The Winter Olympics are back, with the opening ceremony in Sochi, Russia, slated to air Friday night. All of a sudden, the mainstream sports world will find itself enamored with figure skating, skiing and speedskating, as is the case every four years.
But let’s face it, the Olympics are as much about national pride as they are about the spirit of competition. For those Americans seeking to put their time into rooting for a winner, here’s a breakdown of the five sports in which the United States has the best chance to earn multiple medals.
For the uninitiated, a brief breakdown of the sport also is provided.
WHAT IS IT? Also called downhill skiing, this is the form in which athletes ski down a mountain, using ski poles.
WHAT ARE THE EVENTS? There are separate men’s and women’s events for the super combined, downhill, super G, giant slalom and slalom.
WHY CARE? Ted Ligety, who earned gold eight years ago in the combined, has the best chance of earning two Alpine gold medals. Look for him to excel in the super combined again, as well as the giant slalom.
Bode Miller is poised to medal for the sixth time in his illustrious Olympic career, likely in the downhill.
On the women’s side, Mikaela Shiffrin is the favorite in the slalom and could medal in the giant slalom, too. Julia Mancuso, a two-time medalist four years ago, will be in the medal mix in the downhill.
WHAT IS IT? It’s the one from “Cool Runnings.” A sleigh navigates a winding track at speeds well over 100 mph.
WHAT ARE THE EVENTS? These include <USAMNY>the two-man, four-man and two-woman bobsled.
WHY CARE? There’s a small chance the U.S. could earn gold medals in all three. Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton will be in the mix for both men’s teams.
While Lolo Jones will steal headlines for the women, it’s the team of Elana Meyers and Aja Evans that likely will come away with medals.
WHAT IS IT? The sport includes elements of traditional skiing mixed with tricks and jumps.
WHAT ARE THE EVENTS? There are separate men’s and women’s events for moguls, aerials, ski cross, half-pipe and slopestyle.
WHY CARE? Americans figure to pile up medals in these events, especially the women. Maddie Bowman and Devin Logan could both medal in the half-pipe, as could Hannah Kearney and Heidi Kloser — if she can overcome a knee injury suffered Thursday during warm-ups — in the moguls. Plus, Keri Herman will be in the mix in the slopestyle.
David Wise (half-pipe), Nick Goepper (slopestyle) and Patrick Deneen (moguls) have a chance to place on the men’s side.
WHAT IS IT? Similar to freestyle skiing, but athletes use a snowboard — as the name implies.
WHAT ARE THE EVENTS? There are separate men’s and women’s events for the half-pipe, parallel giant slalom, parallel slalom, slopestyle and snowboard cross.
WHY CARE? Americans own both the men’s and women’s half-pipe. Shaun White is favored to earn a third straight men’s gold, and his stiffest competition may come from teammate Danny Davis. Kelly Clark also is likely to medal for the third time and could be joined on the medal stand by the aptly named Arielle Gold.
More women are bound for glory as favorites to finish first in their events. Expect to see Jamie Anderson earn gold in the slopestyle and Lindsey Jacobellis win the snowboard cross.
Keep an eye out for Nick Baumgartner in the men’s snowboard cross, as well.
WHAT IS IT? Not to be confused with short-track, this version of the sport has the skaters racing in lanes around a larger oval track. The fastest time is all that matters in speedskating.
WHAT ARE THE EVENTS? There are men’s and women’s 500, 1,000, 1,500 and team pursuit events; the men also compete in a 10,000-meter event, and the women compete in a 3,000-meter event.
WHY CARE? Shani Davis figures to excel, as he has at the past two Games. He’s likely to earn his third straight gold in the 1,000 and a third consecutive silver in the 1,500. He’s also in the team pursuit, and might be the Americans’ best chance of earning three medals in Sochi.
Brian Hansen will also be in the team pursuit, and could sneak onto the medal stand in the 1,000.
The women are expected to contend, too. Heather Richardson has a good chance to earn gold in the 1,000 and may medal in the 500. Brittany Bowe will be right on her heels in the 1,000, and will make a run at 1,500 glory.