Lindsey Vonn’s announcement Tuesday that her knee injury would force her out of the 2014 Sochi Olympics not only damages the U.S. women’s alpine medals hopes, it lessens the star power for the entire American contingent heading to Russia next month.
Vonn is more than a decorated veteran skier, she is one of a handful of American athletes in these Games, along with the likes of Shaun White, Lolo Jones and Shani Davis, with the power to transcend the sport with her stardom and popularity.
From the glass-half-full perspective, however, Vonn’s unfortunate and bitterly disappointing setback creates a new opportunity for lesser-known Americans to rise in notoriety and join those other athletes.
The United Sates has a rich history in the Winter Olympics, and there's a host of potential stars bubbling under the icy surface in popular sports such as speedskating, skiing and, of course, figure skating as the Sochi Games near.
Here are the athletes most likely to rise to stardom in Vonn’s place as the 2014 Winter Games play out.