With the 2014 Sochi Winter Games less than a month away, Olympic hopefuls across the globe are gearing up to skate, ski, luge and twirl their way to glory. We feature 8 U.S. female athletes who are poised to step into the Sochi spotlight during February’s Winter Games. Read below to discover how these amazing women have gotten to the world stage.
Susan Dunklee: Biathlon
Continuing her family’s Olympic legacy, Susan Dunklee will be keeping her eyes on the gold in the biathlon competition. Susan’s father, two-time Olympian Stan Dunklee, trained her in cross-country skiing when she was 2. Susan didn’t learn how to shoot until after college, but she quickly learned the mechanics of marksmanship. Susan, who will be making her Olympic debut next month, finished 5th at the 2012 World Championship and seventh at the 2013 World Cup.
Heather Richardson: Speed Skating
Heather Richardson returns to Olympic long track speed-skating hoping to improve on her 2010 performance in Vancouver, where she earned a sixth place finish in the 500m race and placed ninth in the 1000m. Richardson began her competitive career as an inline skater before transitioning to ice speed-skating after high school. She is the current U.S. National Champion in speed skating.
Ashley Wagner: Figure Skating
The first U.S. female figure skater to earn back-to-back National Championships since Michelle Kwan, Ashley Wagner is expected to deliver big results at Sochi. She narrowly missed qualifying for the Vancouver games by just a few points, but sitting on the sidelines has steeled her resolve. Wagner has changed some of her coaching staff recently, but hopes that these additions will enhance her routines.
Noelle Pikus-Pace: Skeleton
Mom first, Olympic skeleton racer second; that’s Noelle Pikus-Pace’s motto. After finishing 4th in Vancouver, she briefly retired, wanting to spend more time with her family. In 2012, Pikus-Pace decided to return to the races, this time bringing her family along for the ride. She spent the past season traveling with her husband and two small children, who will also join her in Sochi. She enters the games ranked third in the world but number one mother in her family’s heart.
Jessica Jerome: Ski Jump
Hoping to soar above her competition, former Junior Olympic ski jump champion Jessica Jerome is poised to make her mark in Sochi. After ranking ninth in the 2013 World Cup standings, Jerome’s Olympic debut is sure to exceed her past stellar performances. With star skier Lindsey Vonn out of the games, Jerome has the chance to score on the slopes for Team U.S.A.
Mikaela Shiffrin: Slalom
At just 18, Mikaela Shiffrin already has a long list of accomplishments under her belt. She earned back-to-back U.S. slalom championships in 2011 and 2012 and was the 2013 World Cup slalom overall champion. She is the youngest American to earn a World Cup title in any type of skiing. Praised for her speed through the slalom gates, Shiffrin’s Olympic debut will only accelerate her meteoric rise.
Hilary Knight: Hockey
Hilary Knight returns to the Olympic team after playing for the Boston Blades in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Knight was the youngest member of the 2010 U.S. Silver medal team and enters Sochi with more experience and confidence on the rink. Named MVP in her rookie year at the Blades, Knight rejoins the national women’s hockey team ready to vie against her teammate Genevieve Lacasse, who is playing for Team Canada.
Elana Meyers: Bobsled
For Elana Meyers, Sochi offers a chance to prove herself in a new position on the bobsled. Meyers earned bronze for the U.S. in Vancouver as a brakewoman, but has now transitioned to driver with great results. Meyers began her athletic career playing softball at George Washington University, where she learned the values of teamwork and communication. Meyers hopes to continue the winning legacy of U.S. bobsled, which has medaled at every game since 2002.