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US eye medal repeat in land of long hard winter Big names missing

LOS ANGELES, Jan 29, (AFP): The United States is hoping to repeat their record medal success of Vancouver as the land of the long hard winter gets set to stage the largest Winter Games in history. The US heads to Sochi hoping for some sparkling Olympic performances from its dominant ski team but also aware there are questions surrounding its athletes in traditionally strong events like figure skating.
The Americans would like to equal or better its performance in 2010 where it put together its most successful Winter Games with 37 medals, including nine gold. But they will be hard pressed to do so as there will be some big names missing — skier Lindsey Vonn and figure skater Evan Lysacek both withdrew with injuries, while short-track speedskater Apolo Ohno has retired.

Team USA will be paced by a potent alpine ski team that won eight medals in 2010, twice as many as any other nation. There could also be a passing of the torch in Sochi for the American skiers. With Vonn pulling out, the US would like these Games to become a breakout Olympics for teenage phenom Mikaela Shiffrin. In 2012, Shiffrin captured the World Championship and she now has seven career World Cup slalom wins. The 18-year-old from Vail, Colorado knows the expectations are high but she isn’t letting the pressure get to her. “For any athlete it is a childhood dream to win an Olympic medal and it is no different for me. The perfect Sochi experience for me would be knowing I put my best into both slalom and GS.” Besides Shiffrin, one of their best medal hopes rests with Ted Ligety, who been enjoying some of the best success of his brilliant career.

Ligety claimed three gold medals at the 2013 Worlds in Super-G, Super-Combined and Giant Slalom. He won a gold medal in 2006 Olympics in Combined but failed to reach the podium at the Vancouver Games. “It was disappointing walking away from Vancouver without a medal but it helped me get in the right mind set for moving forward because the last three years have definitely been my best three years.”
Some of the biggest questions for the USA in Sochi surround the figure skaters, including the loss of 2010 men’s champion Lysacek, who pulled out of the Games in December because of injuries. The women will try to redeem themselves after a subpar performance in 2010 when they went without an individual medal for the first time since 1964.


US women will have three skaters in the individual but none are favoured to reach the podium. The last time the Americans went without a medal in both men’s and women’s individual was 1936. This also marks the 20 year anniversary of the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan scandal that rocked the figure skating world and became the biggest story of the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer. Once again there is controversy after third-place finisher at nationals, Mirai Nagasu, was passed over for the team in favour of Ashley Wagner who placed fourth. Social media lit up with negative reaction to the decision and an online petition was started to try and get the decision reversed. Two time world champion Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the frontrunners for the gold medal in ice dancing. Snowboarder Shaun White and Shani Davis in long-track speedskating are also expected to shine.


The men’s hockey team has been built around speed up front of front and the best goaltending the tournament led by Jonathan Quick. The Americans are heavily-favoured to win gold in women’s hockey. The USA and Canada have squared off in three of the last four gold medal games but the two teams appear to be headed in opposite directions. The USA won three straight games over Canada in a pre-Olympic exhibition series including a dominating 5-1 victory.

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