2014 medal projections: Can USA break record?

In 2010, U.S. athletes won a record 37 medals. And with so many new events on the agenda, including red, white and blue-bred action sports, the USA should be primed to do even better in Sochi, right?

And yet the SportsMyriad medal projections have the USA coming up just short with 36 medals, while Norway breaks the record with 38. Infostrada holds Norway to 36 but drops the USA down to 30.

That’s not exactly a down year for the USA, but what’s going on? Take a look, and we’ll see if there’s any way to reach the high 30s …

LIKELY LOSSES

Alpine skiing
2010 medals: 8
2014 projection: 3
Infostrada projection: 4

Explains a lot, doesn’t it? In 2010, the big guns came through for seven medals — Bode Miller three, Julia Mancuso two, Lindsey Vonn two. Then Andrew Weibrecht came out of nowhere to make it eight. This time, Vonn followed up World Cup dominance with a series of injuries that will keep her out. Miller and Mancuso are trying to peak for one more good run at the medals, but they won’t repeat their five-medal haul. The upside: Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety are the world’s best in their best events.

Worst case: Shiffrin or Ligety misses a gate, no one comes through in the combined. 1 medal

Best case: Shiffrin medals in giant slalom as well as slalom, Ligety and Miller both nail the combined, Ligety also sails through the GS, Mancuso pulls out one more good race, and someone (perhaps Stacey Cook) surprises. 7 medals

Nordic combined
2010 medals: 4
2014 projection: 0
Infostrada projection: 0

You don’t want to completely count out Bill Demong, a major part of the U.S. breakthrough in 2010, but this is not the powerhouse team with three legit contenders that romped through Whistler.

Worst case: Demong can’t quite turn back time, and consistent World Cup performer Bryan Fletcher can’t lift the team in the relay. 0 medals

Best case: Still hard to see an individual medal, but Demong, Fletcher, Taylor Fletcher and six-time Olympian Todd Lodwick can’t be ruled out in the relay. 1 medal

Short-track speedskating
2010 medals: 6
2014 projection: 1
Infostrada projection: 0

Anything can happen in short-track, but without Apolo Ohno, Katherine Reutter and a qualified women’s relay team, it probably won’t. It’s likely all up to J.R. Celski.

Worst case: Celski gets boxed out in all three individual events, and the men’s relay can’t hang with the favorites. 0 medals

Best case: Celski gets a couple of good runs. 2 medals

LITTLE CHANGE LIKELY

Biathlon
2010 medals: 0
2014 projection: 0
Infostrada projection: 0

It’ll happen one of these years, as U.S. athletes keep getting better. Tim Burke got his sixth World Cup podium earlier this season. Susan Dunklee just missed her first podium in a weakened World Cup field.

Worst case: Anything other than the best case. 0 medals

Best case: Burke puts it all together in the sprint and holds on in the pursuit. 2 medals

Bobsled
2010 medals: 2
2014 projection: 2
Infostrada projection: 3

The projections might be underselling the USA here. Steven Holcomb won everything in North America, struggled when the World Cup moved to Europe, then rebounded. The women’s team may be taking over from Germany as the world’s best.

Worst case: Holcomb just misses in each event. Only one U.S. women’s sled runs well. 1 medal

Best case: Holcomb doubles up, and the U.S. women get two. 4 medals

Curling
2010 medals: 0
2014 projection: 0
Infostrada projection: 0

The experienced women’s team is a contender but not a favorite.

Worst case: Missed shots, particularly among the skips, and lost confidence. 0 medals

Best case: Erika Brown is dialed in. 1 medal

Figure skating
2010 medals: 2
2014 projection: 3
Infostrada projection: 2

For all the moaning over the dearth of talent in the singles events, the U.S. still has a deep team and should therefore thrive in the team event. In ice dancing, Meryl Davis and Charlie White are looking at either gold or silver.

Worst case: Gracie Gold doesn’t repeat her U.S. Championship performance, Ashley Wagner does, and the men and pairs don’t come through in the team event. 1 medal

Best case: Wagner or Gold has a near-flawless performance to reach the podium, and the men and pairs do just enough to get the team going. 3 medals

Freestyle skiing (moguls, aerials, skicross)
2010 medals: 4
2014 projection: 3
Infostrada projection: 3

The U.S. strength is moguls. Olympic champion Hannah Kearney is still the best. Heather McPhie, Patrick Deneen and Bradley Wilson are contenders. The aerials squad has longer odds. Skicross is a free-for-all, but the USA is only sending one man and no women.

Worst case: Hard to imagine a complete wipeout in moguls. 1 medal

Best case: All four moguls contenders break through. Maybe we hold out hope for Emily Cook in aerials or John Teller in ski cross? 4 medals

Ice hockey
2010 medals: 2
2014 projection: 1
Infostrada projection: 1

The women’s competition is still pretty much the USA and Canada. The men’s competition is wide open.

Worst case: The men get the Russian, Slovenian and Slovakian flags confused, thereby ruining their group-stage games. Or they just struggle in that group and get a low seed for the playoff bracket, likely winning their first game but then falling to one of the group winners in the quarterfinals. The women only get silver. 1 medal

Best case: The women beat Canada in the final. The men beat a tense Russian team in the group stage, cruise through the quarterfinals and win one more. 2 medals

Luge
2010 medals: 0
2014 projection: 0
Infostrada projection: 0

The USA has never medaled in men’s or women’s singles despite a couple of close calls, and they won’t be favored this time. The doubles teams have fallen off since collecting silver and bronze in 1998 and 2002. But it’s not a bad team, so the new relay event gives them a shot. At least Germany can only win one medal in that event.

