(MOSCOW-AFP) – The 2014 Winter Olympics get underway in Sochi on February 7.
Here AFP Sports highlights some of the names likely to star at the 16-day showpiece.
Lindsey Vonn (USA)
Skiing’s most glamorous star, Vonn has been fighting to return from a knee injury suffered in February. With four overall World Cup titles, 13 crystal globes and two world gold medals under her belt, the 29-year-old will be defending her 2010 downhill title in Sochi.
Tina Maze (SLO)
Last season, Maze grabbed the overall, giant slalom, super-G and combined World Cup titles. The 30-year-old — who is a singer and jewellery designer in her free time — also won three medals at world championships in February. Maze was a double silver-medallist at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Ted Ligety (USA)
Olympic champion Ligety is a four-time giant slalom World Cup winner — including last year — and the 29-year-old bagged an astonishing three gold medals at this year’s world championships. Started the season in style with a win in Soeldenover the weekend.
Marcel Hirscher (AUT)
If Ligety has one main rival, it is 24-year-old Hirscher, who has taken the overall World Cup title the last two years. In 19 slalom and giant slalom races last season, Hirscher only finished off the podium once, going on to win the slalom World Cup title and world gold. Chasing his first Olympic medals in Sochi.
Patrick Chan (CAN)
Three-time reigning world champion Chan is favourite to become the first Canadian man to win the men’s Olympic gold after a poor sixth place at his home Games in Vancouver. The 22-year-old, who once insisted you didn’t need a quad jump to win gold as American Evan Lysacek proved in Vancouver, now has two in the first minute of his long programme. Won Skate Canada at the weekend.
Mao Asada (JPN)
Japanese superstar Asada, 23, a two-time world champion in 2008 and 2010, had to settle for silver in Vancouver as great rival Kim Yu-Na of South Korea glided to a stunning gold. Reigning world champion Kim has started the season injured leaving the way open for Asada, the world bronze medallist, to win Skate America. Asada is the only woman to consistently attempt and land the triple axel, the most difficult jump in women’s figure skating, and in Vancouver she became the first to land three.
Sidney Crosby (CAN)
Crosby scored the game-winning goal in overtime over the Americans to lift Canada to gold in Vancouver in 2010. The Pittsburgh Penguin captain is off to the best start of his career and is on pace for 150 points this season. He is leading the NHL in scoring with eight goals and 18 points in 10 games.
Alex Ovechkin (RUS)
Ovechkin is on a remarkable goal-a-game pace, leading the NHL in goals this season with 10 through the opening 10 games. If he keeps it up he could reach his career high of 65 in a season. Ovechkin’s crushing open-ice hit on Czech Jaromir Jagr was one of the defining moments of the Vancouver tournament.
Felix Loch (GER)
Loch won the Vancouver title to become the youngest Olympic champion in world men’s luge history. He has also won eight gold medals at the world championships.
Gregor Schlierenzauer (AUT)
Gold medallist at Vancouver in the team large hill event and added two bronze medals in the individual competitions. Schlierenzauer also has six world championship titles and in January equalled Matti Nykanen’s record of 46 World Cup victories. Currently holds the new record of 50 wins.
Sarah Hendrickson (USA)
The American won gold at this year’s world championships beating second-placed rival and World Cup winner Sara Takanashi of Japan by just 2.7 points. In August, Hendrickson suffered a knee injury but insists the injury will not put her medal chances in Sochi at risk.
Shaun White (USA)
Olympic golds in the half-pipe at the last two Games have been added to 13 gold medals in the Winter X-Games and two in the Summer X-Games, where he is also a world-class skateboarder. Fans will be particularly keen to see the 27-year-old’s Double McTwist 1260, which he named the “Tomahawk”.
Kaya Turski (CAN)
Turski is the big star in women’s slopestyle skiing but suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in August and will only be able to line-up in Sochi due to revolutionary new surgery that has seen her ACL replaced with a synthetic ligament wrapped by a cadaver graft.
Marit Bjorgen (NOR)
Bjorgen, 33, is the most successful sprinter in World Cup cross-country with 24 victories and was the most successful athlete at the 2010 Olympics by winning five medals, including three gold. Faced down claims in Canada that her use of a medicine for asthma was a doping offence.
SPEED SKATING/SHORT TRACK
Shani Davis (USA)
The 31-year-old from Chicago is chasing a third Olympic crown on the bounce in the 1,000 metres speed skating and holds the 1,000-metre and 1,500-metre world records. If he earns medals of any colour in both distances in Sochi he will become America’s most decorated male long-track speed skater.
Canada’s men’s curlers are aiming for a hat-trick of gold medals in Sochi as Sweden’s women aim for their own three-in-a-row. The top-ranked Canadians, who took gold in 2006 and 2010, also won three consecutive men’s world titles from 2010-2012 before finishing second behind Sweden in front of their own fans in Victoria this year. Sweden’s women kept their nerve in Vancouver in 2010 to deny Canada an emotional win on home ice.