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Fourth-Place Medal

Top stories heading into the Winter Olympic Games

Jay Busbee
Fourth-Place Medal

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We're now inside the 100-day mark until the start of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Every Olympics creates its own storylines as it goes, but here are 10 that you'll want to keep in mind going into the Games.

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1. How cold will the Winter Olympics be? One year to the day before the Games began, the temperature in Sochi was 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Sochi is a summer resort, and as you can see in the artist's rendering of the "Coast Zone" above, that means there could be an awful lot of green. Olympic organizers will be generating snow, and have stockpiled snow from last winter, but the climate could definitely be an issue.

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2. Will Lindsey Vonn medal? Lindsey Vonn is determined to regain her title as the world's greatest skier, even after a devastating February injury. In 2010, she became the first American woman to win a gold medal in the downhill event; can she build on that in 2014? Also, for gossip hounds: will she bring her boyfriend, a golfer by the name of Tiger?

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(Via spiegel.de)

3. How will Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws shape this Olympics? Gay rights organizations worldwide have condemned Russia's harsh laws banning gay "propaganda," and many prominent athletes have joined in the protests. The issue has layered every element of the Games with potential meaning, as with the German Olympic team's rainbow-themed uniforms pictured above.

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4. Shaun White, conquering hero. He's shorn most of his trademark red mane, but Shaun White remains one of the best-known winter Olympians. The two-time medalist will seek to win gold for the third straight Olympics.

5. Lolo Jones, two-season Olympian?: Lolo Jones is seeking to make the U.S. bobsled team, which would make her one of the few athletes to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games. Can she do it? That'll be an interesting story heading into the Games.

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6. How will the Games reflect on President Putin? Russian President Vladimir Putin has spared absolutely no expense in an effort to make the Sochi Games a crowning moment in the nation's history. Combine a bill that's in the range of $50 billion (making this by far the most expensive Games in history) with concerns about the treatment of locals, as well as the gay-rights issue, and Putin is walking a tightrope of world opinion.

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7. The return of NHL hockey. Not that it was ever really in doubt, but the NHL has signed off on participation in the Olympic Games for the fifth time. Can Russia match Canada's stunning 2010 run to gold on home ice? Of note: the USA has already qualified for both the men's and women's hockey competitions.

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8. Bode Miller's return: Like Shaun White, Miller has spoken out against Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws. And like Lindsey Vonn, Miller is trying to come back from surgery. Sochi would be Miller's fifth Olympics, and he's the United States' most decorated active Winter Olympian with five medals.

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9. Who will be the breakout names? Every Olympics introduces a new crop of athletes into the American consciousness — think MacKayla Maroney and the rest of the Fierce Five from London's gymnastics competition, for instance. A good bet this year? Figure skater Gracie Gold. She's being coached by Frank Carroll, who also mentored Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek. Plus, she's got the right surname.

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10. New events in play. While no entirely new sports have been added to the Sochi games, there are several new events, including team figure skating, women's ski jumping, team luge relay and others.

The Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony will take place on Feb. 7, 2014. Bundle up – maybe – and mark your calendars now.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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