2014 Sochi Olympic Preview, Politics included.

The games are already off to a rough start for the host country Russia, before the games have even begun. Journalists and families have arrived at hotels still not ready for the hundreds of thousands of people (they did know the Olympics were happening right?) and when they do arrive to their rooms, there are reports of dirty water and cold showers waiting for them. On the bright side it can only get better! Let’s hope so. Sochi 2014 could turn out to be a circus.

Team USA has sent 230 athletes to Sochi in hopes of (like Vancouver) dominating the rest of the world and once again showing that America breeds the finest specimen’s known to mankind, and no I won’t stop with these insanely patriotic references to how good at sports we are.

Yet countries like Russia and Norway (Also let’s not forget about those Canadians, eh?) bode as the biggest threats, being that they have the home field advantage, if you call living in sub-zero temps your whole life truly an “advantage.” All joking aside here are some of the biggest story lines for Team USA and beyond.

Safety first.

I’m true to the title. All that seems to be coming out of Sochi is how much military and security presence there is, instead of the Olympians, so I thought I’d get all the politics and logistics out of the way first. That’s right, Goat does Politics. The numbers are staggering. 100,00 special forces (equivalent of Russia’s modern day KGB)  security personnel to go along with 40,000 police officers, 30,000 military troops and Russia’s 58th army protecting the border of Russia and Georgia where much of the attention is being paid, you may think you’re in a war zone.

Of course there will be more, most likely under cover, still the US has anchored two war ships off the coast of Sochi in the Black Sea so they can evacuate Americans in case of a terrorist attack. Obviously it’s better to be safe than sorry especially in these circumstances, but the multiple acts of terror over the past year near Sochi leave many anxious and worried of what may happen. Even though Russian President Vladimir Putin has assured security and safety for the games, many families of the athletes and causal spectators have decided it’s not worth the risk. Athletes on the other hand feel safe and aren’t worried, some even saying that they have spent their whole life training for the Olympics, that not even a terrorist can get in the way of them competing. Here’s to hoping that Putin has this whole thing down and under control.

Now on to the fun stuff…

Revenge for Lolo

If you have heard the name Lolo Jones you’d probably associate her as a Women’s track star. Except this isn’t Summer, she’s here for a little bit of bobsledding. After tripping in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2008 Summer Olympics and then failing to grab a medal in 2012 (finished in 4th) Lolo is here for some revenge. Many thought it was a publicity stunt when she first announced her want-to compete in the Winter games, and then she backed it up by adding 30 pounds of muscle onto a track star’s body and training around the clock to master the unique craft of Bobsledding. Some give her a legit shot to grab a medal.

3x the Tomatoes

Remember that kid with the wacky long, red hair coming out of his helmet and is ridiculous jaw-dropping tricks on a snowboard in the 2006 games? Well, 8 years later and a few haircuts, Shaun White is ready to make three golds in a row on the half-pipe and looking for the unprecedented double, testing out the new “Slopestyle” event that was made popular by the X-Games.

Shaun White is a new man with new tricks. He’s looking for a new gold too.

White owns the half-pipe and is most likely going to pull off another insane, gravity-defying trick that will win him the gold once again. But the intriguing story is the slopestyle where a boarder tries to pull off a series of freestyle tricks and maneuvers. In those 8 years White has become a renaissance man. Designs clothing, is CEO of Shaun White Enterprises and plays lead guitar in a band called “Bad Things” (performed at Lolapalooza in Chicago last summer) and oh yeah, has won 5 gold medals in skateboarding at the X-Games in the Summer. He can do it all. But he will have to shake off a few young-gun extremes, eager to make a name for themselves like White has done. 27 years old is still pretty young but for a snowboarder, might as well call him a savvy vet. But leave no doubt, he isn’t done yet, even if he has to take one or two more ice baths than normal.

Don’t sleep on half-pipe understudy Danny Davis (Also American) who missed Vancouver with an injury, younger and extremely talented, he may find his way on the podium next to Shaun White, or above him.

You’ve heard of us before.

