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Lindsey Vonn to Miss Sochi Olympics, Who Will Step Up for Team USA?

Lindsey Vonn

Paul Bussi-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday morning, the U.S. Winter Olympic Team lost arguably its best hope for a gold medal when alpine skier Lindsey Vonn announced that she will not be competing in the upcoming games in Sochi, Russia.

According to USA Today, Vonn will not be participating as she has yet to fully recover from a torn ACL, and has a sprained MCL to boot. According to a statement from Vonn’s publicist, the injuries have “made it impossible to stabilize her knee and be ready to ski safely next month.” Considering that she was a favorite to defend her gold medal in the downhill and her bronze in the Super-G, this is a sizable loss for the U.S.

With the world’s best skier now sidelined, who will step up for the U.S. on the mountain in Russia? The first name that comes to mind is Mikaela Shiffrin. Some American skiing writers view her as the heir apparent to the throne that Vonn currently occupies. The 18-year old won gold in the 2013 World Cup in the slalom and defended that title this past Sunday in Italy.

Along with Shiffrin, Heather McPhie is another name that could bring the U.S. a medal at the games. The 29-year-old has one Olympics appearance under her belt in 2010, but she failed to medal in mogul skiing. This coming February, she stands a good chance of getting to the podium and possibly winning a gold medal.

In her career, she’s reached the podium 14 times in the FIS World Cup, including four victories. In 2013, she won three events and got on the podium five times. She finished the season ranked third overall in the world.

Just because the famed Vonn won’t be taking to the mountain in Russia doesn’t mean that the U.S. can’t win gold in Sochi. Keep your eyes on Shiffrin and McPhie as both could bring home gold medals for Team USA.

Brian Skinnell is a freelance sports writer for RantSports.com and contributor at Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your network on Google.