The U.S. Olympic trials have not failed to disappoint as Team USA looks to enter the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, with a full head of steam.
Whether it is hockey, speedskating or some form of skiing, Team USA has put on a strong showing in preparation for the big contests set to take place in February.
While each sport has had its fair share of strong individual performances from names who will go on to represent the country in Sochi, several rise above the rest. This is due not only to dominant performances in the U.S. Olympic trials, but because they represent a great chance for Team USA to bring home gold.
J.R. Celski, Speedskating
J.R. Celski is quite the story as the man many expect to take over as the face of the U.S. short-track team.
At the age of 19, Celski went to the 2010 Olympic Games and fell in the U.S. trials, which created a wound that needed more than 60 stitches and resulted in his settling for two bronze medals.
Now, Celski has the daunting task of taking the torch from eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Anton Ohno. Celski talked about his leadership role on the team and reflected on his wreck, as captured by Christopher Kamrani of The Salt Lake Tribune:
I tried to resume [Ohno’s] role and kind of take it over as best I could. I really wanted to step up and lead this team because I knew I could.
I faced a lot of adversity. Of course, we do every day, in any kind of sport or any kind of thing in life. I’m prepared for that.
Celski is off to a hot start, clinching spots in the 1,500- and 500-meter events. But these wins are just the beginning for Celski, who is heavily expected to see these performances translate into medals. NBC Sports put it best:
Jessica Jerome, Ski Jumping
Jessica Jerome made history recently as the first U.S. woman to be named to an Olympic ski jumping team by winning her spot in the U.S. trials.
She told the media, per espnW.com's Bonnie D. Ford, that making history with her win is a dream:
Honestly, I don't know if I can wrap my head around it yet. It sounds cliched, but it is a dream come true. I can't wait to go and represent my country. If anything, it's just a little more room to breathe for me, maybe I'll sleep a little better at night, but I'll approach training and the next World Cup competitions the exact same way as I would have if I didn't win today.
As Ford's article illustrates, Jerome has been fighting for the inclusion of women's ski jumping in the Olympics for years. With the goal accomplished and her first victory under her belt, Jerome's journey is just beginning as she heads for Sochi.
Todd Lodwick, Nordic Combined
Todd Lodwick is another name making history this year with the 2014 Winter Olympics on the horizon.
Lodwick recently found success with his silver medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, but the real story is the fact he is the first U.S. athlete to be nominated to a sixth Olympic Winter Games team with his victory in the U.S. trials.
Despite making his Olympic debut in 1994, Lodwick says his sixth berth is both expected and a relief, per Tom Robinson of the Team USA website:
Winning today was definitely a monkey off the back in being able to say that I am, in fact, going to my sixth Olympic Games. It’s a daunting and humbling statement, but I don’t think there was any doubt in my mind, even before the competition, that I was going to make my sixth team as long as I trained hard and competed well.
Lodwick now leads the charge for the U.S. team, which won its first Olympic medals at the Vancouver Games in 2010. The team is a star-studded cast with names such as Billy Demong, Bryan Fletcher and Taylor Fletcher, but Lodwick rises above the rest as an experienced member sure to see this early success snowball into a strong performance when the events get underway in February.