With Lindsey Vonn relegated to the broadcast booth for the 2014 Winter Olympics, the U.S. will look to other athletes for their snow-drenched star power. Here are three marquee names to watch in Sochi, Russia:
The most recognizable American athlete in the competition, White is entering his third Olympics, seeking a hat trick after consecutive gold medals in the men’s halfpipe. Not content with all his success, he has given himself a new challenge, competing in the halfpipe and the slopestyle -- an event in its first year on the Olympic program in which snowboarders compete down a slope filled with jumps and obstacles. Among the acrobatic moves that have become a signature of White’s repertoire will be a frontside double-cork 1440, rotating four times while doing two front flips, which he performed for the first time in competition just last month. He missed January’s X Games for the first time in his career, choosing to sit out to focus on preparing for the Olympics, and making fans wait until Sochi to see how he stacks up in slopestyle. The favorite entering the competition is Canadian Mark McMorris, who broke a rib at the X Games but still finished with the silver.
Having broken through most barriers, Davis is competing for his third straight gold medal in men’s 1,000-meter speedskating. He was the first black athlete to medal at the Winter Olympics, in 2006, and is the only athlete period to win gold in two consecutive 1,000-meters. He also silvered in the 1,500-meter in Turin and Vancouver. The 31-year-old has a chance to make history again in what is probably his final Olympics: He, like White, has the chance to become the first man to take home three straight golds in any Winter Olympic event. His past year was hampered by a serious groin injury, but he ended 2013 on a high note, placing first at the U.S. speedskating trials in December. A kid from Chicago’s south side, Davis has changed the face of the Winter Games to become the fastest skater in the world.
Controversy will predictably follow Jones to Sochi, as the Summer Olympics hurdler turns her attention to the much chillier sport of bobsledding. The selection of Jones over more seasoned sledders has caused rumblings among writers and would-be teammates that the move was nothing more than a stunt meant to capitalize on one of the few recognizable and marketable faces left in the competition after Vonn was forced to drop out. She received similar criticism during Summer Games in Beijing and London, when her failure to medal fueled criticism that the attention given her was based more on star power than talent. Regardless of what you think of Jones’ selection to the U.S. bobsledding team, anything she does is likely to become a spectacle.
(Kavitha A. Davidson is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about sports. Follow her on Twitter at @kavithadavidson.)
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