The 2014 Winter Olympics are all set to get underway from Sochi, Russia, and while there will be a plethora of gold medalists on display, there are a handful of Olympians eyeing their first gold medal.
While the four-year gap in between Winter Games can spell the end of an era, it can also signal the start of a new one.
Let's take a closer look at a trio of topflight athletes sure to secure their first-ever gold medal in Sochi.
Patrick Chan, Canada, Figure Skating
Canadian figure skating superstar Patrick Chan will be a heavy favorite to win his first gold medal in Sochi this February.
The 23-year-old Ontario native has racked up a plethora of titles and confidence since the 2010 Olympic Games, where he placed seventh in the short program and fifth overall in the long program.
In January, Chan won a jaw-dropping seventh consecutive Canadian title and talked about the importance of performing at a high level ahead of the Olympics, per The Canadian Press' Lori Ewing:
I’m so proud to be Canadian, so proud to skate for Canada, and to go to these next Olympics being seven-time national champion is huge.
It’s so easy to overlook it, but I still want to make mistakes like yesterday that keep me humble and make me realize how nationals isn’t easy and I can’t overlook it, and today was a hard-fought program. And that makes me feel like yes, I deserve the seventh title, and I can enjoy it.
Chan finished first at the World Figure Skating Championships this past year and has the resume to suggest he'll come away from Sochi with some serious hardware. The only question: Will it be gold?
Mikaela Shiffrin, United States, Alpine Skiing
American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin is a name to know heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics. The Colorado native recently won gold at the 2013 Alpine Skiing World Cup, dominating the slalom event.
Shiffrin will also be a contender to watch out for in giant slalom but will of course have to overcome the pressure of performing in her first Olympic Games, per USA Today's David Leon Moore: "I'm going to Sochi with such a positive feeling. I'm coming off a pretty good season. All I know is positive. I'm excited to go and race my heart out and see if I can go for the gold."
The ultra-talented Shiffrin has racked up a handful of slalom victories over the past two seasons, enough to suggest she can take gold in Sochi. However, her lack of Olympic experience will be her biggest obstacle.
Marcel Hirscher, Austria, Alpine Skiing
Another dominant skier on pace to claim his first gold in Russia is Austria's Marcel Hirscher, a 24-year-old alpine ski racer who has won back-to-back World Cup gold medals.
Hirscher is a stud in both the slalom and giant slalom and will have an excellent shot to win gold in both events. And based on his ability to motivate himself, you've got to like his chances of picking up a career-defining victory in Sochi.
Austrian Marcel Hirscher is on top of the skiing world, but feels like he is being chased by "a hundred crazy dogs" http://t.co/EK02VkwtSw— Michael A. Giarrusso (@MichaelG1) November 12, 2013
Hirscher will face stiff competition from American Ted Ligety and others, but has proven of late that he can overcome the world's best on the sport's biggest stage.
Having won two consecutive World Cup competitions, there's no denying Hirscher's gold-medal potential this winter.
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