2014 Winter Olympics: Highlighting Team USA's Top Medal Contenders

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 31:  Shani Davis celebrates on the medals podium after winning the men's 1,500 meter during the U.S. Speed Skating Long Track Olympic Trials at the Utah Olympic Oval on December 31, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Team USA will head to the 2014 Sochi Games with plenty of medal potential. Not that this is surprising. The Americans won more medals in Vancouver in 2010 than any other country. 

The United States left Canada with 37 medals to Germany's 30. Only nine of those 37 medals were of the gold variety, which had Canada and Germany both leaving with more of the most coveted Olympic hardware. 

Team USA will hope to improve on the gold medal count in Sochi, and these following athletes look to be prime candidates to help with this cause. 


Shaun White

If you've heard of snow, chances are you know who Shaun White is. The Flying Tomato is a snowboarding maestro.

He is the two-time defending gold medalist in the half-pipe. In 2010, he used the McTwist 1260 to leave the competition in the dust, and he will be the man to beat at the half-pipe once again.

This time around, White is preparing to go for a medal in not just the half-pipe but also the recently added slopestyle. White is not nearly as dominant at slopestyle as he is in the half-pipe. Canada's Mark McMorris will likely be viewed as the favorite in that event. 

Still, White stands an excellent shot at medaling. 


Meryl Davis and Charlie White

We've grown accustomed to Team USA rolling into the Olympics with serious medal hopes in figure skating. That is not going to be the case this time around.

The Americans will have their work cut out for them just to leave with as much as a bronze in the figure skating competitions.

When it comes to ice dancing, however, the Americans have the powerhouse duo of Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

This duo is the five-time defending national ice dance champions, and they have performed well at the international level. They became the first Americans to win the ice dancing competition at the World Championships in 2011, and they were second at that event in 2012. 


Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn is the defending gold medalist in downhill and bronze medalist in super-G. She is, however, also trying to come back from torn ligaments in her knee. 

She suffered a partial tear to her right ACL back in November as she was trying to come back from her original injury. 

She was back on the slopes and competing in December. She aggravated the injury on the slopes on Dec. 21, however. This has left her status up in the air for Sochi.

Obviously, her health dims her medal hopes, but if her knee is close to 100 percent in time for Olympic competition, Vonn will be a serious threat to bring home a couple of medals.


J.R. Celski

With Apolo Anton Ohno retired from short-track speedskating, the Americans are looking for someone to take the torch. J.R. Celski appears ready to handle the flame.

This will be the 23-year-old's second Olympics. In Vancouver, Celski won two bronze medals, in the 1,500 meters and the relay, and he looks ready to take the next step. He's produced the best World Cup season of his career.

He also looked great at the Trials. Celski dominated the 1,500 and cruised to victory.


Shani Davis

If Shani Davis brings home the gold in the 1,000-meter, he will be the first person in the history of the Olympics to take the top spot in that event for three consecutive games.

The history will not intimidate Davis. He is used to making it. 

It was in 2006 that Davis became the first black athlete, from any country, to win a gold in the Winter Olympics. Then, in 2010, he became the first skater to ever defend his gold in the 1,000. 

At 31, Davis is ready to extend that record to a third straight gold.