The U.S. Olympic team, which never has competed on the home ground of its old Soviet-era rival, plans to build on a world-leading haul of 37 medals from 2010 at the first Winter Games held in Russia.
The U.S. expects to take a record 230 athletes to Sochi with the goal of overtaking Canada in the gold medal count.
X Games stars can capitalize on new podium opportunities in events that play to Americans’ strengths — and make up for weaknesses the U.S. is likely to experience in figure skating and speedskating.
Here are 10 Americans to watch during the Feb. 7-23 Olympics at venues that stretch from Black Sea shores to Caucasus Mountain slopes:
Meryl Davis and Charlie White
Partners on the ice since they were 9-year-olds, Davis, 26, and White, 25, are the best and probably only hope for U.S. gold in figure skating, and are favored to win the first U.S. gold in ice dancing. They won world titles in 2011 and 2013, and have earned respect for a discipline that used to be mocked as all style, no substance.
Davis and White share a coach with and train near Detroit alongside their Canadian rivals, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, gold medalists in 2010. Davis and White will skate their long program to “Scheherazade” by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
“It never hurts to have the support of the crowd, not only in the team itself but being involved in the music and the story it is we’re trying to tell,” Davis said of their choice. “We feel this is the right moment. We have grown into skaters who can make the most of this special music.”
Holcomb is pilot of the “Night Train” bobsled that broke the 62-year U.S. Olympic winless streak with a dramatic gold medal performance at the 2010 Games. He’s aiming for double gold in Sochi, in two-man and four-man. Holcomb’s driving savvy should serve him well on Sochi’s curvy, technical track — it even has two uphill sections — that is in sharp contrast to the speed layout of Whistler, but the Russians will log a substantial training time advantage over adversaries.