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12 Daredevil U.S. Olympians to Watch at Sochi

These fearless American athletes are looking to storm the podium at the upcoming Winter games

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With the 2014 Winter Olympics only a week away, you've likely already seen a lot about established stars like snowboarding sensation Shaun White and skiing rebel Bode Miller. But there are plenty of fresh faces getting ready to jump, ski, sled, skate, luge and skeleton for gold in Sochi. Meet your soon-to-be new favorite Olympic heroes, some of whom were able to take time out from pre-Games training to send along their favorite music picks and share a little bit about themselves. 

By Dan Reilly

Chas Guldemond

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Chas Guldemond

Sport: Slopestyle snowboarding
Age: 26
Hometown: Truckee, California
Favorite Music: "My favorite band right now is Pearl Jam. I also listen to hip-hop like Kid Cudi and sometimes I get down on some country when I am on road trips with my wife."

The four-time U.S. Grand Prix champion at slopestyle – a new event in which a skiier or snowboarder performs a number of tricks while navigating down a jump-filled trail – is poised to go big at Sochi, even though he'd rather get back to the States ASAP. "It seems a little sketchy over there," says Guldemond of the host city. "So really I just want to go do my thing and come home to celebrate with my family." Chas can also be seen in a current commercial for Bear Naked granola in which he punctuates a run of tricks by slam-dunking a basketball while still on his board. "When my brother started snowboarding in 1997 I had to steal his board and give it a try," he remembers. "I hit a little jump in my backyard that day and have been hooked ever since."

David Wise

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David Wise

Sport: Halfpipe skiing
Age: 23
Hometown: Reno, Nevada
Favorite Music: "My favorites right now are Passenger, the Lumineers, Macklemore, Aesop Rock, Binary Star, and Moondog Matinee. My favorite artist of all time is a toss up between the Rolling Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd, with Tupac and Biggie hot on their heels."

Unlike many young athletes, David Wise is already a family man, with his wife Alexandra and daughter Nayeli traveling with him to most competitions. "It does take up a lot of my time," he says of having his family tag along, "but it also reminds me that life is bigger than just what place I get in one event or another. Knowing that takes the pressure off." Wise's father, who went to college on a ski-racing scholarship, is also a big influence on his quest for big air. "Nobody uses their edges better than a ski racer does. Having that knowledge really helps me generate speed in the halfpipe." Wise is coming off his best season yet, having won a second consecutive X Games gold and his sixth national title. 

devin logan

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Devin Logan

Sport: Slopestyle skiing and halfpipe skiing
Age: 20
Hometown: West Dover, Vermont
Favorite Music: "Lately I've been listening to a lot of 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, J. Cole, Drake, Nate Dogg, and Ja Rule. When I'm training I mix up my songs, but I love DMX to get me pumped at the top of the course and I enjoy Mumford & Sons to chill out, too."

Following in her older brothers' footsteps, Logan has been competitively skiing since she was six-years-old. "They basically treated me like a little brother and pushed me to keep doing tricks," she says. "I remember one time my brother said to me, 'If you don't do this trick or win this competition you can't have dinner tonight!'" Not long after bagging the slopestyle skiing silver medal at the 2012 X Games, Logan tore her ACL and meniscus and suffered two micro fractures in a halfpipe accident. Instead of staying away from the mountain during her recovery, she got certified to serve as a competition judge, a gig that gave her a new perspective on the sport. "I wanted to see what people were doing and what I would need to work on when I came back. I will never question the judges again because it is the hardest job in the world to do."

Erin Hamlin

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Erin Hamlin

Sport: Luge
Age: 27
Hometown: Remsen, New York
Favorite Music: Dave Matthews Band, Phillip Phillips, 30 Seconds to Mars, Kings of Leon, Lukas Nelson 

Hamlin tried luge on a whim at age 12. Now, she'll be competing in her third Winter Olympics. Though she was favored to medal in 2010, she ended up finishing a disappointing 16th. This time, she's not nearly as amped, which is a huge asset. "We have to be super explosive and then right away we have to be as relaxed as humanly possible to absorb all the bumps and curves," she explains about her sport. "I want to be pumped up and full of adrenaline and then lie down and get rid of that instantly." Sochi will be a bittersweet trip for Hamlin, whose 75-year-old grandmother died in a car accident in December. "I always thought I could mentally block out anything and it would be easy but that hit pretty hard," she says. "She was very gung-ho with everything and would've been very disappointed if I decided not to race."

