5 Ted Ligety
Ted Ligety shows the most medal promise for the 2014 Winter Olympics on the men’s side of U.S. skiing. His strong showing in 2013 World Cup races—wins in the Super-Combined and Super-G races—portends an equally strong Olympiad and a possible repeat of the gold he won in men’s alpine combined at the 2006 Turin Olympic Games.
4 Mikaela Shiffrin
The year leading to an Olympic Games serves as a warmup for athletes. In 2013, skier Mikaela Shiffrin became the first American to win three World Cup slalom events, making her a favorite to medal at Sochi. The teenage slalom star could rewrite U.S. skiing history with a gold medal win as its youngest alpine medalist.
3 Heather Richardson
Based on her world-record setting performance at the 2012 World Sprint Championships, speedskater Heather Richardson stands poised to step into former Olympian Bonnie Blair’s gold-winning skates. The Sochi Olympiad makes her second Olympic appearance—she returned from Vancouver in 2010 experienced but without a medal. Expect Richardson to shine in the 500-meter and 1,000-meter races and earn her first Olympic medals.
2 Sarah Hendrickson
Another new Olympic winter sport, women’s ski jumping, boosts U.S. gold-medal prospects for Utah native Sarah Hendrickson. Hendrickson finished first and second in the 2012 and 2013 World Cup standings, respectively, and won the 2013 World Championship. If the teenager stays healthy and keeps Japanese rival Sara Takanashi at bay, Hendrickson could claim her sport’s first Olympic gold medal.
1 Shaun White
Sochi gives snowboarder Shaun White a three-peat chance for gold in the halfpipe. The red-headed snow wonder, known as the Flying Tomato, also could be a serious contender for the first medal in slopestyle, one of the new winter sports events. A U.S. team that includes White for men’s and Kelly Clark for women’s events would dominate Olympic snowboarding.