With 100 days until the Olympic Winter Games kick off in Sochi, here are the stories to watch out for. (Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
From the mountains to the halfpipe to the ice rinks, U.S. athletes will be competing in everything from sports with decades of history to sports that are just beginning to make history of their own. There will be athletes seeking to earn their first trip to the podium and athletes who are hoping to return there. There are the athletes who have become household names and several others who will become them.
We don’t have a crystal ball to know what will happen in Russia this February, but we do have a pretty good idea of what to watch for when the cauldron is lit and the Olympic Winter Games officially begin Feb. 6 in Sochi.
With 100 days and counting until the start of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, here are some of the top storylines to keep track of for the USSA and its athletes. You can check out all 100 USA-related storylines from writer Amy Rosewater at TeamUSA.org.
93 What are all these new sports to watch in Sochi? The 2014 Olympic Winter Games will mark the debut of several new sports: ski halfpipe (men’s and women’s), ski slopestyle (men’s and women’s), snowboard slopestyle (men’s and women’s), snowboard parallel special slalom (men’s and women’s), women’s ski jumping, biathlon mixed relay, luge team relay and a figure skating team event.
92 Ski halfpipe, in which athletes perform various tricks while wearing skis in a halfpipe, will be an Olympic sport for the first time in Sochi. The sport debuted at the Winter X Games in 2002. Among the Americans to watch: Maddie Bowman, a world champion in 2012; 10-time X Games medalist Simon Dumont; and 2013 world champion David Wise. Medal contenders Gus Kenworthy and Devin Logan both compete in halfpipe and slopestyle.
91 Men’s and women’s slopestyle skiing events are also new to the Olympic program this year. Slopestyle skiers navigate terrain parks while also performing various aerial maneuvers. Like ski halfpipe, it has been part of the X Games circuit and is just now making its way into the Olympic program. Among the Americans to watch are Tom Wallisch, Nick Goepper, Bobby Brown, Grete Eliassen and Keri Herman.
90 Who knew the Internet could be a direct path to the Olympic Winter Games? Tom Wallisch made a name for himself by posting videos of his skiing. Now he has a chance to compete in Sochi in slopestyle skiing.
89 Grete Eliassen suffered a knee injury early in 2012. Her comeback season was highlighted with a bronze-medal finish at the 2013 world championships in Norway. Can her comeback continue with an Olympic berth?
88 Nick Goepper got his start skiing in what he jokes is the world’s skiing mecca … Indiana. He grew up minutes away from the Perfect North Slopes ski area, where the largest hill has a vertical drop of a mere 300 feet. By comparison, the largest hill at Colorado’s Breckenridge ski area has a vertical drop of 3,398 feet. Goepper hopes his career will reach great heights in Sochi.
87 Patrick Deneen represented Team USA in moguls in 2010, finishing 19th. Now he is seeking a second Olympic berth and a spot on the medal podium. He earned bronze medals in moguls and dual moguls at the 2013 world championships.
86 On the women’s side in moguls skiing, Hannah Kearney will be the one to watch. She is a two-time Olympian and the reigning gold medalist. Despite lacerating her liver, breaking two ribs and puncturing a lung during a training session crash in October 2012, Kearney struck gold again at the 2013 world championships.
85 A four-time national aerials champion and nine-time world cup medalist, Emily Cook is seeking her third Olympic berth. Cook represented Team USA in the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games and then again four years later at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. She was decked out in red, white and blue at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games but had to watch in a wheelchair. She injured both her feet in a training session leading up to those Winter Games.
84 Dylan Ferguson can relate to Emily Cook’s pain in Salt Lake City. Although Ferguson was named to the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, he was forced to withdraw from the Winter Games due to an emergency appendectomy. He has won the last three consecutive U.S. aerials titles and is hoping to not only make the U.S. Olympic Team in Sochi but to also compete there.
83 Seven-time X Games medalist Jamie Anderson is seeking her first Olympic berth in the sport of snowboard slopestyle, which will make its debut in the Winter Games in Sochi.
82 “The Crippler” might not sound like a maneuver most people would want to try, but Gretchen Bleiler takes it on just fine. The Olympic silver medalist in 2006 was the first woman to perfect the move (technically called an inverted backside 540) and is seeking her third Olympic berth — and second medal — in halfpipe snowboarding.
81 More than a decade after striking Olympic gold in snowboarding halfpipe, Kelly Clark is hoping to return to the top of the medal podium in Sochi — which would mark her fourth trip to the Winter Games. Clark, who won the gold medal in Salt Lake City in 2002, notched her 60th career victory — the most for any snowboarder male or female — in 2013.