Jamie Anderson

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Jamie Anderson

Sport: Slopestyle snowboarding
Age: 23
Hometown: Lake Tahoe, California
Favorite Music: "Right now I'm listening to Nas, Wyclef Jean, Bob Marley, Xavier Rudd, and recently Trevor Hall."

Slopestyle snowboarding and skiing are making their debut at the Sochi games, and not everyone is a fan. Esteemed sportscaster Bob Costas recently called it "Jackass stuff that they invented and called Olympic sports." The yoga-loving Anderson, who has won slopestyle gold at the X Games four times, is not amused. "Apparently our sport still has to deal with and overcome some ridiculous stereotypes," she says about Costas's comments. "I've worked hard most of my young life to get to where I am as a snowboarder. It's disappointing to see someone with such an influential voice in the Olympics imply that my sport is somehow not up to par, when snowboarding has done so much to revive the Olympics in recent years and make it more relevant to the world's youth." 

John Daly

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John Daly

Sport: Skeleton
Age: 28
Hometown: Smithtown, New York
Favorite Music: "For rap, Akon and Flo Rida. For house music, it's going to be Avicii and Tiësto, and for rock it's going to be some Journey, some Imagine Dragons, and 30 Seconds to Mars."

The Long Island native started out on the luge when he was 13, but one look at the skeleton, which is basically luge, but done headfirst rather than feetfirst, changed everything. "I thought it was more natural to jump headfirst," Daly says. "I felt like I'd been doing that more as a kid – go grab the garbage-pail top and run down the driveway." His teenage lack of caution certainly helped. He says it was easier to speed down the hill the first time than it was to get his mom to sign the permission slip allowing him to do so. He's attributes his upbeat attitude to having come through some tough times: his father has had two bouts with kidney cancer. "If I have a bad first run," Daly says, "if anything goes bad in life, it's already happened, it's already bad." Certainly not the worst way to approach what's likely the most dangerous sport in the Winter Olympics.

JR Celski

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J.R. Celski

Sport: Short track speed skating
Age: 23
Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah
Favorite Music: "Some artists that are constantly on my playlist include A Tribe Called Quest, Radiohead, Outkast, Grizzly Bear, Kendrick Lamar and Erykah Badu."

Just a few months prior to the 2010 Vancouver Games, Celski's skating career nearly ended when he accidentally sliced his thigh open on one of his skates during a race. He recovered in time to collect two bronze medals, and hopes to earn a higher spot on the podium at Sochi. "My injury in 2010 was a devastating event and it was very hard to see or think straight after it happened," he recalls. "I learned a lot about myself when I was down and out and it helped me to reshape the attitude I brought to the ice." Many experts view Celski as the heir apparent to the legendary speed skater Apolo Ohno, who inspired the former to get into the sport. "When I was climbing the ranks in the sport," recalls Celski, "[Ohno] was at the top. I have a lot of respect for this guy and am thankful that he put short track on the map in the U.S."

Lindsey Van

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Lindsey Van

Sport: Ski jumping
Age: 29
Hometown: Park City, Utah
Favorite Music: "My favorite of all time is Metallica."

Women's ski jumping is makings its Olympic debut at Sochi, thanks in no small part to Van, who led the charge for its inclusion. "There were some difficult times fighting for our sport, but it was all worth it," she offers. "Now that I can focus on being an athlete and not the political side, I am having more fun than ever." Despite rupturing her spleen at 14, breaking her back in six places in 2009, and undergoing multiple surgeries, Van's excitement for jumping is what brings her back to the sport every day. "The closest thing I can relate it to would be putting your hand out of the car window at 60 miles-per-hour: You can feel every little movement. Now magnify that to your whole body. It's a very graceful yet fragile sport."

