The Sochi Network

50 stars to watch at the Sochi Olympics and their amazing stories

In the run up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Reuters have been highlighting the athletes to watch during the Games.

Here are 50 stories from amazing athletes across the globe who are all looking to strike gold in Sochi.

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1. Shaun White (USA - Snowboarding)

Shaun White is already one of the most successful and recognisable names in Winter sports, a snowboarding rockstar just living the American dream.

Read his story

2. Marcel Hirscher (Austria – Alpine Skiing)

Since getting within touching distance of the podium in Vancouver four years ago, Marcel Hirscher has overcome injury, matched a decade-old achievement and now travels to the Sochi Olympics as a medal favourite in the technical skiing events.

Read her story

3. Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan – Figure Skating)

Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu was practicing at his home rink in northern Japan one Friday afternoon when the arena began to shake violently. Then the ice cracked.

Read his story

4. Torah Bright (Australia – Snowboarding)

If life was a snow-covered mountain, Australia's Torah Bright would be the one plunging down the black runs and ploughing through the powder off-piste.

Read her story

5. Beat Feuz (Switzerland – Alpine Skiing)

Having undergone 10 knee surgeries since 2008, Switzerland's Beat Feuz naturally considers his Winter Olympics qualification a "miracle" and the 26-year-old will return to the Sochi slopes hoping to spring a surprise.

Read his story

6. The Sedin Twins (Sweden – Ice Hockey)

Ice hockey teams that gel the quickest often enjoy success at the Winter Olympics, so the chemistry between Swedish twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin could prove the difference for the Tre Kronor at the Sochi Games.

Read their story

7. Sara Takanashi (Japan – Ski Jumping)

Sara Takanashi studied ballet and piano when she was small, like many other young Japanese girls, but her life made a sharply different turn when she was eight years old and took a stab at ski jumping. It was love at first flight.

Read her story

8. Xu Mengtao (China – Freestyle Skiing)

Nail that landing. Not so easy to do after performing a series of complicated somersaults and twists high above an icy slope, perhaps, but Xu Mengtao knows getting two skis down safely on the landing hill is key to her winning Olympic gold in Sochi next month.

Read her story

9. Zach Parise (USA – Ice Hockey)

A hockey loving kid, who grew up learning the game on outdoor rinks and ponds, Parise has lived every Canadian kid's fairytale. Except for one thing. He's American.

Read his story

10. Ted Ligety (USA – Alpine Skiing)

American alpine skier Ted Ligety's form curve looks to be peaking at just the right time for Sochi, eight years after he won his first gold medal.

Read his story

11. Patrick Chan (Canada – Figure Skating)

When a five-year-old Patrick Chan took his first wobbly steps on a skating rink, he piled on the warm layers on his skinny frame to escape the chill. Little did he know that over the next 18 years he would have to develop a thick skin - literally.

Read his story

12. Bode Miller (USA – Alpine Skiiing)

There have been Winter Olympics in which Bode Miller seemed more focused on claiming a gold medal in partying than reaching the top of the podium. But the American skier, who can infuriate and inspire in equal measure, heads to the Sochi Games looking to "kick ass" and put the finishing touches to a complicated legacy.

Read his story

13. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (Canada – Ice Dancing)

Reigning Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have worked with circus acrobats and ballroom dancers to boost their title defence at February's Sochi Games in a sport they believe has evolved significantly in the past four years.

Read their story

14. Shani Davis (USA – Speed Skating)

Shani Davis' mother wanted her young son to pursue roller dance, while guards at the Chicago ice rink he frequented just wished he would slow down. A myriad of medals in a glorious decade of elite speed skating prove emphatically the American was right to do neither.

Read his story

15. Jean-Frederic Chapuis (France – Ski Cross)

Jean-Frederic Chapuis casually thinks about becoming Olympic champion in Sochi. The first Frenchman to be crowned ski cross world champion, Chapuis turned his sights towards the discipline after failing to make it to the highly competitive French Alpine skiing national team.

Read his story

16. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA – Alpine Skiing)

American slalom specialist Mikaela Shiffrin is a woman in a hurry. Just 18 years old, the teenager already is a World Cup winner and world champion in slalom with an Olympic medal well within her sights.

Read her story

17. Sidney Crosby (Canada – Ice Hockey)

For Canadians Sidney Crosby is an ice hockey God. A superhero with a hockey stick wearing the Maple Leaf on his chest who came to the hockey mad country's rescue four years ago at the Vancouver Winter Games by scoring the golden goal against the United States that crowned Canada Olympic champions.