80 Can the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team make it to the medal podium again? The U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team made history at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games by winning its first Olympic medals in the sport. First, Johnny Spillane earned a silver medal and then Billy Demong added a gold medal for Team USA in Vancouver. Demong, Spillane, Todd Lodwick and Brett Camerota also earned a silver medal in the 4x5-kilometer team event, and Spillane earned yet another individual silver.
79 Who should we watch in Nordic combined in Sochi? Billy Demong is expected to be back on the U.S. Olympic Team in Sochi, as is Todd Lodwick, but there are some young guns to watch as well. Taylor Fletcher, a 2010 Olympian, and his brother, Bryan Fletcher, are both trying to make the team in Sochi. Bryan Fletcher was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when he was 3.
76 How many times will Lindsey Van be confused with Lindsey Vonn? Both are skiers who hope to reach the medal podium in Sochi, but Lindsey Van is a world champion in women’s ski jumping and Lindsey Vonn is world and Olympic champion in alpine skiing.
75 Speaking of women’s ski jumping, what are Team USA’s chances in this new sport for the Winter Games? Women’s ski jumping made an unsuccessful bid to be added to the Olympic program in Vancouver, but its efforts paid off as the International Olympic Committee decided to add the sport to the Winter Games in Sochi. Team USA has several strong women vying for spots on the U.S. Olympic Team including Lindsey Van, Jessica Jerome and Sarah Hendrickson.
74 Can Team USA reach the medal podium in cross-country skiing for the first time since Bill Koch earned a silver in 1976? There’s a good chance a woman can make history in Sochi. Kikkan Randall dominated the 2012-13 world cup season, finishing first in the final sprint standings and third in the overall standings, marking the highest ranking for a U.S. female cross-country skier in history. She teamed with Jesse Diggins to capture the first U.S. team sprint gold medal at the 2013 world championships.
57 Scotty Lago earned a bronze medal in halfpipe snowboarding in Vancouver. He has looked strong leading up to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games as he claimed second place in the 2013 U.S. Grand Prix in Park City, Utah, and earned a silver medal at the world cup Olympic test event in Sochi.
56 Snowboarder Hannah Teter has won two medals in the past two Winter Games, a silver medal in 2010 and a gold medal in 2006, both in halfpipe. She is looking to earn a third medal in 2014.
55 Louie Vito is not only a snowboarding star; he also can dance with the stars. Vito, a 2010 Olympian who claimed an X Games gold medal in 2013, competed in season nine of “Dancing With The Stars.”
45 How will Mikaela Shiffrin fare in the lead-up to Sochi? Shiffrin, 18, had a breakout 2012-13 season, won the world championships slalom gold medal, four world cup slalom wins and scored a come-from-behind victory in the final race of the season to earn the slalom title. She opened this season in Austria this past weekend finishing a career-best sixth place in giant slalom.
44 Three-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso is hoping to compete in her fourth Winter Games in Sochi. She competed in the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games, won a gold medal four years later in Torino (giant slalom) and earned a pair of silver medals in Vancouver (downhill and combined).
42 Can Bryon Wilson claim another Olympic medal in moguls? Since the 2010 Winter Games, where he earned a bronze medal, he underwent knee surgery. Last season, he earned his first world cup victory and finished the season ranked 10th.
41 Can two-time Olympian Nate Holland make it to the Olympic medal stand in Sochi? In 2006, the snowboardcross competitor placed 14th, and then in 2010 he finished fourth. He had an impressive 2012-13 season, winning his seventh X Games gold medal, but a broken shoulder blade sidelined him.
31 Where is Sochi exactly? The city is a resort town in south Russia near the Black Sea. Dubbed the “Russian Riviera,” it is located about a 30-hour train ride away from the Russian capital of Moscow. Sochi will be the first Russian city to play host to a Winter Games. Moscow hosted the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, which the United States boycotted based on the Soviet Union’s involvement in Afghanistan.
30 Where will the Olympic torch go before it reaches Sochi? The relay began Oct. 7 and is scheduled to travel through all 83 regions of Russia before arriving in the Olympic Stadium for the start of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The torch reached the North Pole on Oct. 19.
24 Alpine skier Bode Miller is focused on his own Olympic goals this season. But he is also helping the Paralympic Movement through a program called “Gateway to Gold.” The program is designed to identify talent and identify people with physical and visual disabilities to Paralympic sports. Miller became involved with the program because of a childhood friend, Cam Shaw-Duran, who was paralyzed after a car crash. With Miller’s help, Shaw-Duran has gotten involved in skiing.