Mikaela Shiffrin

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Mikaela Shiffrin

Sport: Slalom skiing
Age: 18
Hometown: Vail, Colorado

If you're curious about the expectations Mikaela Shiffrin is facing, look no further than the fact that she's been dubbed "the next Lindsey Vonn." If the young slalom phenom is feeling the pressure from being compared to the sidelined star of the slopes, she isn't telling. Rather, she thinks the likening is disrespectful to the elder skier, who was forced out of competing in the Games following MCL surgery. “When they say I’m the next Lindsey Vonn, they are shooing her out the door, and I don’t think that’s fair,” Shiffrin said in December. But don't let her humility fool you. On top of being the reigning world slalom champion, Shiffrin is heading into Sochi having won three out of four World Cup races this season. The gold is hers to lose.

Nick Goepper

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Nick Goepper

Sport: Slopestyle skiing
Age: 19
Hometown: Lawrenceburg, Indiana
Favorite Music: "My music tastes change every week, but right now I’m listening to Eminem, A$AP Rocky, Avenged Sevenfold, A Day to Remember, some dubstep remixes. Before competitions, I listen to "Jim Sharp" by Sunny Ledfurd."

Even a broken hand that left him unable to grip his ski poles couldn't stop Nick Goepper from winning the Dew Tour slopestyle championship in December. That was just the latest in a long list of accomplishments for the youngster, who got his start on the man-made snow of a 300-foot slope in southeast Indiana. "It gave me a great appreciation for where I ski now," he says. "Also, the Midwest, it never gets crowded. There aren't any lift lines so you can lap the park like 200 times in one day." Going into his first Olympics, Goepper sounds surprisingly relaxed, and says he hardly feels any pressure to be part of the Games' inaugural slopestyle competition. "There are only like 20 or 30 guys who do this at an elite level," he reasons. "It's cool to be in a small community. You already know the guys."

Steve Langton

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Steve Langton

Sport: Four-man and two-man bobsled
Age: 30
Hometown: Melrose, Massachusetts
Favorite Music: "I'm a big country fan, so Eric Church, Jake Owen, Zac Brown Band. Journey and Queen are definitely staples in my playlists because I don't think they make music like that anymore. I like anything by Avicii or frat rap like Mike Stud or Sammy Adams. So, a little bit of everything."

After graduating from college, track star Langton found his athletic options limited by his bulky 225-pound frame. But after a little Internet research, he discovered he had the perfect build for bobsled, and decided to give the sport a shot. "Two months after I tried out," he remembers, "I was at the top of the hill saying to myself, 'What did I get myself into?'" Coming off of World Championship wins in 2012 and a dominant World Cup season, Langton and his teammates are favorites to win in Sochi, where they'll be riding in their  all-black sled, dubbed "Night Train." Though watching on TV it might seem as if the vehicle is traveling smoothly down its course, Langton explains that the reality is very, very different. "There are no seatbelts, no padding," he says. "It's steel and carbon fiber, so the ride is very bumpy. It's very uncomfortable, very loud. That's the part of the sport I was really taken aback by."

Steven Nyman

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Steven Nyman

Sport: Downhill, combined and Super G skiing
Age: 31
Hometown: Park City, Utah
Favorite Music: "I've been listening to a lot of A Tribe Called Quest, classic reggae, and Nirvana."

Growing up in the town that hosts the Sundance Film Festival,  Nyman spent his offseason maintaining homes for the rich and famous, a gig that included mowing Robert Redford's lawn. "I didn’t realize how famous a lot of the people were because we didn’t have cable television," the veteran athlete says. "But Redford's lawn was pretty big. It took a couple days to mow." Now, Nyman is going into his third Games with a new mindset: "I always tried suppressing the situation but now I want to embrace it and allow it to inspire me. It is a rare opportunity to perform to such a big stage. Just accept it and lay down your best performance."

In This Article: Olympics

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