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U.S. Winter Olympic team poised for success in several sports

Snowboarding and freestyle skiing are among several categories in which Americans could excel in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Mikaela Shiffrin is a threat to leave Pyeongchang

Mikaela Shiffrin is a threat to leave Pyeongchang with three gold medals in alpine skiing events. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / PHILIPPE DESMAZES

The Winter Olympics are back and looking to take over the sports conversation for the next two weeks.

Emanating from Pyeongchang, South Korea, with the opening ceremony set for Friday, the United States is once again poised to be among the world leaders at the 15-sport, 102-event games.

Four years ago in Sochi, Russia, Americans captured nine gold medals and 28 overall, good enough for fourth and second, respectively. Scandal-rocked Russia — who earned one more medal than the U.S. in 2014 — is barred from representation this year, although some of their athletes will be competing under a neutral banner. That can only help the American contingent in the overall medal table. Still, Norway and Germany are projected by most observers to be the most successful in South Korea.

The U.S. won’t be a factor in every event — sorry, patriotic biathlon and ski jumping fans — but Americans should excel in several other sports. Here’s a look at the categories in which this country should fare best.

Snowboarding

Chloe Kim is favored in the women’s halfpipe, in which Americans could sweep. Jamie Anderson and Julia Marino both will be strong candidates to medal in big air and slopestyle. Lindsey Jacobellis (snowboardcross) also should reach the podium.

Shaun White (halfpipe), the 31-year-old, two-time gold medalist, and teenager Red Gerard (slopestyle) anchor a strong men’s team.

Alpine skiing

Mikaela Shiffrin is in the mix for as many as three gold medals in South Korea, in combined, slalom and giant slalom. She’s been dominant on the World Cup circuit, and that’s expected to continue on winter athletics’ biggest stage.

Lindsey Vonn, whose trouble traveling to Pyeongchang made waves on social media, will look for a second downhill gold eight years after her 2010 win in Vancouver.

Freestyle skiing

David Wise is favored to win men’s halfpipe, and an American sweep is a distinct possibility. In slopestyle, Sochi silver medalist Gus Kenworthy had gold in his sights.

U.S. women also should excel in the halfpipe, with Brita Sigourney and Maddie Bowman threats to win it all. Keep an eye on Jaelin Kauf (moguls) and Maggie Voisin (slopestyle), too.

Figure skating

Nathan Chen has a strong opportunity to earn the U.S. only its second gold of the last 30 years — Evan Lysacek topped the podium eight years ago. The 18-year-old has been earning high praise with his array of quad jumps.

The ice-dancing teams all are potential medalists, although a sweep seems highly unlikely. Siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani are considered the top U.S. pair.

The Americans also will be a favorite for the overall team medal.

Long track

This speed skating category could produce several American medalists on the women’s side. Brittany Bowe is in the mix in both 500 and 1,000 meter. Heather Bergsma should perform well in the 1,500 and mass start.

Joey Mantia is a favorite in men’s mass start and may also find the medal stand in the 1,500.

The U.S. may come away with medals in the team trials for both men and women, as well.

Ice hockey

The U.S. and Canada women almost always meet in the championship round of women’s international competition, and this year should be no different. Canada won it all in Sochi, but the Americans captured last year’s IIHF world championship.

Cross-country skiing

Jessie Diggins could earn multiple accolades in a sport in which no American woman has ever merited even one Olympic medal. She earned a pair of medals at last year’s world championships and could reach the medal stand in the 1.5 km sprint and 10 km.

Bobsled

Two duos could come away with medals for the U.S. in the only women’s event. Drivers Elana Meyers Taylor and Jamie Greubel Poser lead the top American pairs. Overtaking Canadian driver Kaillie Humphries for gold could prove difficult.

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