Shaun White—USA from Buzzworthy Olympic Athletes
Buzzworthy Olympic Athletes
Easily one of the best snowboarders to date, Shaun White has a larger-than-life reputation to live up to. 14 X Games gold medals, 2 Olympic gold medals and a slew of other accomplishments, both on and off the snow, have set lofty expectations. Expectations that are proving difficult to live up to: during his first run in an Olympic slopestyle qualifier he fell face-first while attempting a double flip. After a minute and some attention from medical staff, he was able to get down the mountain by himself. His second run was unsuccessful as well. He finished last in a competition of 13 total riders, but still managed to make the US Olympic team. He qualified for two events: halfpipe, where he’ll be looking for his third Olympic gold and slopestyle, which is a new Olympic event. Despite his rocky performance recently, he is expected to perform well at Sochi.
Kelly Clark is back with a vengeance. The 2002 Olympic gold medalist in the snowboard halfpipe is amped up and on her way to compete at Sochi after blowing the competition away at a qualifying event. She won with the two highest scores, a 98.00 and a 95.50, in Copper Mountain Colo. The Winter Olympics at Sochi will be her fourth appearance at the games.
Everyone loves a comeback and this one's straight out of a movie script. Alpine skier Matthias Lanzinger had a promising career, winning a junior World Championship in 2000 and clinching a podium finish in a 2005 World Cup Super-G. But his first skiing career came to an end on March 2, 2008. While competing in a World Cup race in Norway, he crashed into a Slalom gate, breaking his leg. His broken leg couldn’t put enough pressure on the binding, keeping the ski attached and causing irreparable damage as he continued downhill. The result was an open fracture of his shin bone and fibula, in addition his broken leg.
Two days after the accident, doctors had to amputate his lower left leg due to the severity of his injuries and fear of serious health risks. Initially he did not return to competitive skiing and did not plan to, but after contemplation he worried he might regret it later on. He is currently training for the Sochi Paralympics, and though he is hoping for a podium finish, he is most focused on the importance of his return to competitive skiing.
Twin sisters Tracy and Lanny Barnes have been training biathlon side by side for the last 15 years. Their training regimen and bond means they can usually anticipate what the other is thinking, but Tracy surprised Lanny in a way that recently made big news. Tracy gave up her own spot in the Olympics, the fifth and final spot, so that Lanny could go instead.
Due to sickness last month Lanny couldn’t compete in qualifying events, narrowly losing her spot on the 2014 Olympic team. Tracy said she wanted Lanny to go because Lanny was having a great year and “when you care enough about someone you’re willing to make that kind of sacrifice.” Both sisters competed at the 2006 Winter Olympics, but only Lanny made it to the Vancouver games in 2010. Lanny is not a favorite to make the podium at Sochi, but with the unique situation and renewed motivation, she certainly is a buzzworthy athlete.
Shiva Keshavan and Indian Athletes—EUN
Indian Olympic athletes will not be representing their own country or walking under their own flag. The International Olympic Committee froze their membership in 2012 due to a corruption scandal within the Indian Olympic Association. The Indian Olympic Association caved only recently and will hold an election on Feb. 9 to rid the organization of the “tainted” officials. The new elections will not produce results in time for the 2014 Olympic Games, so Indian athletes will be considered independent athletes and will walk under the Olympic flag.
Indian luge athlete Shiva Keshavan (pictured left) described the situation as “shameful and pathetic.” He expressed concern about not being able to represent his country and the fact that the failure in Indian systems is such a public matter.
Brad Jacobs and The Canadian Curling Team—CANADA
It's common for siblings to attend the Olympic Games, occasionally competing against one another for the same gold medal. What’s not as typical is the dynamic, chemistry and family relationship of the 2014 Olympic Canadian curling team. Comprised of Brad Jacobs, his cousins: Ryan Harnden and E.J. Harnden (who are brothers) and Ryan Fry, the team has had an incredible year. They made history with an undefeated record in Olympic trials. They are the strong favorite for Olympic gold, due to Canada’s dominance of the sport and, of course, their personal record.
Winston Watts and Marvin Dixon—JAMAICA
After 12 years out of the competition, Jamaica may be sending a bobsleigh team to Sochi. The first Olympic Jamaican bobsleigh appearance was in 1988, where they took last place. The Sochi hopefuls Watts and Dixon now face the hefty obstacle of funding. Watts says money is tight and the first priority is taking care of family. They have officially earned a spot at Sochi, but may not be able to make the trip financially.
Best known for her Olympic track and field career (and internet oversharing), Lolo Jones is hoping to be a standout winter athlete as well, now competing in bobsleigh. She has earned a spot on the 2014 US Olympic team. She will compete as a “pusher,” and her teammate Lauryn Williams, who is also an Olympic track star, will be the “driver.” Jones’ previous Olympic experience and physical training should give her an edge, but there’s no way to tell what affect her celebrity status will have at Sochi.
Yuna Kim—SOUTH KOREA
South Korean celebrity, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and 2010 Sportswoman of the Year, Yuna Kim boasts a long list of accolades. Her record on the ice is no different. During the 2004-05 season she put South Korea on the map, earning them their first ever international figure skating medal. Since then she has won two gold medals in the Grand Prix Finals, two World Championships and took gold in the 2010 Olympics. In the 2007 World championships she was awarded the highest score ever given for a performance under the current ISU judging system, a 71.95. In 2009, she scored a 76.12, beating her own record. That year, she finished with an overall score of 207.71, a new world record. She broke that record as well, by scoring a 228.56 the following year.
Kim is among the favorites to win Olympic gold. She will be competing against her childhood rival, Mao Asada.
Spots on the U.S. Olympic figure skating team have traditionally been assigned based on National Championship results. It was reported that aside from cases of injury, those rankings have never been ignored—except for this year. Ashley Wagner placed fourth in the national championship, after falling twice during her performance. She was chosen to join the three-woman Olympic team over Mirai Nagasu who placed third in the national championship. The U.S. Figure Skating Association defended their decision, citing Wagner’s overall record, her many international wins in recent years. That explanation wasn’t sufficient for some Nagasu fans, as they took to Twitter to voice their disapproval. Some even sent messages to Wagner directly, causing her to give up social media until after the games.
After the USA’s second place finish at the 2010 Winter Games, there is only one thing on the agenda for the women’s Olympic hockey team—gold. Among the array of extremely talented players, three-time Olympic medalist Julie Chu stands out. She is one of the most decorated female hockey players in U.S. history, a leader on the team and its oldest member at 31.The only thing missing from her conjectural trophy case is Olympic gold, and she knows she’ll once again need to face Canada to earn it. She said she’s always excited for the rivalry matchup and team USA looks to have a great shot this year, recently besting Canada in a six-game exhibition series.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said the text “We the people” must be removed from American goalie Jessie Vetter’s helmet. Supposedly it violates IOC policy; they said there is no text allowed because it can be considered an affront to other teams. The American hockey goalie was told to remove all of the writing on her Olympic helmet, including the constitutional phrase, her name and the Olympic rings featured on the front. This is not the first time team USA has violated the helmet policy: in 2010 two men’s hockey goalies were asked to remove text from their helmets as well.