You could probably consider Shani Davis and Bode Miller the unofficial  captains of Team USA. This isn’t their first rodeo, maybe their last, but they still got game. Last time in Vancouver, Shani Davis defended his 1,000 meter men’s speed skating gold, something never done before, he’s back for a third. If he wins that, maybe one of the greatest feats by any Winter Olympian, ever. Bode Miller is one of the most decorated Winter athletes ever. At 36, his skiing prime is behind him and isn’t the favorite anymore (his American teammate Ted Ligety is) but Miller undoubtedly will want to go out on top and fade into the sunset as one of the greatest American Olympians ever.

Young Guns

Maybe the best part of the Olympics, Summer or Winter, is the younger guys (and gals) announcing themselves to the world. We start with an 18 year old girl who is a skiing prodigy, once-in-a-generation-talent, welcome to the show, Mikaela Shriffin. Already drawing comparisons to accomplished skier Lindsay Vonn (who is out with an injured knee this time around) Shriffin is America’s new hope in the Women’s Alpine skiing. Her young and naive attitude have her brushing off all the pressures that come along with the Olympics. If she takes gold, we could be looking at America’s newest Winter Woman sweet heart.

Eddy Alvarez grew up in Miami being called “Eddie the Jet” because he in-line skated around South Beach for years, then he found some ice, and the rest is history. Af only 24 years old, the short track speed skater is America’s top threat to win the gold in the event and possibly in the world. Even though he has been dominating the short track for awhile now, Alvarez, a son of Cuban immigrants, grew up loving baseball. After he’s done winning the gold this winter, he plans on concentrating on baseball, his first love.

Nick Goepper is going to be that guy who you had no idea existed before the Winter Olympics, and will not stop hearing his name after. Already a dominate force in Freestyle Skiing at 19, the teenager is coming off a Gold in the recent X-Games and has big things in-store for Sochi. They start em’ early these days.

Do you still believe in Miracles?

There is Team USA, and then there is Team USA. There is no doubt Hockey will be the hot ticket in Sochi this Winter with the field looking even and wide open for the medal rounds. Russia, who were once the dominant force of all things hockey related back in the Cold War era (They were those damn Soviets then) are looking for Gold for the first time in 22 years. Being on home Ice will certainty help, having NHL leading goal scorer Alex Ovechkin is an even bigger advantage. If Russia didn’t win a medal in any other event, but struck gold in Hockey, the Olympics would be a success for them. That’s not even a joke. Even Putin has put pressure on the team to win Gold in their homeland. With stars like Ovechkin, Pavel Bure, Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Datsyuk, Evengi Malkin and a bunch of other Russians you never heard of, they have a shot. But don’t expect those Soviets from the 70’s and 80’s to be out there dominating.

Of course who can forget about those Canadians who are more than ready to defend their gold from Vancouver on Russian ice. Being that Russian Ice is 15 feet bigger, it leaves more space for guys to create with the puck. Good thing for Canada they have about 8 guys who can do that and do it with ease for their respective teams in the NHL. Toews, Stamkos, Crosby, Sharp, Bergereon are just a few guys who can put the puck in the net with the flick of the wrist. The favorite once again? I’d say so. Although watch out for Sweden who always has a solid squad.

Of course I wouldn’t forget about our beloved American Hockey players. The Americans might have the three best goaltenders in Miller, Howard and Quick which they must all play well to make up for the lesser amount of talent that Team Canada and Russia posses. All emphasis will be on the 25 year-old from Buffalo, NY and absolutely beloved in the town of Chicago, Patrick Kane.  He already is a two-time Stanley Cup Champion and now is back after a heartbreaking loss to Canada in the Vancouver Finals. Matured and more skilled than he was at 21, Kaner would go down as a legend in US Hockey if he took this team to the gold, a gold they haven’t seen on European soil.

The 2014 Olympics have it all, drama, heightened tension with National security on the line, along with all the athletes under enormous pressure to make their homelands proud. Can Sochi live up to $51 BILLION (and counting) that was poured into it? We will see. But I got three letters for you Russia and the rest of the world, USA.

-Goat

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