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Dispatches : Athletes

Why America Will Dominate Bobsledding at Sochi 2014

Germany has dominated Olympic bobsledding for years, winning eight gold medals at the past five Games. How do you beat them? Hire BMW to build your sled. In 2011, the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation asked the automaker to develop the fastest bobsled ever built.

Engineers used technology similar to what was used in BMW’s Formula One race cars to craft a hull from carbon fiber and synthetic laminate (instead of the more commonly used fiberglass), to reduce weight and vibration and allow the sled’s driver to rattle less and focus more.

They also scanned the bodies of two of the team’s bobsledders to produce mannequins for testing and to fine-tune the sled’s ergonomics for more precise steering. So how much faster are the new models? BMW won’t say. But it’s a good bet that if Team USA wins a medal, there will be hefeweizen at the after-party.

Besides a new ride, the U.S. men’s bobsled team has one more powerful tool for reaching the podium: Steven Langton’s lower half. The six-foot-two, 225-pound Langton, 30, anchors both the two- and four-man teams, and has emerged as a dominant force in the sport. His explosive start-line pushes enabled him to capture the U.S.’s first World Championship gold medal, with pilot Steven Holcomb, in 2012.

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/us-bobsled-team-bmw_fe.jpg","caption":"The bobsled to be used by the U.S. team."}%}

 

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The Scariest Trick at the Sochi Olympics

For the 30 men competing in the first-ever Olympic halfpipe skiing event on February 13, at Russia’s Rosa Khutor Resort, winning a gold medal will almost certainly require landing a trick called the unnatural double cork 1260. What’s involved: two off-axis flips with three and a half rotations in the skier’s unnatural spinning direction.

"From a difficulty standpoint, the unnatural dub 12 is right at the top," says Josh Loubek, head judge of the Olympic halfpipe competi-tion. So far only three skiers have pulled it off in competition.

David Wise, of Reno, Nevada, was the first to land the trick while competing, in 2011, and is the gold-medal favorite. Fellow American Alex Ferreira and Canadian Justin Dorey added the trick to their arsenals last winter, and a handful of other skiers were feverishly practicing it on air bags this past fall.

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Our Predictions for America's Top Olympic Skiers of 2014

America’s top alpine skiers will undoubtedly make their mark in Sochi. but based on past performances, their impact may have more to do with off-the-slopes shenanigans than on-the-hill heroics. Here, predictions of the coming drama.

 

The Malcontent: Ted Ligety, 29

 


On the Slopes: Gold medal trifecta! Ligety takes the giant slalom, super-G, and combined.

Off the Slopes: Despite newfound glory, opts to continue his war against the sport’s governing body over ski regulations, composing a novella-length blog post that includes 93 technical footnotes. Immediately after the Games, announces he has signed the entire Austrian team to Shred Optics, his ski-gear brand.

The Maverick: Julia Mancuso, 29


 

On the Slopes: Beats expectations—again—by medaling in the super-G and downhill.

Off the Slopes: Après hot-tub selfie on Instagram earns her a rebuke from the U.S. Ski Team for showing “too much side boob.” Stays one step ahead of the paparazzi by tweeting that she is back together with ex-boyfriend and Norwegian superskier Aksel Lund Svindal before they actually get back together.

 

The New Kid: Mikaela Shiffrin, 18

 


 

On the Slopes: Wins gold in slalom and bronze in giant slalom, making her the youngest woman to medal in either event in Olympic history.

Off the Slopes: Expands her role as the face of energy candy by landing sponsorship with a new brand of protein-enhanced Skittles called Super Chompers, then abruptly cancels the contract when her pet reindeer, Rudolf, ODs on the things.

 

The Loose Cannon: Bode Miller, 36

 


 

On the Slopes: Charges hard and crashes harder, finishing way out of medal contention.

Off the Slopes: Gives an utterly bizarre (and totally awesome) post-race interview with Bob Costas, in which he confesses that during his GS run he “decided to become a zookeeper.” Later, challenges his wife, pro volleyballer Morgan Beck, to a Chinese downhill, which ends badly when he accidentally jams his pole into her thigh.

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