US Olympic Speedskating 2014: Highlighting Top Athletes from Stacked Team

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US Olympic Speedskating 2014: Highlighting Top Athletes from Stacked Team
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Team USA is going to continue its tradition of Olympic excellence in speedskating

The team in Sochi is talented and primed to pick up medals in a wide assortment of races that extend to long- and short-track speedskating. 

The action will present familiar faces to Team USA fans like two-time gold medalist Shani Davis. It will also show off rising stars like J.R. Celski on the short track. 

Here are the three Team USA skaters I'm expecting to all come back with at least one gold. 

 

Where: Sochi, Russia

Watch: NBC has the coverage on its various networks. Here is a link to NBC’s broadcast schedule.

Speedskating Schedule: View the full schedule at Sochi2014.com. Speedskating action will begin on Feb. 8 and conclude on Feb. 22. 

 

Shani Davis, Long Track 

Shani Davis really doesn't need much of an introduction. He is the first man to ever defend his Olympic gold in the 1,000-meter event, and he will be attempting to push that record to a three-peat. On top of that, Davis also enters these games off of consecutive Olympic silver medals in the 1,500-meter.

Davis, the first black athlete to win an individual gold at the Winter Olympics, is now 31 and has had injury issues but is looking strong right now. 

Fellow speedskating legend Eric Heiden has seen what he's needed to see out of Davis to offer up this quote, via ChicagoMag.com's Bryan Smith: "It certainly seems to me that this year he appears to be on course to be on the podium again. That he’s been able to stay at the top for so long is amazing," said Heiden.

At the trials, Davis won both the 1,500-meter and the 1,000-meter, and he has taken the gold in both events in recent World Cup events.

Davis appears primed to further his already historic legacy.  

 

Heather Richardson, Long Track

Koji Sasahara/Associated Press

This is Heather Richardson's second Olympics, but she didn't make much of an impact in Vancouver, as she didn't have a finish higher than sixth.

That experience will serve her well this time around.

More than experience, however, Richardson is given a boost because she is a better skater now than she was then. She is just 24 and primed to bring back multiple medals. She will be competing in the 500-, 1,000- and 1,500-meters. 

Jeff Mills of the News & Record gathered several predictions for Richardson, and they paint a future fit for an alchemist

The Associated Press predicts a gold medal and a bronze medal.

Sports Illustrated predicts a silver and a bronze. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and the Chicago Tribune predict gold medals.

Needless to say, it would be somewhat shocking if Richardson didn't pick up at least one medal, which would help end a drought for the American women on the long-track ice: 

 

J.R. Celski, Short Track 

With Apolo Anton Ohno retired from the sport he helped Americans care about, Team USA is looking for a new face for its short-track group. 

J.R. Celski appears to be the guy to take the torch. 

At just 23, he is already making his second trip to the Olympics, and at the tender age of 19, he left Vancouver with two bronze medals.

Celski has been in strong form heading to Sochi. In fact, according to ESPN, he only lost a single race during the U.S. trials.

Don't be surprised to see Celski return from Sochi with a neck full of gold. 

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