With the Sochi Olympics kicking off tonight, prepare for 16 exciting days of tight races, big victories, crushing losses—and, yes, lots and lots of snow. With the games only happening once every four years, it’s impossible not to get swept up into the excitement of it all.
Before the mania begins though, get to know the ten American athletes who have the best shot at gold in the coming weeks.
Lolo Jones – Bobsled
This is Jones’ third appearance at the Olympics, but the first time at the Winter Games—although she never medaled, the 31-year-old athlete gained popularity as a hurdler in Bejing and London. Her celebrity has caused some controversy, with many saying she only made the bobsled team based on her fame, not her ability.
Ashley Wagner – Figure Skating
Wagner’s naming to the Olympic team hasn’t been without a little drama—despite her fourth-place finish at the trials (after a few falls during her program), she edged out Mirai Nagasu for the third and final spot on the Olympic team, sparking lots of debate about whether or not she truly earned her spot in Sochi. Deserved-ness debate aside, Wagner is probably the United States’ best shot at a skating medal this year.
Patrick Kane – Ice Hockey
Coming off a Stanley Cup win with the Chicago Blackhawks, the 25 year-old is expected to be one of the standouts on the ice heading into Sochi. Kane’s Blackhawks teammate and friend Jonathon Toews will be skating for Team Canada, so count on some “friendly” rivalry between the two.
Mikaela Shriffin – Alpine Skiing
With injured Lindsey Vonn out of the games, 18-year-old Shriffin has a real chance at the medal. Though she may be young, Shriffin is insanely talented— she took home gold in the slalom and finished sixth in the giant slalom at the 2013 World Championships.
Erin Hamlin – Luge
Sochi will be Hamlin’s third try at a medal—despite appearing in Turin and Vancouver, the 27-year-old has never finished higher than 12th place. She’ll be leading a young U.S. team that hopes to capture the first American medal ever in Olympic Luge.
Ted Ligety – Alpine Skiing
A four-time world champion with a medal under his belt from the 2006 games, Ligety, 29, is the United States’ best chance at earning an alpine skiing accolade in Russia.
Lindsey Jacobellis – Snowboard Cross
She may already have a silver medal, but Jacobellis, 28, is looking to finally secure the elusive gold in Sochi. An eight-time X Games gold medalist, Jacobellis missed the 2012 games due to an ACL tear. Look for her to come back strong this year.
Shaun White – Snowboarding
Formerly known as the “Flying Tomato” thanks to his unruly hair (which, in case you were wondering, he has since cut), White has earned much popularity for his unparalleled skill and fearlessness on the slopes. The 27 year-old will be going for his third straight Olympic halfpipe title. White was supposed to compete in the new snowboard Slopestyle event, but pulled out earlier this week, after expressing safety concerns about the course.
Jocelyn Lamoureux and Monique Lamoureux-Kolls – Ice Hockey
The 24 year-old sisters became the first set of twins to ever play women’s ice hockey in the Olympics. Though they already helped the U.S. team win silver in Vancouver, they’re now looking to take home another medal in Sochi. But win or lose, what could be more fun than going to the Olympics with your twin!?
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