Team USA on way to historic daily medal haul
FEB 17, 2014 12:50p ET
Lost amidst all the angst over Shaun White, the speedskating suits and the Americans falling further off their record medal-winning pace from Vancouver with each passing event is Team USA's pursuit of a unique slice of Olympic history.
After Steve Holcomb piloted USA-1 to bronze in the two-man bobsled Monday night, the Americans had won at least one medal every day of the Winter Olympics. If they're able to keep that streak alive for the remaining six days of the Games, it will mark the first time the United States has been on the podium every day.
So let's look at those six days and identify the athletes and teams that are America's best hope for keeping this streak alive.
Best bet: Davis Wise, Torin Yater-Wallace, Ski Halfpipe
Bob Costas may think the freeskiers are a bunch of jackasses, but in Sochi, they've been the most consistent medal winners. Teammates Wise and Yater-Wallace's biggest competition for gold may very well be each other. And though the French skiers (notably Kevin Rolland) pose a significant threat to American domination, Aaron Blunck could conceivably give the U.S. its second podium sweep of the Games.
Dark horse: Mikaela Shiffrin, Women's Giant Slalom
It's not her strongest event, and the prevailing theory is that Shiffrin is competing in the GS partially to shake her Olympic jitters before taking the mountain as an overwhelming favorite in the slalom. But Shiffrin has reached the podium in two of her last four World Cup giant slaloms, so a medal here isn't out of reach.
Best bet: Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams, Women's Bobsled
Even though they've crashed in training and needed to use replacement parts from a bobsled that was on display outside of USA House, the women of USA-1 are poised to bring home some hardware Wednesday, having laid down some of the fastest training times of the Games when they've actually finished their run. Meyers won bronze in Vancouver as a push athlete and is now looking to add another medal as a driver. Williams, on the other hand, has already won gold ... as a member of the USA's 4x100 relay team in London. She'll be trying to become just the second American to win gold in both Winter and Summer Games.
Dark horse: Ted Ligety, Giant Slalom
Before the Games, this seemed like the automatic medal for this day. Ligety was a three-time gold medalist at world championships, and the giant slalom was considered the one event of the three in which he was most likely to duplicate that performance in Sochi. But Ligety hasn't skied particularly well in his two events so far, and his struggles in the slalom portion of the super combined are mildly disconcerting. But given how he's dominated the giant slalom lately (nine wins in the past two seasons), it'd still be shocking if he didn't at least medal here.
Best bet: Team USA, Women's Hockey
This isn't just a best bet, it's a sure thing. The Americans have already advanced to the gold-medal game against Canada, so they're guaranteed no worse than silver.
Dark horse: Gracie Gold, Women's Figure Skating
Given that the women's hockey team has already locked down a medal, we didn't really need to identify a dark horse. But we are, if only because it's worth noting that Gold has morphed into a legitimate medal contender since teaming up with legendary skating coach Frank Carroll last September. Gold won the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in stunning fashion, then finished second behind Russian phenom Julia Lipnitskaia in the long program portion of the team competition here in Sochi.
Best bet: Shiffrin, Women's Slalom
Shiffrin is bidding to become the youngest gold medalist ever in Alpine skiing. And this is how good she is: It'd be a huge disappointment if she didn't.
Dark Horse: J.R. Celski, Short Track 500m
If Shiffrin doesn't come through, prospects get a little bleak. Celski, a two-time medalist in Vancouver, was touted as a skater who could help fill the void left my Apolo Anton Ohno. He's struggled (along with the entire U.S. Speedskating team) in Sochi. But he's already advanced to the quarterfinals in the 500m. And anything can happen in short track ... and frequently does.
Best bet: Ligety, Men's Slalom
This could be where the U.S. bid to go 16-for-16 comes to an end. If men's hockey isn't playing for bronze, Ligety could be America's only hope on the penultimate day of the Games. And it's not a particularly good one. Over the last two World Cup seasons, Ligety has more DNFs (five) than he does podium finishes (zero) in this event. So it's not exactly a sure thing. But it's a whole lot surer than our dark horse.
Dark horse: Women's and Men's Team Pursuit, Speedskating
Both the women and the men were considered at least medal contenders in this event before the start of the Games. But given what a debacle these Games have been for U.S. Speedskating, horses don't come any darker than this. If either team is able to keep the streak alive, it'd be a great story of redemption. Of course, if it happens, I'll run through the Olympic Park in an Under Armour suit.
Best bet: Holcomb, Curt Tomasevicz, Steve Langton and Chris Fogt, Four-Man Bobsled
Since we can't count on Team USA playing for gold on the final day of the Games, Holcomb and Night Train 2 get our nod for the most likely medal to complete the Americans' streak. Holcomb piloted the original Night Train to gold in Vancouver and appears poised to defend that title. He is the top-ranked driver in the world and has guided his four-man team to four World Cup wins this season. Holcomb might not become the fourth pilot ever to win back-to-back golds, but we're confident he'll be on the podium.
Dark horse: Team USA, Men's Hockey
We're putting the U.S. men's hockey team in this category, even though it will be guaranteed a medal if it's playing on this day. That's because we think the Americans are a dark horse to reach the gold-medal game. Even though they were arguably the strongest team during the preliminary round, the Americans face a serious challenge in a potential semifinal matchup against Canada.