Sochi 2014 Olympics: Under-the-Radar American Athletes to Watch for

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Sochi 2014 Olympics: Under-the-Radar American Athletes to Watch for
Harry How/Getty Images

With the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics beginning in February, there are a number of exciting American athletes, but not everyone knows their names.

The Winter Games will officially begin on February 7 and end on February 23.  Over 80 countries will be participating with more than 2,500 athletes competing this year.  Just like every other Olympics, the United States will be well represented with a large number of athletes participating.

With so many American athletes, it can be hard to keep track of all of them.  Below is a look at just a few names going under the radar that deserve more attention heading into February.

 

Mikaela Shiffrin, Skiing

While Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Vonn are some of the most well-known American skiers heading into the Winter Olympics, Mikaela Shiffrin is a rising star, and she will be the name to watch for in Sochi.

Shiffrin is just 18 years old and became the second-youngest American to win a World Cup alpine event in 2012 at just 17.  She's also the youngest slalom world champion in U.S. history, winning the gold medal this year.

Despite her age, Shiffrin has had a ton of success in the slalom to start her skiing career.  She's had five first-place finishes in World Cup races since the beginning of the 2013 season, and it looks like she's only getting better.

Based off of her recent success, Shiffrin is a popular pick to win the slalom at Sochi and a dark-horse candidate in the giant slalom, as she finished second in the event back on Dec. 1 at Beaver Creek.

Expect to see Shiffrin at the podium in February, and possibly in future Olympic Games down the road.

 

Max Aaron, Figure Skating

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

An injury to Evan Lysacek will keep him out of the Olympics, which means other American figure skaters are going to need to step up in his absence.

One of those names is Max Aaron, and he's looked very good over the past couple of years.

At 21 years old, Aaron made a name for himself during the 2009-10 season in junior nationals, finishing in the top three in all three of his events.  The next season, he competed and won in both the U.S. Championship and Southwest Regional for the junior division.  This past season in 2012-13, he won the U.S. Championship as well as the international U.S. Classic, which he also won once again this year.

With Lysacek out, Aaron is becoming an even bigger name than he already was, and with some luck in Sochi, he could be seeing the podium and grabbing a medal for the United States.

 

Sarah Hendrickson, Ski Jumping

Ski jumping is always an entertaining event to watch in the Olympics, and the United States has a serious contender in the event thanks to Sarah Hendrickson.

At just 19 years old, Hendrickson already has 13 career World Cup wins as well as 22 total podium finishes.  The accomplished ski jumper was also able to come away with the gold medal in the 2013 world championships, making her one of the youngest American skiers to ever accomplish such a feat.

According to her U.S. Ski Team profile, Henridckson had to go through offseason knee surgery before the 2013 season, and that should have kept her from being as effective as she was.  Instead, she won the World Ski Championships and finished second overall in the World Cup standings.

This is the first time women will be able to compete in ski jumping, according to Juliet Macur from the New York Times, and Hendrickson will be looking to take the first-ever Olympic gold medal in the event.

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