SOCHI, Russia – The United States could need its two most disappointing teams to step up if it is to top the medal table at the end of the Winter Olympics.
With four days of competition remaining here in Sochi, the U.S. is locked in a furious battle with Norway, the Netherlands and host nation Russia to finish with the most trips to the podium.
Yahoo Sports predicts that at the conclusion of the Games the American team will end up with 28 total medals, level with Norway and host nation Russia.
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However, if the U.S. short and long track speedskating teams are able to find a way to overcome the desperately poor run of form that has plagued them since the start of the Olympics, it could be enough to push the country over the top.
J.R. Celski is world record holder in the 500m short track and although he is not tipped for a medal in our predictions, the 23-year-old from near Federal Way, Wash., certainly has a chance of forcing his way into the mix if his luck changes.
Celski finished fourth in the 1500m before stumbling out of the 1000 at the quarterfinal stage. He is expected to get the U.S.’s first medal of the Games in short track as part of the men’s 5000m relay, taking place, like the 500, on Friday.
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A short walk away at Adler Arena, the long track competition has been a scene of carnage for Team USA. Speedskating legend Dan Jansen confidently predicted eight to 10 medals before the Winter Olympics got underway; a more realistic figure might have been five given the performances of the team during the regular season.
To date there have been none whatsoever as every skater on the squad has suffered from dreadful form and the apparent fallout from the infamous skinsuits controversy.
“We have no medals, man,” two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis said earlier this week. “The way we are looking we might not get any.”
The best chance of ending the drought is in the team pursuit, especially with Davis expected to race in the event for the first time at an Olympics. Like everyone else, the U.S. is most likely shooting for silver or bronze given the extraordinary dominance of the Netherlands in long track at Sochi – with the Dutch set to take their pick from a murderer’s row of all-conquering stars for the pursuit.
In terms of the overall medal count, Norway and Russia would appear to be the biggest threats, as the Dutch are unlikely to add more than the remaining two medals up for grabs in long track, where all but one of their total national tally has come from.
Norway will look to its men’s and women’s biathlon relay teams along with Martin Sundby and Therese Johaug in cross country, while Russia expects big things from short track speedskater Victor An, who has already won the 1000 and now targets the 500 and the relay. Figure skater Adelina Sotnikova is also well positioned to medal, sitting second after the short program.
For the U.S., Mikaela Shiffrin is strongly favored in the slalom event at Alpine skiing, with bobsledder Steven Holcomb expected to bring home the gold. Men’s hockey will likely medal, but their result against Canada will decide whether it’s gold, silver or bronze.
The overall medal race has been one of Sochi’s more interesting subplots, especially with Russia entering the fray early with a surprisingly high number and a chance to finish on top.
The Winter Olympics is heading towards the end, and the battle between the most successful countries is going down to the wire.
PREDICTED MEDALS FOR TEAM USA
Alpine skiing - Mikaela Shiffrin, women’s slalom
Bobsled – Steven Holcomb, 4-man
Hockey – Women’s team
Hockey - Men’s team
Short track speedskating – Men’s 5000m relay
PREDICTED FINAL MEDAL TABLE
Norway: 13 gold, 6 silver, 9 bronze - 28
USA: 9 gold, 6 silver, 13 bronze - 28
Russia: 8 gold, 12 silver, 8 bronze - 28
Netherlands: 8 gold 7 silver 9 bronze - 24
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