Read his story

18. Lee Sang-hwa (South Korea – Speed Skating)

A LEGO fascination and penchant for nail art seem to be the only things capable of distracting South Korean speed skater Lee Sang-hwa, whose mental strength and dedication to training form the building blocks of her growing supremacy in the sport.

Read her story

19. Tom Wallisch (USA – Slopestyle Skiiing)

An Olympic medal was never really part of Tom Wallisch's life project, he forgot that fanciful notion when he joined the free skiing rebels and hit the rails. After rejecting convention, however, and becoming a YouTube sensation with a series of jaw-dropping videos complete with hip-hop soundtracks, a quirk of fate has brought the Olympics to him.

Read his story

20. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (Norway – Biathlon)

Biathlon great Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, a precocious talent as a youngster, is looking to end his Olympic career at 40 with a record medal tally. The Norwegian, who made his World Cup debut in 1994, has 11 Olympic medals but has compatriot and cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie's Games record of 12 in his sights in his final Olympics appearance.

Read his story

21. Margaretha Sigfridsson (Sweden – Curling)

Swede Margaretha Sigfridsson's curling career would probably never have started had a childhood English teacher who loved the sport not sneaked his class to a rink to try it out.

Read her story

22. Mo Tae-bum's – (South Korea – Speed Skating)

Mo Tae-bum's moment in the Vancouver sun was overshadowed by Kim Yuna's record-breaking performance at the 2010 Games, but the South Korean speed skater bears no ill will towards his illustrious compatriot. In fact, he feels he owes the Olympic figure skating champion a debt of gratitude.

Read his story

23. Viktor Ahn (Russia – Short Track)

When Ahn Hyun-soo switched allegiance from South Korea to Russia for the Sochi Winter Games, he took the name Viktor for good luck. He now trains full-time at a sports complex outside Moscow, preparing for a comeback at the Sochi Games in his adopted homeland.

Read his story

24. Brad Jacobs (Canada – Curling)

Canadian men's curling skip Brad Jacobs is hoping a fundraiser will help pay his family's way to Sochi but he doesn't have to worry about two of his cousins since they make up half of his rink.

Read his story

25. Tora Berger (Norway – Biathlon)

Tora Berger is something of a late bloomer, yet she could rewrite the women biathlon record books with an unprecedented Olympics clean sweep.

Read her story

26. Mao Asada (Japan – Figure Skating)

When Japan's Mao Asada steps onto the ice in Sochi, she will be hoping to finish off her amateur career with Olympic gold - and a perfect set of the complicated jumps that have long been both her trademark and her Achilles heel.

Read her story

27. Lydia Lassila (Australia – Aerials)

Australian Lydia Lassila's motto is a simple and appropriate one for an athlete who spends her career launching herself into spectacular acrobatics on skis. "The glory is not in never falling, but rising when we fall," the Australian says.

Read her story

28. Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA – Skeleton)

Noelle Pikus-Pace is on a mission to win Olympic gold - and the American skeleton racer - dubbed the 'fastest mum on ice' - will not let anything distract her from making it third time lucky.

Read her story

29. Jason Lamy-Chappuis (France – Nordic Combined)

Jason Lamy-Chappuis briefly indulged in the post-Olympic media frenzy after winning a nordic combined gold in 2010, only to be reminded that his sport requires him to be "Usain Bolt and Mo Farah at the same time".

Read his story

30. Hayley Wickenheiser (Canada – Ice Hockey)

Canadian Hayley Wickenheiser has been at the forefront of women's ice hockey for nearly 20 years and is one of the sport's most decorated players, yet the aspiring doctor feels she can still improve.

Read her story

31. John Farrow (Australia – Skeleton)

With his left foot still partially paralysed more than two years on from a "freak accident" that blew his knee, Australian skeleton racer John Farrow knows he is at a disadvantage every time he prepares to push his sled.

Read his story

32. Eric Frenzel (Germany – Nordic Combined)

Very few athletes in need of a ride home from an international competition can call on their Air Force for help. German two-time Nordic Combined world champion Eric Frenzel, however, is a member of the armed forces. So when the event in northern Finland ended last November, he and his teammates flew straight home on a military transport plane.

Read his story

33. Natalie Geisenberger (Germany – Luge)

Few athletes have dominated their sport in recent seasons as much as German luger Natalie Geisenberger but she still longs to capture the elusive Olympic gold medal missing from her collection.