Worst case: The U.S. sliders don’t figure out the weird Sochi track with its uphill sections. 0 medals

Best case: Erin Hamlin, the surprise world champion in 2009, repeats her feat of moving up from top five to top three. Chris Mazdzer, Hamlin and the top doubles team are in top form in the relay. 2 medals

Snowboarding
2010 medals: 5
2014 projection: 7
Infostrada projection: 5

The new slopestyle event should help the USA’s medal count. The new parallel slalom won’t. Jamie Anderson is a strong favorite in the women’s slopestyle, Lindsey Jacobellis is still as consistent as anyone can get in snowboardcross, and the USA has no shortage of capable halfpipe athletes.

Worst case: Jacobellis wipes out, Shaun White can’t pull off the halfpipe-slopestyle double, and a few other halfpipe competitors have an off night. 3 medals

Best case: Two medals for White, one each for Jacobellis and Anderson, one more in men’s halfpipe, two in women’s halfpipe. That’s actually what I’ve projected. 7 medals

Speedskating
2010 medals: 4
2014 projection: 7
Infostrada projection: 4

Not sure Infostrada has caught up to take Brittany Bowe’s big season into account. Shani Davis and Heather Richardson are reliable contenders.

Worst case: Bowe gets Olympic jitters, and Davis and Richardson only get one each. 2 medals

Best case: Two for Bowe, two for Davis, two for Richardson, one for men’s team pursuit. 7 medals

LIKELY GAINS

Freestyle skiing (new events: slopestyle, halfpipe)
2010 medals: 0 – events didn’t exist
2014 projection: 6
Infostrada projection: 5

Yes, the new events should be very, very good to the USA. They’ve honed their craft in the X Games, and they’re ready to roll.

Worst case: Torin Yater-Wallace doesn’t regain his form after coming back from injury, wiping out the good 1-2 punch with David Wise in halfpipe. The U.S. slopestyle men don’t follow through on the form from the tough qualifying competition that knocked out current world champion Tom Wallisch. 2 medals

Best case: Wise and Yater-Wallace soar to medals. The slopestyle men sweep. Keri Herman and Devin Logan double up in slopestyle, and Maddie Bowman emerges from a crowded halfpipe competition. 8 medals

Cross-county skiing
2010 medals: 0
2014 projection: 1
Infostrada projection: 1

Kikkan Randall has been on a roll in freestyle sprints for a few years now. In the Olympic rotation, this year’s sprint is freestyle.

Worst case: Randall gets caught in traffic in the one of the sprint heats, and no one else emerges. 0 medals

Best case: Randall wins, and the U.S. women also medal in the team sprint or maybe the relay. 2 medals 

Skeleton
2010 medals: 0
2014 projection: 1
Infostrada projection: 1

Noelle Pikus-Pace just needs to make sure Britain can’t challenge the legality of her sled.

Worst case: Pikus-Pace crashes. Not likely. 0 medals

Best case: Pikus-Pace wins her duel with Britain’s Libby Yarnold, and Matt Antoine follows through on a solid World Cup season. 2 medals

Ski jumping
2010 medals: 0
2014 projection: 1
Infostrada projection: 1

The men would be thrilled with the top 20. Lindsey Van won the first women’s world championship in 2009 but hasn’t been in good form recently. That leaves Sarah Hendrickson, the current world champion who was easily one of the two best in the world before her knee injury. Hendrickson made it back in time to make the team, but what sort of form can she recapture?

Worst case: Hendrickson isn’t all the way back. 0 medals

Best case: She is. 1 medal

OVERALL

Take the worst cases, best cases, the “reasonable worst” (not utter catastrophe but a run of bad luck), the “reasonable best” (people with a pretty good chance of medaling), the Infostrada projection and the SportsMyriad projection.

Table 35 – Sheet1

So if everything goes reasonably well — or if the number of surprise medalists matches the number of surprise non-medalists — the USA can match its record of 37 medals. But it won’t take much to slide to 30. Bad form in Alpine skiing, freestyle skiing and speedskating could see that number drop into the 20s.

The most likely scenario is this: The USA’s gains in freestyle skiing and maybe Nordic events aren’t quite enough to overcome the losses of Lindsey Vonn and Apolo Ohno, along with the decline of the Nordic combined golden generation and the USA’s elder Alpine skiers. But they’ll give it a good run.

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3 thoughts on “2014 medal projections: Can USA break record?

  1. AP’s projections give the USA a whopping 44 medals:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20140127/oly-medal-projections/?utm_hp_ref=style&ir=style

    A few areas in which they differ from SportsMyriad:

    – Bode Miller, men’s downhill. Plausible, especially given his weekend performance.

    – Mikaela Shiffrin, women’s giant slalom. Plausible.

    – Julia Mancuso, women’s downhill. Less plausible.

    – Steven Holcomb, two bobsled medals instead of one. In the past couple of weeks, Holcomb has managed good runs away from North America, so that’s possible.

    – Jamie Greubel, women’s bobsled. Probably less than 50-50, but there’s always a chance of Jazmine Fenlator reaching the podium, so the chance of this being a U.S. medal isn’t bad.

    – Luge relay. Possible.

    – Nordic combined relay: Not impossible.

    – Men’s relay, short-track. That’s unlikely.

    – Brian Hansen, speedskating. That’s surprising.

    – Nate Baumgartner, men’s snowboardcross. That’s nostalgic.

    Two areas in which SportsMyriad is more bullish:

    – Women’s figure skating. Myriad picks Ashley Wagner. And Gracie Gold is a possibility as well.

    – A couple of differences in the unpredictable world of freestyle skiing, all adding up to one more medal in the Myriad picks.

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