20 Marco Sullivan is glad he decided not to retire. Although he has endured more injuries than anyone ever should have to go through — from a concussion to separated shoulders to knee injuries — Sullivan is now seeking a spot in Sochi. Should he make the team, it would be his fourth trip to the Winter Games.
16 Elena Hight is a two-time Olympic halfpipe snowboarder from … Hawaii. Born in Kauai, she later moved to Lake Tahoe. She has said that if she stayed in Hawaii she probably would have become a pro surfer.
15 Torin Yater-Wallace became the youngest Winter X Games medalist in 2011 when he earned a silver medal in ski superpipe at the age of 15. Yater-Wallace, who turns 18 in December, now has six X Games medals to his name (2 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze).
13 Where in the world is Shaun White these days? The two-time Olympic snowboarding champion was training on a secluded 300-foot private halfpipe in Perisher, Australia, earlier this month. Leading up to the 2010 Winter Games, White trained on a private halfpipe in Colorado.
11 The U.S. Olympic Committee is offering fans a chance to catch some of the Olympic spirit at various events between now when the Winter Games begin Feb. 7-23. Today, in New York City’s Times Square, will be a celebration for the 100-day countdown to the Winter Games. The Road to Sochi tour will make several other stops throughout the United States. Among them are: Nov. 2-3 at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.; Nov. 14-16 in Fargo, N.D.; Dec. 7-8 in Dallas; Dec. 28-29 in Utah Olympic Park; Jan. 3-4 in Kearns, Utah; and Jan. 10-12 in Boston. For the full schedule, click here.
10 Why are all these U.S. athletes wearing blue mittens with “Go USA” on them? Because it’s part of a marketing program through Team USA to help support U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Fans can purchase a pair for $14 at TeamUSA.org.
9 Can Sarah Hendrickson make a comeback from a nasty knee injury in time to compete in Sochi? Hendrickson won the 2013 world championship in women’s ski jumping and was considered the favorite for a gold medal in Sochi before she blew out her knee during a training jump in Germany at the end of August. Although she underwent successful surgery, her biggest opponent now is time. She has 100 days and counting.
8 Can Lindsey Vonn make a comeback from a nasty knee injury in time to compete in Sochi? Vonn had hoped to return to the slopes this past weekend in Soelden, Austria, but postponed her competitive return to a world cup Nov. 29 in Beaver Creek, Colo. Vonn, one of the biggest stars in Vancouver in winning a gold medal in the downhill and a bronze in the super-G, tore her ACL and MCL in her right knee and fractured her tibia in a crash back in February at the world championships.
7 Ted Ligety won three world championships in 2013 — becoming the first men’s alpine skier to achieve this feat since the great Jean-Claude Killy won four world titles in 1968. How will Ligety, nicknamed “Shred,” fare in Sochi, which would mark his third trip to the Winter Games? He competed in 2006 and won a gold medal in combined and also skied in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
6 Bode Miller is back. And if he makes the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team, it will mark the skier’s fifth trip to the Winter Games. Sidelined for 20 months after missing last season because of a knee injury, Miller returned to the slopes this past weekend in Soelden, Austria, placing 19th. In his previous four trips to the Winter Games, Miller has earned five medals (1 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze).
4 How can Billy Demong top his experience in Vancouver? A four-time U.S. Olympian in Nordic combined, Demong became the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in a Nordic combined event (10-kilometer large hill) and he was part of the 4x5-kilometer team that captured a silver medal. Hours after winning his gold medal, he proposed to longtime girlfriend, Katie Koczynski. The couple was married in the Olympic city of Lake Placid, N.Y., in July 2010. As if all of that isn’t enough, Demong was selected as the U.S. flag bearer for the 2010 Closing Ceremony.
3 Can Shaun White, Shani Davis and Seth Wescott all win their third consecutive Olympic gold medals in Sochi? White, one of the most recognizable names in the Winter Games, has won the gold medal in the halfpipe in 2006 and 2010. He is also trying to compete in slopestyle in Sochi. Although he is not favored to win the slopestyle event, White still is one of the top contenders for gold in the halfpipe. Davis is the two-time defending Olympic champion in the 1,000-meter speedskating event. Wescott is the only man to win the snowboardcross Olympic gold medal since the event made its debut at the Winter Games in 2006.
1 How many medals will Team USA claim in Sochi? The 2010 U.S. Olympic Team won the most medals of any country in Vancouver with 37 (9 gold, 15 silver, 13 bronze). With new sports in the Olympic program and several returning Olympians, there is a good chance Team USA will top that medal total in Sochi.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. A former sports reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, she has covered two Olympic Games and two Olympic Winter Games. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.