Todd Williamson/Associated Press
Shaun White, USA: Already pretty much the Michael Jordan of snowboarding—both in terms of sheer greatness and marketability—White returns to defend his back-to-back titles in the halfpipe. He’ll also chase gold in the inaugural slopestyle competition in a bid to leave Sochi as the most-decorated athlete in his sport’s short history.
Danny Davis, USA: Some thought Davis would never compete again after a pair of gruesome injuries. He broke his back in an ATV crash in 2010 and then suffered a broken femur while on the comeback trail two years later. Finally healthy, he’ll vie for a medal in the halfpipe. If he can find success, he’ll be one of Sochi’s true feel-good stories.
Mark McMorris, Canada: McMorris was one of the favorites in men’s slopestyle before he broke a rib during his final X Games run in late January. He says he’ll compete at the Olympics, per the Associated Press (via Fox Sports), but even if he does manage to make it to the course, he won’t be 100 percent.
Alex Pullin, Australia: Though he goes by the incongruous nickname “Chumpy,” Pullin is not only Australia’s best chance for men’s snowboarding gold, he’s also the team’s poster boy. One of the favorites in snowboard cross, he’s part of the sport’s leading power couple, with girlfriend Alexandra Jekova of Bulgaria.
Ayumu Hirano, Japan: Hirano, the 15-year-old wunderkind, is widely regarded as the future of the halfpipe, but that doesn’t mean he can’t push White as early as this year. He missed last month’s Winter X with a foot injury, but still represents his country’s best chance for its first-ever Olympic snowboarding medal.
Kelly Clark, USA: Clark is a three-time Olympian and regarded as one of the greatest women’s halfpipe snowborders in history. This year’s X Games championship made it four in a row and five overall for the Vermont native. She’s as close to a lock as you’ll find to win it all in Sochi.
Jamie Anderson, USA: Despite losing out on her bid to three-peat as Winter X women’s slopestyle champion in January, Anderson is still the Olympic favorite. A steady veteran at 23 years old—her first X Games gold came at age 15—look for her to shake off the disappointment of Aspen in style.
Lindsey Jacobellis, USA: Jacobellis caught considerable heat for the gaffe that cost her gold in women’s snowboard cross in 2006, but in the process she became a star. After failing to advance to the medal round in 2010, she’s back to take what might be her last shot at gold for Team USA.
Dominique Maltais, Canada: Standing in Jacobellis’ way will be Maltais, a firefighter from Quebec who dominated World Cup competition this year. After a bronze medal in Turin in 2006, she’ll be looking for her first Olympic gold.
Torah Bright, Australia: Bright won gold in women’s halfpipe four years ago and will considerably broaden her horizons this year, competing in slopestyle and snowboard cross, as well. It’s almost enough to make you wonder if she’ll be biting off more than she can chew.