The 2014 Winter Olympics will transform some athletes into household names, and certain U.S. competitors are set to shine. Lindsey Vonn is out, so Shaun White is one of the few prominent athletes on the slate in Sochi aside from Lolo Jones' bobsled experiment.
With NBC searching for stars to orient their coverage, these six competitors are set to become American heroes.
Phil Kessel, Hockey
The left winger may play for the Toronto Maple Leafs in NHL competition, but he'll be skating for the United States in Sochi. The 26-year-old tallied a goal and an assist at the 2010 Olympics, but he has blossomed into a dominating player since then.
He is racking up points at a blistering pace this season. After notching 20 points in 15 January games, he recorded a hat trick and an assist in Toronto's Feb. 1 win over the Ottawa Senators. If he continues his sensational play, Kessel could very well prove to be the golden boy.
Ted Ligety, Skiing
Ted Ligety won three gold medals at the 2013 World Championships, but the most amazing thing he has ever been involved with is this J.C. Penney commercial which remixes Blackstreet's vintage groove "No Diggity."
Understandably, it's called "Go Ligety."
Ligety won gold in the combined event at the Turin Olympics in 2006, and he's in fine form coming off a World Cup win in the giant slalom.
Bode Miller is still on the slopes in Sochi, but this is almost certainly the last rodeo for the 36-year-old five-time medal winner. Ligety has the chops to leave Russia with another gold.
Shani Davis, Speed Skating
Even after someone wins an Olympic medal, they fade from popular consciousness during the intervening four years. Well, here's reintroducing Shani Davis.
Davis was the first African-American gold medalist in the history of the Winter Games back in 2006, then he became the first speed skater to win two straight golds in the 1,000 meters in 2010. He also took silver at both Olympics in the 1,500 meters, and he's likely to earn more hardware in Sochi.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Ice Dancing
This couple won the world championship of ice dancing in 2011 and 2013, but their bitter rivals, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, took the top honors in 2012 as world champs and in 2010 with Olympic gold. Meryl Davis and Charlie White will seek to improve on their silver medals and they'll need to down Virtue and Moir to do so.
It will be the last Olympics for the Canadian pair, and Virtue summed up the essence of ice dancing for the Associated Press:
We have the opportunity to make people feel something, feel some emotion, and then also we get to be just pure athletes, and from a pure technical standpoint, do things really technically demanding and very challenging. So it’s that balance between the two that we love. And we love to play with the limits and push ourselves.
Davis and White have been skating together since 1997, according to their website, and anything less than gold will feel like a disappointment.
Tim Burke, Biathlon
The United States has never won a medal in biathlon, which is a little surprising for a country with the most powerful military in the history of the world. After all, the event was called military patrol prior to 1960.
According to the biography on his personal website, Tim Burke grew up near Lake Placid, site of the 1980 Winter Olympics, so this is the part he was born to play.
His silver medal in the 20-kilometer individual event at the 2013 World Championships made him only the second American to ever win a medal in that competition. He represents the best hope to break the biathlon medal drought.
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