10 SoCal Athletes to Watch at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi
It should come as no surprise that the majority of SoCal athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics are snowboarders and figure skaters, given our temperate climate. Snowboarders have the rugged, snowy training turf of Mammoth Mountain, while figure skaters almost always train indoors at year-round ice rinks - and Southern California has more than 25 rinks ready for use.
Although snowboarding and figure skating are the two sports with the most SoCal athletes at Sochi, a decent number of locals are representing the United States in other sports as well. From freeskiing, Alpine skiing and luge to hockey and, of course, snowboarding and figure skating, we've found the 10 most promising SoCal athletes to watch at the 22nd Winter Olympic Games.
10. John Teller: Freeskiing (Ski Cross)
A timed race with challenging terrain, Ski Cross made its Olympics debut in 2010. Alpine skier and part-time auto mechanic John Teller of Mammoth Lakes soon took to the new sport, which is like a hybrid of snowboarding's "boardercross" discipline and regular skiing's freestyle form. He was the first American to win a World Cup event in Ski Cross and was the U.S. champion in 2013, winning a bronze medal in the World Championships the same year - so his prospects look good for Sochi.
9. Kate Hansen: Luge
Luge dates all the way back to 1905, taking its name from a French dialect's word for "small coasting sled," and that's exactly what it is. Athletes lie face-up and steer custom-built sleds with their bodies, going down a closed course at up to 90 miles an hour. Born in Burbank and based in Chula Vista, Kate Hansen was the national champion in 2013, and in 2008, she was the youngest junior world champion in singles team relay at just 15. When not racing down a track in a sled at top speeds, Hansen sings and plays the guitar and ukulele. She also surfs, skateboards, dances and skis to stay in shape.
8. Madison Chock: Figure Skating (Ice Dance, Pairs)
Madison Chock of Redondo Beach first started skating when she was just 5 years old. She also designs her own costumes. After winning the Junior Grand Prix Final in 2008 with now-retired partner Greg Zuerlein, Chock paired up with Michigan's Evan Bates in 2011, most recently skating with him in the 2013 World Championships. Having trained for Sochi in Culver City, Chock has once again teamed up with Bates for this year's Winter Olympics, and, with any luck, they'll hit their peak in 2014.
7. Stacy Cook: Alpine Skiing
Native Californian and Alpine skier Stacey Cook of Mammoth Lakes loves country music and Indian food, but it's her talent on the slopes that makes her a contender at the 2014 Olympics. Cook's disciplines are Giant Slalom, Super-G (a faster form of Giant Slalom) and Super Combined, and after competing in both the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, she's a veteran. During the off-season, she hikes and mountain-bikes to keep fit.
6. Trevor Jacob: Snowboarding (Snowboardcross)
Snowboardcross aka "boardercross" is a timed race with multiple hurdles and, sometimes, physical contact with other boarders. It first became an Olympic sport in 2006, with American Seth Wescott winning the gold medal that year.
SoCal's Trevor Jacob continues to take snowboardcross to the next level, not just competing in the sport in the Olympics but also using his talents as a surfer, skateboarder, snowmobiler, BMX biker and motocross rider (from which snowboardcross gets its name) on MTV's Nitro Circus sports-entertainment franchise. Jacob has won multiple competitions, including the national championship in snowboardcross in 2013, and if his winning streak continues, he'll be getting a medal at this year's Winter Olympics, too.
5. Kelly Clark: Snowboarding (Halfpipe)
Kelly Clark of Mammoth Lakes first picked up her sport on a Kmart snowboard. Since 2008, her career highlights include a gold medal in women's halfpipe at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and a bronze medal at the 2010 Olympics. She mountain-bikes and surfs when it's not snowing, and when not tearing up the slopes, Clark likes to relax by watching movies and reading. She also has her own nonprofit organization, the Kelly Clark Foundation, which awards scholarships to young athletes.
4. Ashley Wagner: Figure Skating
Artesia's Ashley Wagner wants to work in broadcast journalism after her skating career is over, but she's not retiring from the rink just yet. She has been winning medals since 2007 and was the U.S. champion in figure skating in 2012 and 2013. She trains in Aliso Viejo in Orange County, and, according to her official Olympics bio, she enjoys laser tag while also "constantly searching small diners for the best pie."
3. Dustin Brown: Ice Hockey
Dustin Brown is not only right-winger of the Los Angeles Kings - he's the team captain. He began his career with the L.A. hockey team in 2003 when he was 19, and in 2011, he won the NHL Foundation Player Award for his work with various Los Angeles-area charities - the first Kings player to win the award. Then in 2012, he and his Kings teammates won the ultimate hockey prize: the Stanley Cup. While Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild has been appointed captain of the U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team in Sochi, Brown is the alternate team captain. He lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife and four children.
2. Jonathan Quick: Ice Hockey
Dustin Brown isn't the only member of the Los Angeles Kings to be on the U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team: Goaltender Jonathan Quick is playing in Sochi, too. Of the 25-member U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team, more than half are previous Olympians, including Quick, who won a silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He has two children with his wife, Jaclyn, whose sister Alicia is also married to a pro hockey player with the Buffalo Sabres, Matt Moulson.
1. Shaun White: Snowboarding (Halfpipe)
Shaun White's athletic career first took off after legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk saw him on a skateboard when White was just 9 years old. Since then, White has become the first athlete to compete and win medals in both the Summer and Winter XGames in skateboarding and snowboarding, respectively.
But it's White's career as a snowboarder that won him gold medals in men's halfpipe at the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games. He even developed a trick dubbed the "Tomahawk" at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. White's strawberry-blond mop-top and his skills on the snowboard have earned him the nickname "the Flying Tomato" as well as "Animal," after the Muppets' crazy, redheaded drummer.
The 27-year-old San Diego native also has something of a bad-boy image after being arrested in Tennessee for public intoxication and vandalism in 2012, playing guitar a year later at Lollapalooza with his band, Bad Things. Even in the unlikely event that he doesn't win at the 2014 Olympics, it's safe to say White will continue to be an icon of snowboarding for many years to come.
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