Who Will Win Team USA’s 100th Winter Olympic Gold Medal?

By Peggy Shinn | Feb. 09, 2018, 2:59 a.m. (ET)

The Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 gold medal was photographed at the Team USA Media Summit on Sept. 25, 2017 in Park City, Utah. 

 

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- At the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, Team USA will be looking for its 100th gold medal at a Winter Games. And 300th winter medal overall.

To date, U.S. athletes have won 96 gold medals at the Olympic Winter Games, or 10 percent of all gold medals won since the first Winter Games in 1924. In total medals, the U.S. has collected 284, or just under 10 percent of the total available in the 22 editions of the Winter Olympics to date.

These tallies rank second behind Norway, which has won 118 golds and 329 total medals. [This ranking does not include countries whose borders have changed in the past century, such as the Soviet Union and Russia and Germany.]

So who could win Team USA’s 100th gold medal?

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Chances are the team will reach this mark within the first couple days of competition.

Team USA is in five finals on Saturday, Feb. 10 – the first day of medal events – and has a slew of athletes who could surprise for the gold.

But its first strong chance for a win comes with Jaelin Kauf.

Kauf is the world No. 1-ranked mogul skier, and she will go for gold two days after the Opening Ceremony (Sunday, Feb. 11). The 21-year-old is one of the fastest mogul skiers on the world cup tour, and over the past two years has rapidly learned to compete at the highest level.

“I’ve gained a lot of confidence in myself, and I think that’s played a huge role in my success, just knowing that every time I step into the start gate that I can win the event,” she said.

On Monday, Jamie Anderson looks to defend her 2014 Olympic gold medal in snowboarding slopestyle. And she’s raised her game to do it. In late January, she won the X Games slopestyle competition, finishing two points ahead of her younger U.S. teammate Julia Marino.

“When I first met Hailey [Langland] and Julia, I was like oh snap, I’m going to have to retire sooner than I thought,” Anderson said with a laugh. “When I got back to myself and in my heart and a little more grounded, I realized that more than anything, it’s super inspirational to have all these girls that are getting out of their comfort zones and tapping into that power. I didn’t genuinely think that girls were capable of certain tricks. And I was proven wrong. So when I saw a lot of girls doing more doubles and [1080s], instead of discouraging me, I decided to let it light my heart on fire too and try to follow their lead. If they can do it, maybe it is possible.”

Then Monday afternoon, Mikaela Shiffrin is a heavy gold-medal favorite in women’s giant slalom after winning silver at worlds last year and earning four world cup podiums this season.

Monday evening, reigning world champion Heather Bergsma will skate in the women’s 1,500-meter long track speedskating race on the Gangneung Oval.

Should one of these women miss the mark, Team USA is favored to win at least one medal in women’s snowboarding halfpipe on Tuesday morning. Chloe Kim, Arielle Gold, Maddie Mastro and five-time Olympian and three-time medalist Kelly Clark finished first through fourth at X Games in late January.

For overall medals, Team USA has to win 16 more medals to hit the 300 mark. At the Sochi Olympic Winter Games, the team accomplished this feat on the ninth day, when Andrew Weibrecht and Bode Miller finished second and third, respectively, in men’s super-G.

In PyeongChang, the U.S. could accomplish this feat in the first week — perhaps even by Valentine’s Day, the fifth day of medal competition at the Games.

U.S. athletes did not win any medals in long track speedskating or cross-country skiing at the Sochi Games, and athletes such as Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe, Jessie Diggins and Sophie Caldwell could all win medals in the first week of competition here in Korea.

Caldwell and Diggins each won the final world cup cross-country races before the Games.

“I’m in a completely different place than I was four years ago,” said Diggins. “Four years ago, if you’d told me I’d win the last world cup before the Olympics, I would have gone nope. That wouldn't happen.”

Now she is a medal favorite in several events, including the skiathlon — the first medal event at the PyeongChang Games on Saturday.

“I think of it as an awesome opportunity,” Diggins said. “I’m going to go out there and embrace every single opportunity that I have on the snow to race for my team and for my country.”

A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered four Olympic Games, PyeongChang is her fifth. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.