Athletes to Watch in Sochi: The 2014 Olympics Breakout Stars

PHOTO: Bobsledder Lolo Jones poses for a portrait during the USOC Media Summit ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Sept. 29, 2013 in Park City, Utah.
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1. Mikaela Shiffrin - Alpine Skiing

She's been called the next Lindsey Vonn and America's next great Olympic skier, and at 18 Mikaela Shiffrin is ready for all the titles the world has for her.

The 18-year-old prodigy made her World Cup debut at 15 and became the youngest ever World Cup season title holder in 2013. With Lindsey Vonn sitting out the Sochi games due to knee surgery, Shiffrin has become the focal point of the women's ski team and its highest hope to bring home the gold medal.

PHOTO: Mikaela Shiffrin of USA competes during the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Womens race, Jan. 14, 2014, in Flachau, Austria.
Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images
PHOTO: Mikaela Shiffrin of USA competes during the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's race, Jan. 14, 2014, in Flachau, Austria.

2. Erik and Sadie Bjornsen - Nordic Skiing

"So here Erik and I are, competing in our first Olympics together," Sadie Bjornsen, 24, blogged earlier this month about herself and her little brother, Erik, 22, and their trip to Sochi this year.

The sibling skiing duo have been tearing up the Nordic competition circuit for years. They both qualified for the Olympics in January. The Bjornsens started their skiing careers early, growing up in Washington state and skiing downhill, but both quickly switched to cross country skiing and have been winning domestic contests ever since.

PHOTO: Erik Bjornsen of the United States, during the Mens Cross Country Individual 15km at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, Feb. 27, 2013, in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
PHOTO: Erik Bjornsen of the United States, during the Men's Cross Country Individual 15km at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, Feb. 27, 2013, in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

PHOTO: Sadie Bjornsen competes in the Womens 1,25 km Classic Sprint event during the FIS Cross Country skiing World Cup at Millepini stadium in Asiago, northern Italy, Dec. 21, 2013.
Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: Sadie Bjornsen competes in the Women's 1,25 km Classic Sprint event during the FIS Cross Country skiing World Cup at " Millepini " stadium in Asiago, northern Italy, Dec. 21, 2013.

3. Shani Davis - Speed Skating

Move over, Apollo Ohno. This could be the year for Shani Davis.

The long track speed skater has appeared in two prior Olympics, in 2006 and 2010, when he became the first black athlete to win a gold medal at a winter event (in '06) and the first to win back-to-back golds in the 1,000 meters (in '10). Now Davis will have the chance to become the first male athlete to win three straight Olympic golds in any event.

PHOTO: Shani Davis of USA competes in men 500m during Essent ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships 2014 at M Wave, Jan. 19, 2014, in Nagano, Japan.
Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images
PHOTO: Shani Davis of USA competes in men 500m during Essent ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships 2014 at M Wave, Jan. 19, 2014, in Nagano, Japan.

4. Nick Goepper - Free Skiing

Everyone will be talking about freestyle skiing at the 2014 Olympics, one of the sports having its Olympic debut this year. At the top of the list of candidates for gold is U.S. freeskier Nick Goepper, a 19-year-old phenom from Lawrenceburg, Ind. Goepper is fresh off winning a gold medal at the 2013 Winter X Games in Aspen.

PHOTO: Break Out Olympians
Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post/Getty Images
PHOTO: Break Out Olympians

5. Lolo Jones - Bobsled

All eyes will be on Lolo Jones this year. The track and field star competed in two prior Summer Olympic Games as a hurdler, narrowly missing a medal in the 2008 and 2012 games before switching sports after the 2012 games and taking up bobsledding.

PHOTO: Bobsledder Lolo Jones poses for a portrait during the USOC Media Summit ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Sept. 29, 2013, in Park City, Utah.
Harry How/Getty Images
PHOTO: Bobsledder Lolo Jones poses for a portrait during the USOC Media Summit ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Sept. 29, 2013, in Park City, Utah.

6. Shaun White- Snowboarding

Two-time gold medal winner Shaun White is back, and ready to reach for the third gold in his decorated snowboarding career. The redhead cut his shaggy mop-top into a clean cut for this year's games, a new look to go along with White's new event: snowboard slopestyle. The freestyle trick event is making its debut in Sochi.

PHOTO: Shaun White reacts after a fall during the Mens Snowboarding Slopestyle Final U.S. Olympic Qualification #3 at the 2014 Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain Resort, Jan. 16, 2014, in Mammoth, Calif.
Harry How/Getty Images
PHOTO: Shaun White reacts after a fall during the Men's Snowboarding Slopestyle Final U.S. Olympic Qualification #3 at the 2014 Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain Resort, Jan. 16, 2014, in Mammoth, Calif.

7. Bode Miller- Alpine Skiing

One of the most celebrated and decorated Olympians in recent American history, downhill alpine skier Bode Miller will be making his fifth - and possibly final - appearance at an Olympic Games this year in Sochi. Miller will be looking to add to his collection of five Olympic medals, including one downhill gold.

PHOTO: Bode Miller of the USA takes 2nd place during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Mens Super-G, Jan. 26, 2014, in Kitzbuehel, Austria.
Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images
PHOTO: Bode Miller of the USA takes 2nd place during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Super-G, Jan. 26, 2014, in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

8. Ted Ligety - Alpine Skiing

Ligety started skiing when he was two years old, and was racing by the time he was 10.

He won a gold medal for Alpine skiing in 2006, but came home empty-handed from the 2010 games.

Now 29, Ligety has been a six-time U.S. nationals champion, and has 11 World Cup wins under his belt. He won his first World Cup super-combined (in which participants ski a nontraditional course) last month in Wengen, Switzerland.

Speaking of his approach for Sochi, Ligety said: "I just have to focus on skiing as well as I can."

9. Gracie Gold - Women's Figure Skating

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