Team USA is sending a few speedskating stars to compete against the world's best, and expectations are high for these top medal contenders.
The Americans brought home only three individual medals and a silver medal in the men's team pursuit during the 2010 Winter Games at Vancouver. Superstar Shani Davis won two of those medals (one gold and one silver), while Chad Hedrick earned a bronze.
Davis is back for more action this year, and he's joined by a hungry group of youngsters who hope to improve this team's medal count in 2014.
Here's a look at the competitors with the best chance to earn a medal at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Davis is going for a three-peat in the men's 1,000-meter race this year, and he's going to be a top contender in the 1,500-meter race, too—an event he's won silver in during the past two Olympics.
At the age of 31, Davis must use all his past experience, his considerable skill and his wisdom to take down the likes of Kjeld Nuis and Michel Mulder of the Netherlands and Zbigniew Brodka of Poland. And he's learned plenty, as noted by Wayne Drehs of ESPN.com:
I've learned a great amount -- how to prepare to be the best I can be, getting to the Olympics and being my best there, rather than being awesome in the beginning of the season and not being at my best at the Olympics.
If Davis does pull off his third straight gold medal in the 1,000-meter race, then he'll be the first man to pull off the three-peat in any winter event, per Drehs. With a wealth of natural talent, the drive to succeed and history to be made, Davis will certainly come through with another banner performance to win his third straight gold medal in this race.
There's a good chance Heather Richardson will come away with more than one medal this year as she's a strong competitor in both the 500-meter and 1,000-meter races.
The world's No. 1-ranked ladies speedskater comes into Sochi with a gold medal in the 2013 World Championships in her pocket, and she owns the current world record in the sprint combination, which she set at Calgary back in January of 2013.
At the age of 24, Richardson already owns American records in the 500-, 1,000- and 1,500-meter races, and she hauled in 11 medals during World Cup competitions in 2013.
One of Richardson's chief competitors in the 1,000-meter race will be teammate Brittany Bowe, who owns the current world record in this event.
Bowe set the record at a World Cup event in Salt Lake City, Utah, just a few months prior to the Games, and she's more than capable of putting together another world-class run to win the event in Sochi.
Unlike Richardson, Bowe excels in the 1,500-meter race, where she'll be a contender to medal. If she can put together two stellar runs, then two medals isn't out of the question.
And after Team USA struck out in the medals department on the women's side in 2010, this is a welcome change, as noted by Willie Cornblatt of NBCOlympics.com:
Bowe and Richardson are the top two American female skaters, and right at the top of the list for best female skaters from any country. It’s been a while since U.S. speed skating had a woman that was a medal threat. An American woman hasn’t won a speed skating medal since 2002.
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