Americans haven't always dominated the Winter Olympics, but there are some incredible athletes heading to Sochi in 2014 with a chance to bring home the gold.
For these athletes, just earning a spot on the Olympic team is an honor and a privilege, but they also have their eyes set on glory. One of the most popular figures in winter sports even went so far as to cancel his yearly inclusion into the Winter X Games in order to get ready for the Olympics.
Shaun White talked about his decision, via Colin Bane of ESPN.com:
I’ve been competing in the X Games since I was 13 years old, they are a huge part of why I am where I am and they are vital to the sport. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the mountain and looked over the schedule, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to complete the kind of training I know I need in order to prepare for Sochi. It’s an incredibly tough decision for me and it’s not something I take lightly.
More on White in a moment.
Not only do these upcoming athletes have a chance to win gold, but they could do it in style while continuing to propel America into the conversation as a legitimate national powerhouse in winter sports.
The United States finished tied with the third most gold medals in 2010, with nine. These upcoming stars will help the Americans do even better this time around.
Shaun White, Men's Snowboarding
There isn't a more recognizable athlete coming into the 2014 Winter Games than White, who is a global figure not only in snowboarding, but also as a skateboarder and overall extreme-sports enthusiast.
He'll be competing in the halfpipe, where he's an eight-time X Games champion, and in the slopestyle, where he's a five-time winner at the X Games. He also won Olympic gold in the halfpipe in Vancouver and Turin the last two times, and a third straight gold would cement his legend as an all-time great in any sport.
White will certainly be favored to win the halfpipe event again, but he's also a strong challenger in the slopestyle competition. If he puts up a stellar run, and if favorite Mark McMorris from Canada stumbles, then a second gold is attainable.
And at the age of 27, White's no longer the young kid with the cherubic face. He doesn't have much time left at the top of his sport, meaning he'll be extra focused on the task at hand when the action kicks off in Russia.
Shani Davis, Men's Speedskating
Like White, U.S. speedskater Shani Davis is angling for his third straight gold medal in 2014.
Davis is a two-time defending Olympic champion in the 1,000-meter race, and he's won four total medals the past two Games. At the age of 31, he still has what it takes physically to dominate, and he's bringing effective leadership to the table this year as the proven veteran of Team USA.
Speaking about his teammates, Davis discussed how more competition has helped everyone grow, as relayed by Jared S. Hopkins of the Chicago Tribune, via the Baltimore Sun:
Those guys are getting stronger and stronger every day. Now I know what it feels like to be the old man on the hill.
It's pushing us to another level. We know we can't necessarily do it alone the way we used to do it in the past.
If he can help the rest of his teammates put up fast times, then Team USA's speedskating unit could prove one of the biggest surprises of the 2014 Winter Games.
Mikaela Shiffrin, Women's Slalom Skiing
18-year old phenom Mikaela Shiffrin could make American fans forget about Lindsey Vonn missing the Games in a hurry, because the young star is set to scorch the competition this winter in Russia.
The reigning world champ out of Vail, Colo. is a rising star and the favorite to win the upcoming slalom event in Sochi, according to Nick Zaccardi of NBCOlympics.com.
Her peers know that her age is deceptive.
“She not seems to be only 18,” said Maria Hoefl-Riesch, the German World Cup and Olympic champion, via Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. “She seems so much older from her body from her skiing and also from her personality. She’s mature.”
Svrluga also chronicles the youngster's penchant for embracing the hard training that comes with greatness. By all accounts, she appears ready to seize her moment in front of the international community at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
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