Sochi Olympics 2014: Ranking Team USA's 10 Biggest Stars

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

Sochi Olympics 2014: Ranking Team USA's 10 Biggest Stars

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    Shaun White is one of the veteran stars of Team USA. But is he tops in 2014?
    Shaun White is one of the veteran stars of Team USA. But is he tops in 2014?Harry How/Getty Images

    The 2014 Winter Olympics are upon us, so if you’re one of the millions of Americans who pay little-to-no attention to winter sports except for every four years when the Olympics come rolling around, now’s the time to study up on your home country’s team.

    If the United States is to do as well as it did four years ago in Vancouver—where it picked up the majority of the medals—these 10 stars are the ones who will need to strut their stuff.

    Out of the 230 athletes Uncle Sam is sending to Sochi, here are the 10 names you will certainly know by the end of things. Athletes are ranked by age, experience and both past and recent accomplishments as well as good, old-fashioned star power.

Honorable Mentions

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    Knight leads a strong U.S. Women's Hockey Team.
    Knight leads a strong U.S. Women's Hockey Team.Carlo Allegri/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Not everyone could make the cut, but it’s only fair to mention men’s biathlete Tim Burke as well as women’s hockey forward Hilary Knight. Both are exceptional athletes who could do big things in Sochi.

    Burke will try to pick up the United States’ first medal in biathlon. He was just the second American man ever to win a World Championships medal when he claimed silver in the 20-kilometer individual competition last year, and he’s accumulated multiple podium finishes on the World Cup tour.

    Meanwhile, Knight leads a U.S. women’s hockey team that hopes to outplay rival Canada for a gold medal. At Vancouver in 2010, Knight and company had to settle for silver to their Canadian foes, but in 2013, Team USA took two wins in international play against Canada to set expectations higher for Sochi.

10. Lolo Jones

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    Sport: Bobsled

    Age: 31

    Olympic Experience: None in winter, but Jones competed in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics (100-meter hurdles)

    Best Finish: N/A

    Why Ranked Here: Social media celebrity Jones is a world-class hurdler. She finished in seventh place at Beijing in 2008 and fourth at London in 2012. Now she takes her talents to bobsledding, where she’ll use her powerful legs to help push what amounts to a giant, people-filled bullet down an icy shoot. She’s caught some flack over her selection to the team, but she is used to putting herself in the spotlight and is taking it all in stride. If anything, Jones is poised to make history as one of only 10 athletes to compete in both the Winter and Summer Games.

9. Julia Mancuso

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    Despite a winning past, Mancuso has her eyes set on the future.
    Despite a winning past, Mancuso has her eyes set on the future.Armando Trovati/Associated Press

    Sport: Alpine skiing

    Age: 29

    Olympic Experience: 2006, 2010

    Best Finish: Gold, giant slalom (2006)

    Why Ranked Here: With Lindsey Vonn sitting out the 2014 Winter Games, teammate Mancuso will be standing in as the decorated veteran on the team hoping for another big splash. Mancuso has already had an illustrious career on the slopes. She’s a three-time Olympic medalist who has grabbed another five medals at the Alpine skiing world championships. And with Vonn out of her way in Sochi, Mancuso could find her best Olympic run to date.

8. Bode Miller

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    Sport: Alpine skiing

    Age: 36

    Olympic Experience: 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010

    Best Finish: Gold, super-combined (2010)

    Why Ranked Here: The elder statesman on this list, Miller has experienced it all as an Olympian. In 1998, he was a 20-year-old prodigy. In 2002, he delivered on his promise and grabbed two silver medals. In 2006, he won nothing and was Team USA’s most disappointing participant. In 2010, he redeemed himself with a gold, silver and bronze. Now, Miller will try to end his career on top in what many believe will be his final Olympics.