Read her story

34. Steve Holcomb (USA – Bobsleigh)

Steve Holcomb lives and breathes bobsleigh to the extent that he could not imagine doing anything else.

Read his story

35. Tina Maze (Slovenia – Alpine Skiing)

Tina Maze knows how to make an impression on and off the snow. The record-breaking Slovenian skier's past exploits include flashing her bra in a finish-area protest and singing her way into her country's hit parade with a catchy "My Way is My Decision".

Read her story

36. Maelle Ricker (Canada – Snowboard Cross)

If it were not for the fact that she will be defending her Olympic snowboard cross title in Sochi, Canada's Maelle Ricker would probably be riding with the crowds at the Mount Baker Banked Slalom this February.

Read her story

37. Felix Loch (Germany – Luge)

Defending Olympic champion Felix Loch could not have hoped for a better Sochi 2014 Olympic preparation than leading the world standings and claiming the German title days before the end of last year.

Read his story

38. Kim Yuna (South Korea – Figure Skating)

Kim Yuna carried the expectation of a nation on her shoulders when she skated her way to the title at the Vancouver Games, and while South Koreans will settle for nothing less than gold in Sochi the Olympic champion seems more at ease with the pressure.

Read her story

39. James Woods (Britain - Freestyle Skiing)

A Yorkshire lad who learned to ski on an inner-city Sheffield dry slope that has since burned to the ground is Britain's best hope for an Olympic gold medal in Sochi and James Woods admits the prospect still feels "insane".

Read his story

40. Sven Kramer (Netherlands – Speed Skating)

It is just as well endurance is one of Sven Kramer's best attributes as the Dutch long track speedskater has suffered a painfully protracted wait to right the wrongs of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

Read his story

41. Gregor Schlierenzauer (Austria – Ski Jumping)

A year ago, Gregor Schlierenzauer became one of the most successful ski jumpers in history at just 23 but the charismatic Austrian still has a glaring omission from his list of achievements - an individual Olympic gold medal.

Read his story

42. Petter Northug (Norway – Cross-Country Skiing)

Norwegian Olympic champion Petter Northug brings a dash of showmanship to the tough world of cross-country skiing, his dramatic sprint finishes and teasing of defeated rivals making him a national hero.

Read his story

43. Martina Sablikova (Czech Republic – Speed Skating)

Martina Sablikova was dubbed the 'Queen of Skating' after her double gold medal success at the Vancouver Games four years ago and the Czech speed skater has no plans to abdicate her throne in Sochi.

Read her story

44. Lolo Jones (USA – Bobsleigh)

Track and field star Lolo Jones is the most high-profile crossover athlete to try her hand at winter sports since former NFL running back Herschel Walker took off his shoulder pads and climbed into a bobsled. The American, best known for throwing away the chance of Olympic gold with the 100 metres hurdles crown at her mercy in Beijing in 2008, has again put her track career on the back burner in the winter months in a bid to make it to the Sochi Games.

Read her story

45. Marit Bjoergen (Norway – Cross-Country Skiing)

Marit Bjoergen is just looking to win one more gold medal at the Sochi Olympics - a relatively modest goal after the Norwegian cross-country skier's haul made her the most successful athlete at the 2010 Games.

Read her story

46. Arielle Gold (USA – Halfpipe)

If her surname is any indication of what she can achieve, Arielle Gold really was born to win. Now, the American teenager has the chance to fulfil her destiny as she prepares to compete in one of the most exciting and dangerous sports at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Read her story

47. Hannah Kearney (USA – Moguls)

Success in snow sports invariably boils down to rhythm and momentum and right now American moguls skier Hannah Kearney has both in abundance as she eyes the defence of her Olympic title in Sochi.

Read her story

48. Alex Ovechkin (Russia – Ice Hockey)

For all the riches Alex Ovechkin has accumulated during a glittering ice hockey career, a gold medal and a coveted silver bowl remain firmly beyond the Russian sniper's grasp.

Read his story

49. Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway – Alpine Skiing)

With his scintillating form, Aksel Lund Svindal's combination of skill and mental strength make him the man to beat on the slopes in Sochi.

Read his story

50. Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA – Ice Dancing)

Just watching Meryl Davis and Charlie White whiz around the rink weaving in and out of their spellbinding lifts and intricate choreography can leave awe-struck spectators feeling rather breathless.

Read their story