2014 Winter Olympics: Under the Radar US Olympians By Sport

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2014 Winter Olympics: Under the Radar US Olympians By Sport

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In June of 2011, a ten-digit bidding war between all of sporting television’s biggest players concluded. The prize was the broadcasting rights to the four Olympic Games stretched from 2014-2020, and the winning sum was a cool $4.4 billion spent by NBCUniversal Inc. A tinker in the network’s Olympics reign would have sent the sports media world into a frenzy as Bob Costas, “Bugler’s Dream,” and the rest of NBC Olympics had broadcasted every Games, Winter or Summer, since Sydney in 2000.

Now NBC enters its eighth straight Olympics, and with such experience they know how to create stars for their American viewers. America loves winners, and NBC will show you plenty of snowy and icy action from previous Olympic champions like the unconventional speed skater Shani Davis and the stimulating snowboarder Shaun White.

But the network will look to negate the absence of the two of the most well-known names of the 2010 Vancouver Games in Apolo Ohno and Lindsey Vonn. It will be much easier to replace the new boo of Tiger Woods as alpine skiing is one of the more popular events that still has Bode Miller, the most decorated American skier ever, and 18-year old rising star Mikaela Shiffrin.

Other money-making sports like figure skating and ice hockey will surely make a name or two out of American athletes who find Sochi success, and the addition of Lolo Jones, arguably the most well-known track and field athlete outside of Usain Bolt, to the to the USA Bobsledding Team is gold for the network.

Ultimately, America’s usual Winter Olympic success combined with its largest contingent ever (230 athletes in all 15 sports) will give NBC enough to make household names out of American jocks you have never heard of before and each sport has a notable unknown ready to shine.

Dan Charest is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DannyACharest or add him to your network on Google.

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Alpine Skiing: Ted Ligety

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Ted Ligety, 28, is a four-time World Cup champion in the giant slalom and already has a gold medal to his name (2006-combined). But he is not even the biggest name on the United States ski team, men (see: Bode Miller) or women (see: Mikaela Shiffrin).

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Biathlon: Tim Burke

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The highest an American has finished in an Olympic biathlon was ninth by Jeremy Teela in the 10-kilometer sprint race in Vancouver. However, in 2013, Tim Burke won silver in the 20-kilometer individual sprint at the World Championships, and he is poised the bring home America's first biathlon medal.

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Bobsled: Elena Meyers

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Even though the sport of bobsledding only finds relevance every four years, NBC has as many American storylines as the sport has ever seen. There is defending gold-medalist driver Steve Holcomb and Olympic track converts Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams, but look out for Elena Meyers. The 29-year-old driver won silver at the 2013 world championships and bronze at Vancouver. With brake-woman Aja Evans, Meyers is predicted to win a second Olympic medal.

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Cross-Country Skiing: Kikkan Randall

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Kikkan Randall is the best American woman ever to buckle up a pair of cross-country skis. The Alaskan finished first overall in the World Cup sprint standings a year ago and is the favorite heading into the 1.2-Kilometer Sprint event.

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Curling: John Shuster

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As the skip -- or "the front-man" or "quarterback" -- of a curling team during the 2010 Games, John Shuster was unusually benched after costly last rock throws in three of the United States' first four games. The Americans, the reigning bronze medalists with Shuster as lead, finished a disheartening last in Vancouver, but Shuster rebounded to lead his squad to a title at the US Curling Trials. They should put a scare into podium favorites Canada, Great Britain and Sweden.

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Figure Skating: Marissa Castelli-Simon Shnapir

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While ice dance shoo-ins Charlie White and Meryl Davis lead a relatively lackluster American figure skating squad and individual skaters Jeremy Abbott, Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner will get headlines, look for the U.S. pairs champion to turn heads. Rhode Island native Marissa Castelli and Moscow-born Simon Shnapir skate to Santana and won bronze at the 2013 Four Continents Championships. The pair will also take part in the discipline's debut of the team event.

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Freestyle Skiing: David Wise

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The three-time reigning champion in X Games SuperPipe, David Wise has his eyes on gold in the Olympic inauguration of halfpipe.

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Ice Hockey: Amanda Kessel

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Amanda Kessel is best-known as the little sis of Toronto Maple Leafs forward and fellow 2014 Olympian Phil Kessel, but she could be known for leading the Americans to their first gold since Nagano in Sochi. The 2013 Patty Kazmaier Award winner (the female equivalent of the Hobey Baker Award) scored the game-winning goal at last year's world championships over chief rival and fisticuffs foe Canada.

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Luge: Erin Hamlin

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In a sport dominated by the Germans, Erin Hamlin has proved she can crack through the Deutschland barrier by taking home gold at the 2009 World Championships. It was the first time in 12 World Championships that a German had not won the title, but their gold-medal favorites Natalie Geisenberger and Tatjana Hufner are the only two females to win world or Olympic titles since Hamlin in 2009. The German giants will look to keep the American off the podium again in Sochi.

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Nordic Combined: Billy Demong

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Although Bill Demong is on currently on VISA commercials and won gold in the 10-kilometer/large hill event in Vancouver, he is still largely unknown in the States. A five-time Olympian (still one less than US teammate Todd Lodwick) and candidate for America's flag bearer, Demong should team with Todwick and get the Americans on the podium in the team event.

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Short Track Speed Skating: JR Celski

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Short Track lost a star in Apolo Ohno, and JR Celski is the best bet to recapture some of the telegenic magic of the greatest American Winter Olympian. Celski already won two bronze medals in Vancouver and will be a medal threat in all four events short track events in Sochi.

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Skeleton: John Daly

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Noelle Pikus-Pace has a considerable shot to win gold in the female competition, but John Daly is a multi-faceted athlete. A BMX rider-turned-decathlete-turned-skeleton racer, Daly will be competing in his second Winter Olympics.

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Ski Jumping: Lindsey Van

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Sarah Hendrickson will get more air-time during the XXII Winter Olympiad, but Lindsey Van, the 2009 World Champion, is ready to finally let America know about her. Despite her push for the sport's inclusion in Vancouver the IOC would not relent, but her hard work paid off and female ski jumping will debut in 2014.

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Snowboarding: Jamie Anderson

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Jamie Anderson has won eight straight medals in the X Games but will finally take her tricks to the Olympics in the slopestyle competition of the Sochi Games.

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Speed Skating: Heather Richardson

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America has not won a medal in women's speed skating since Chris Witty took gold in the 1500 meters in Salt Lake, but Heather Richardson looks to change that. She was the 2013 World Sprint Champion and placed first in three events at the US Olympic Trials. Look for her to place in the shorter 500-meter, 1,000-meter and 1,500-meter distances as well as the team pursuit.


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