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The 45 storylines to watch at 2014 Winter Olympics

2014 Sochi Olympics Previews - Day 7

<> on January 31, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Matthew Stockman

With the first Olympic competitions in action on Thursday and Opening Ceremony on Friday, here is a look at 45 storylines to watch at the 2014 Sochi Olympics:

Alpine Skiing
1. The U.S. could have four different medal winners for a second straight Olympics -- Ted Ligety (giant slalom, super combined), Bode Miller (downhill, super-G, super combined, giant slalom), Julia Mancuso (downhill, super-G, super combined) and Mikaela Shiffrin (giant slalom, slalom).

2. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal could become the first men’s Alpine skier to win three Olympic gold medals in one Games (downhill, super-G, super combined) since Jean-Claude Killy in 1968.

3. The absence of Lindsey Vonn opens up the women’s speed events for friendly rival German Maria Hoefl-Riesch, Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather and Swiss Lara Gut.

1. Tim Burke leads the charge trying to win the first U.S. Olympic biathlon medal.

2. Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov will be the most recognized name to Americans, though, as he is the Russian Biathlon president.

3. Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen needs two medals to take the solo record for most career Winter Olympic medals, which is held by retired Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie (who has 12). Two golds will tie the record for most career golds (eight, also held by Daehlie).

MORE: The race to become the most decorated Winter Olympian ever

1. Lolo Jones attempts to win her first Olympic medal, as a Winter Olympian. Lauryn Williams attempts to become the fifth person to win medals in Summer and Winter Olympics and the second to win gold medals in both. (Feb. 18-19)

2. Steven Holcomb could win a second straight four-man Olympic gold (Feb. 17) and his first two-man Olympic gold. (Feb. 23)

3. The Jamaican Bobsled Team will compete in the two-man.

Cross-Country Skiing
1. Kikkan Randall could win the first U.S. Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing. (Feb. 11 individual, Feb. 19 team)

2. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen could become the first person to win six medals at a single Winter Olympics. If she does, she’ll surpass Daehlie with 13 career medals.

3. Another Norwegian, Petter Northug, is the men’s star, though Russia is counting on several cross-country medals, too.

1. Norway’s pants.

2. The four oldest members of the 230-athlete U.S. Olympic Team are women’s curlers, including skip Erika Brown, who was on the U.S. team at the 1988 Olympics, when curling was a demonstration sport. She was 15 then.

3. Great Britain, with Scot Eve Muirhead leading the charge, could bring curling gold back to the country that invented the sport.

Figure Skating
1. Russia going for men’s history (Yevgeny Plushenko could tie a record with a fourth individual Olympic medal), trying to restore pairs dominance (Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov could add to a legacy that brought 12 straight golds through 2006) and become the first champion in the new Olympic team event.

2. Meryl Davis and Charlie White take on training partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, trying to win the first U.S. Olympic ice dance gold medal. (Feb. 16-17)

MORE: Davis and White, staying calm under pressure

3. In her swan song, Yuna Kim will try to become the third woman (and first since 1988) to win back-to-back Olympic titles. 2010 silver medalist Mao Asada is her biggest competition. (Feb. 19-20)

Freestyle Skiing
1. In her third and final Games, moguls skier Hannah Kearney can become the first freestyle skier to win multiple Olympic gold medals. Her biggest competition could be three Canadian sisters. (Feb. 8)

2. Summer Olympic powerhouse China is favored to win both aerials golds. (Feb. 14, 17)

3. The U.S. could win medals in each of the new Olympic events of ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle with the likes of David Wise, Nick Goepper, Maddie Bowman and Keri Herman.

1. The pressure on Alex Ovechkin & Co. to win the first post-Soviet era men’s hockey gold for Russia. The Russians play the U.S. in group play. (Feb. 15).

2. Sidney Crosby and Canada will look to become the first nation in the post-Soviet era to win back-to-back men’s titles. The U.S. hopes for its first gold since 1980, but neither the U.S. nor Canada has won Olympic gold on European ice since 1952.

3. A likely fourth meeting between the U.S. and Canada in five Olympic women’s hockey finals. (Feb. 20)

1. The speeds at the Sanki Sliding Center are expected to be 10 to 15 mph slower than the 2010 Olympic men’s competition, where the start was moved down after Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a training crash.

2. Italian Armin Zoeggeler goes for a medal in a record sixth straight Olympics. (Feb. 8-9 individual, Feb. 13 relay)

3. Germany is expected to dominate, potentially sweeping the women’s event (Feb. 11) and an overwhelming favorite in the new team relay. The relay is the best chance for the U.S.’ first luge medal since 2002.

Nordic Combined
1. Todd Lodwick, who will carry the U.S. flag at the Opening Ceremony, eyes an American Winter Olympic record sixth Olympic appearance, if his shoulder holds up. (Feb. 20)

MORE: Lodwick named U.S. Olympic flag bearer

2. The U.S. men’s team with a shot at a relay medal also includes Bill Demong, the first U.S. Olympic Nordic combined gold medalist, and brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, one of seven sets of siblings in the U.S. delegation.

3. German Eric Frenzel has overtaken 2010 Olympic champion Jason Lamy-Chappuis as the favorite in individual events.

Short Track Speed Skating
1. Viktor Ahn, the three-time 2006 Olympic champion for South Korea, could now win medals for Russia.

2. China’s Wang Meng will miss the Olympics, meaning the retired Apolo Ohno will likely keep his title as most decorated Olympic short track skater with eight medals.

3. The U.S. short track team, without Ohno and Katherine Reutter, fights an uphill battle against powerhouses South Korea, China and Canada. J.R. Celski, who has a fan in singer Macklemore, is the best hope for a medal.

1. Noelle Pikus-Pace is a co-favorite with Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold. Pikus-Pace finished fourth in 2010, retired, had her second child, unretired in 2012 and is in her best racing form ever.

2. Latvian Martins Dukurs is the men’s favorite but could be challenged by his brother, Tomass.

3. Neither 2010 Olympic champion is competing. Canadian beer swiller Jon Montgomery wasn’t picked, and Britain’s Amy Williams and her controversial helmet retired.

1. Shaun White could become the first U.S. man to win an Olympic event three times if he wins halfpipe (Feb. 11).

2. Kelly Clark may lead a U.S. medal sweep in women’s halfpipe (Feb. 12) with 2006 Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter, world champion Arielle Gold and Kaitlyn Farrington also in the medal mix. Their biggest threat is reigning Olympic champion Australian Torah Bright, who is slated to also compete in slopestyle and snowboard cross.

3. Lindsey Jacobellis is gold-medal contender in snowboard cross, eight years after her trick move cost her gold and four years after hitting a gate to be disqualified in the semifinals. (Feb. 16)

Speed Skating
1. Shani Davis could also become the first U.S. man to win a Winter Olympic event three times in the 1000m (Feb. 12). Davis is also a medal threat individually in the 1500m (Feb. 15).

2. Dutchman Sven Kramer could win three gold medals if he repeats in the 5000m (Feb. 8), makes up for his infamous 2010 lane-changing gaffe in the 10,000m (Feb. 18) and finally wins a team pursuit gold after 2006 and 2010 disappointments (Feb. 22)

3. Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson are likely to win the first medals by U.S. female speed skaters since 2002. They’re slated for the 500m (Feb. 11), 1000m (Feb. 13) and 1500m (Feb. 16).