7. Patrick Kane

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    Kane is used to the spotlight.
    Kane is used to the spotlight.Elise Amendola/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Sport: Hockey

    Age: 25

    Olympic Experience: 2010

    Best Finish: Silver, hockey (2010)

    Why Ranked Here: One of the top players in the NHL, Kane has already won two Stanley Cups and a playoff MVP trophy as a Chicago Blackhawk. Now Kane will try to lead Team USA to an elusive gold medal, after the U.S. took silver in an overtime loss to Canada at Vancouver in 2010. This year, both Canada and Russia will probably be enough to keep Kane and company battling for bronze, but if Kane can play his best, he’ll have the U.S. in the best position possible.

6. Ashley Wagner

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    Sport: Figure skating

    Age: 22

    Olympic Experience: N/A

    Best Finish: N/A

    Why Ranked Here: A two-time national champion and a heavy favorite to make the Sochi Olympic team, Wagner fell to the ice twice and finished fourth at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships behind Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds and Mirai Nagasu. But the selection committee picked Wagner over 2010 silver medalist Nagasu, so Wagner will get her chance. A seasoned veteran, Wagner has the ability to compete at the highest levels in the sport.

5. Shaun White

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    White help put snowboarding on the map.
    White help put snowboarding on the map.Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Sport: Snowboarding

    Age: 27

    Olympic Experience: 2006, 2010

    Best Finish: Gold, halfpipe (2006); gold, halfpipe (2010)

    Why Ranked Here: White helped bring national attention to snowboarding and put the X-Games on the map. He’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist and holds the X-Games records for gold medals and highest overall medal count. At Winter X 2012, White became the first person in history to score a perfect 100 in the men's superpipe. White should continue his winning ways in Sochi and will be just as marketable as ever.

4. Ted Ligety

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    Sport: Alpine Skiing

    Age: 29

    Olympic Experience: 2006, 2010

    Best Finish: Gold, combined (2006)

    Why Ranked Here: Ligety won gold in the combined event in 2006, and he hopes to recreate a bit of that magic in Sochi. He’s coming into these Games off a World Cup win in the giant slalom and is one of the heavy favorites in both that event and the super-combined. He’s got some big bucks behind him, too. Ligety is featured in prominent advertisements for DayQuil and NyQuil. Don’t be surprised to see a multiple medal run by Ligety.

3. Mikaela Shiffrin

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    Sport: Alpine skiing

    Age: 18

    Olympic Experience: N/A

    Best Finish: N/A

    Why Ranked Here: Shiffrin, an 18-year-old American skiing sensation, is the reigning slalom world champion and a huge favorite in Sochi. If there’s an “It Girl” in skiing, Shriffrin is it. She made the cover of Sports Illustrated recently and is expected to anchor a women’s skiing team in need of a new star to fill in for Lindsey Vonn. Shiffrin will captivate an American culture that loves to cheer for youthful winners.

2. Shani Davis

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    Davis is going for history.
    Davis is going for history.Associated Press

    Sport: Speedskating

    Age: 31

    Olympic Experience: 2006, 2010

    Best Finish: Gold, 1000 meters (2006); gold, 1,000 meters (2010)

    Why Ranked Here: Davis has been one of the top stars of the last two Olympics. This year, he won’t have to share any of the speedskating limelight with Apolo Ohno. Even at 31, Davis is one of the best in the world at 1,000 meters. This year, he’s gunning for history. Davis is already the first man to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the 1,000 meters. Now, he’s trying to become the first to win the same event at three consecutive Olympics.

1. Gracie Gold

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    Sport: Figure skating

    Age: 18

    Olympic Experience: N/A

    Best Finish: N/A

    Why Ranked Here: Face it: The ladies of figure skating are the darlings of the Winter Olympic Games the way the gymnasts are during the Summer Games. Gold erupted to capture her namesake at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and she’ll need an even better performance in Sochi. But compared to her U.S. teammates, Gold’s jumps are higher, her movements across the ice are faster and she is the premier artist of the group. If Gold can skate her absolute best in Sochi, expect America to fall in love with her.