Five Colorado Olympic hopefuls who could bring some serious hardware home from Sochi.
You can’t ask for a better name for a potential medalist than Steamboat Springs native Taylor Gold. But the kid’s got far more going for him than that. The 19-year-old Gold is a key member of the U.S. Snowboarding rookie squad and a good bet to garner some attention in Russia this winter. He was injured most of last year, but look for him to make a big splash at X Games Tignes before he looks to qualify for the Olympics.
Nordic god Bryan Fletcher was a key member in the U.S. squad that captured its first full-team nordic combined World Ski Championships medal in Val di Fiemme, Italy in 2013, and four top-10 finishes on the World Cup circuit ranked him 21st in the FIS World Cup standings. It’s odd the the U.S. has become a player in Nordic, but maybe not so much when you consider how heavily ingrained cardio-culture, competitiveness and Olympic tradition are in Fletcher’s hometown of Steamboat. Fletcher’s beat down tougher things than Olympic athletes, too, as a child he survived a battle with cancer, seven years of chemotherapy and seizures. It will be a win all-around if he stands on the podium.
Bryan’s younger brother is quickly catching up to his sibling. In fact, Taylor ranked highest among all U.S. men in the overall World Cup standings in 2013 at 16th place (higher than big brother). In 2012 he stood atop six Continental Cup podiums in seven tries. He’s been here before, too, competing in both nordic combined and ski jumping at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. The brothers will be pushing each other to ride their recent successes to Sochi and the podium.
No surprise Vail’s Lindsey Vonn will be one of the few superstars at the Sochi games as well as the one athlete Americans will expect to bring home medals. That’s not an easy proposition in alpine ski racing, a sport where milliseconds matter and single races don’t really mean as much as a season’s worth of standings. Plus, Vonn has been out most of the past year with a torn ACL/MCL. But the most successful American ski racer of all time (male or female) has defied the odds before and will be looking to come back to the big stage of the Olympics in full force.
Paralympian Alana Nichols is the only American woman to win medals at both summer and winter games, in basketball and skiing, but an injury this past June has put her behind training. Don’t expect that to slow her down however, as she defends her downhill and GS crowns.