser, who won bronze in 2014, are both aiming to become the next U.S. champion.

Ashley Wagner performs her routine in the exhibition at the ISU World Team Trophy at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on April 19, 2015 in Tokyo.

Figure Skating

Ashley Wagner ended a decade-long drought when she won a silver medal at the 2016 world championships. Prior to that, no U.S. woman had stood on the medal podium at the world championships or Olympic Winter Games since 2006, when Sasha Cohen won an Olympic silver medal (Kimmie Meissner and Cohen also medaled at that year’s world championships). The last U.S. women’s figure skater to win Olympic gold was Sarah Hughes in 2002. Expect any combination of Wagner, Mariah Bell, recently crowned U.S. champion Karen Chen, 2014 Olympian Gracie Gold and 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu to lead the U.S. women to Korea.

Freestyle Skiing (Aerials)

Team USA hasn’t won a gold medal in men’s or women’s aerials since Eric Bergoust and Nikki Stone each brought home the top honor in 1998. The women haven’t medaled since Stone. For the men, the last medal in the discipline was Jeret "Speedy" Peterson’s silver in 2010. Team USA has five hopefuls who could end the drought in 2018, led by Mac Bohonnon and Ashley Caldwell. Bohonnon, the 2015 world cup overall champion, found his way to the podium for the second time this season during the aerials Olympic test event last week in PyeongChang and moved into third place in the world cup standings. Caldwell is the defending world cup aerials champion and last month was the only woman to throw a triple jump in the final at the Olympic Sports Complex, earning her the gold at the Lake Placid World Cup. Kiley McKinnon and brothers Chris and Jon Lillis are also promising aerialists for Team USA.

Freestyle Skiing (Moguls)

Jonny Moseley won the last gold medal for the United States in men’s moguls in 1998, and Bryon Wilson won the last medal (bronze) in 2010. Now, Bryon’s younger brother Brad Wilson is hopeful that in 2018 he can not only add to the family medal haul but also make it gold. The younger Wilson, who missed time after injuring his knee in December 2014, is currently ranked in the top 10 in the world cup standings and in late January reached the world cup podium for the first time in a year.

Heather Bergsma competes in the ladies' 500-meter at the ISU World Cup Speedskating held at Thialf Ice Arena on Feb. 7, 2015 in Heerenveen, Netherlands.

Long Track Speedskating

Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma have packed a powerful 1-2 punch for the United States in the 500-, 1,000- and 1,500-meter races for the past several years. However, Bonnie Blair was the last American woman to win Olympic gold — or any medal, in fact — in the 500, which she did back in 1994. Christine Witty was the last U.S. woman to medal in the 1,000 when she won gold in 2002. The last U.S. woman to win Olympic gold in the 1,500 was Dianne Holum in 1972. Bowe and Bergsma now both have the chance to not only end those droughts but even win multiple medals for Team USA. Although Bowe missed the recent World Single Distances Championships with lingering symptoms from a concussion, Bergsma made history there on Sunday when she won the 1,500. With that she became the first skater — male or female — to win world titles in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500. She took gold in the 1,000 on Saturday and earned the title in the 500 in 2015. She also took bronze in the mass start, which makes its Olympic debut next year.

Short Track Speedskating

J.R. Celski and John-Henry Krueger hope to end several gold-medal droughts for the men in short track speedskating. Apolo Ohno earned the last medal for Team USA in the 500-meter when he won gold in 2006, and he also had the last U.S. gold medal in the 1,500 in 2002. The U.S. men have never won in the 1,000. The U.S. women, led by two-time Olympic medalist Katherine Reutter, will go for their first gold medal since Cathy Turner won back-to-back 500s in 1992 and 1994.

Skeleton

In skeleton, the United States is looking to end gold-medal droughts that date back to 2002 for both the men and the women, which is the year the sport returned to the Olympic program. Jimmy Shea was the last to earn gold for the men and Tristan Gale the last for the women, both in Salt Lake City. In 2018, Team USA’s best hopes are with 2014 bronze medalist Matt Antoine and John Daly on the men’s side and Annie O’Shea and Katie Uhlaender on the women’s. Both Daly and Uhlaender are on the comeback trail, too; Daly is returning after several years in retirement and Uhlaender is coming back following back-to-back hip and ankle surgeries after Sochi. 

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And while a number of U.S. athletes are looking to reach the top podium for the first time in years, several are looking to do so for the first time ever.

Cross-Country Skiing

A number of cross-country skiers hope to give the United States its second medal ever in the sport, including Simi Hamilton in the men’s sprint, and women’s skiers including Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall and Liz Stephen in the relay, team sprint, skiathlon or 10-kilometer. Bill Koch is Team USA’s only cross-country skiing medalist, having won silver in the men’s 30k in 1976.

Lowell Bailey competes in Sochi
Lowell Bailey competes in the men's individual 20-kilometer at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Laura Cross-Country Ski & Biathlon Center on Feb. 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Biathlon

Team USA has never medaled at all in biathlon, but that could change in 2018. Three-time Olympian Tim Burke called the U.S. team that went to the world championships earlier this month the best Team USA has ever had going into worlds. Soon after, Lowell Bailey became the first U.S. athlete to qualify for the 2018 Winter Games after finishing fourth in the sprint event, then sixth in the pursuit. Burke, the silver medalist in the 2013 world championships in the 20-kilometer, is a favorite to join Bailey in Korea. On the women’s side, Susan Dunklee earned a world cup silver in the 7.5K sprint and a bronze this year at the same distance. She qualified for her second Olympic team on Wednesday after placing sixth in the individual.

Luge

Team USA also has a number of hopefuls looking to make history in luge. The men have never medaled in singles racing, although that could change with either Tucker West or Chris Mazdzer, and the women have only medaled once at the Olympic Winter Games, with Erin Hamlin winning bronze in 2014. Hamlin, along with teammates Summer Britcher and Emily Sweeney, will look to top that in 2018. Team USA has never won a gold medal in doubles luge, either, but American sleds won both the silver and bronze medals in 1998 and 2002. Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman, who teamed up after Sochi and have already won two medals together this season, will look to bring the U.S. back to the doubles podium.

Snowboardcross

Lindsey Jacobellis won a silver medal in 2006, the year that snowboardcross made its Olympic debut, but that remains Team USA’s only women’s medal in the discipline. Jacobellis, who has been dominant outside the Winter Games, will look to end that drought and add to her collection in 2018. 

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.