Five international stars to watch

Ayumu Hirano

Japan, snowboarding

Hirano surely will be the tiniest snowboarder on the mountain, but pint-sized 15-year-old has big moves and is expected to battle Shaun White for the gold medal.

 

Tina Maze

Slovenia, Alpine skiing

Maze reached the top of the Slovenian pop music charts with her hit “My Way is My Decision,’’ and she also was the undisputed world’s best all-around skier in 2013 with world titles in the giant slalom, super-G and combined.

 

Alex Ovechkin

Russia, hockey

Of all the Russian hockey stars, the most famous is Ovechkin, captain of the Washington Capitals. He is playing in his third Olympics because of his bloodlines. His mother, Tatyana, won two Olympic gold medals in basketball in 1976 and 1980. His father, Mikail, was a pro soccer player.

 

Mao Asada *

Japan, figure skating

Most figure skaters would be thrilled with an Olympic silver medal, but most skaters are not among the few women in history to land a triple axel, so second place did not sit well with Asada in Vancouver four years ago.

Aksel Lund Svindal

Norway, Alpine skiing

Norway is best known for its cross-country skiers, and in recent years, Svindal, 31, has been stealing the spotlight. He won the Olympic gold medal in super-G in Vancouver four years ago and took silver in the downhill. In Sochi, he is the man to beat in the downhill, and could medal in super-G, as well.

 

McClatchy News Service