When two members of Team USA compete in Sochi it will mark their fifth time doing so in an Olympic Winter Games: Billy Demong will be competing for the fifth time in Nordic combined, and Bode Miller will be making his fifth trip to the Winter Games in alpine skiing.
Demong began his Olympic career in Nagano in 1998 and has earned a spot on the Team USA roster for every Winter Games since. He came close to earning an Olympic medal in his second trip to the Winter Games, in Salt Lake City in 2002, finishing fourth in the 4×5-kilometer team event.
He had to wait until Vancouver in 2010 to enjoy the fruits of his labor but he made those Winter Games worth it. There, he became the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in a Nordic vombined event, capturing the title in the 10-kilometer large hill event. He also was part of the men’s 4x5-kilometer team event that earned a silver medal. Demong was named the U.S. flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony.
Miller, 36, competed in the last four Olympic Winter Games, dating back to Nagano in 1998. He won two silver medals at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games (giant slalom and combined) and then collected three more medals in Vancouver in 2010, including a gold medal in the super combined (he also earned a silver medal in the super-G and a bronze medal in the downhill).
Although he suffered a major knee injury, which kept him sidelined the entire 2012-13 season, he has returned to the world cup circuit in full force and is expected to contend for gold medals in the speed events (downhill and super-G).
Miller would need to earn three medals in Sochi to match the most decorated American winter sport athlete as short track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno collected eight medals in his illustrious Olympic career.
In addition, the number five has a second special meaning to Team USA. Five athletes who competed in the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games will be making their Olympic debuts in Sochi. They are:
Aaron Blunck (freestyle skiing): This 17-year-old was the only U.S. freestyle skier to win a medal at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck in 2012. He earned a bronze medal in halfpipe skiing.
Summer Britcher (luge): At 19, Britcher will be making her Olympic debut in Sochi. She was part of a team relay that won a gold medal in the Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Sean Doherty (biathlon): At the 2013 IBU Youth/Junior World Championships, Doherty became the first in U.S. biathlon history to win three medals at a world championship. He earned two silver medals and one gold medal. Doherty earned a bronze medal with the mixed relay team at the Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Arielle Gold (snowboarding): Gold was 15 when she collected a pair of silver medals at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (halfpipe and slopestyle). Since then, she has won the halfpipe title at the FIS World Junior Championships in 2012 and won another gold in halfpipe at the 2013 FIS World Championships. She also won two bronze medals at the X Games in 2013 and finished fourth in the 2014 Winter X Games that just wrapped up in Aspen.
Tucker West (luge): The 18-year-old won a gold medal in the team relay at the 2012 Youth Olympic Games along with Britcher. His world cup finishes included winning a silver medal in the team relay in Winterberg, Germany.
The experience gained from competing in Innsbruck helped pave the way for these young athletes to make their mark in Sochi. As Gold told TeamUSA.org: “It has been huge to be part of international contests such as the Youth Olympics. I think that it has helped me prepare for what the Olympics will be like. I love traveling out of the states. It’s amazing to see what other countries are like and how the people in them live differently than those that live in the states.”
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.