Looking into the crystal ball: Nine to watch in Sochi

Maggie Hendricks

Sure, the Vancouver Olympics aren't even over yet, but that doesn't keep us from looking ahead to the next Games. In Sochi, who should you keep an eye on?

Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov, Russia, pairs skating: The skating pair had a fall in their free skate in Vancouver, but they are young and inexperienced. In Sochi, they not only have the Olympic experience under their belt, but they will be skating in front of a home crowd.

Mirai Nagasu, United States, figure skating: The 16-year-old skater took fourth in Vancouver, yet has tons of room to improve in her abilities. Not only that, but Nagasu's already been through ups and downs in her career, giving her a maturity that will do nothing but help her not just return to but rule the Olympics in four years.

John Morris, Canada, curling: Winning a gold medal for Canada is a good start for Morris, who has been on veteran Kevin Martin's team for the past four years. Look for Morris to be the leader of Canada's next curling team.

J.R. Celski, United States, short-track speedskating: Celski is just 19, but he's already a two-time medalist. Look for the baby-faced Celski to take over for Apolo Ohno as the top American short-track speedskater.

Russian men's hockey team: The Russian pucksters, led by NHL star Alexander Ovechkin, were expected to win gold in Vancouver, but they were unceremoniously bounced from the Olympics by Canada. Look for them to come back with a vengeance on home soil.

Florent Amodio, France, men's figure skating: This born-Brazilian, raised-French skater showed the exuberance needed to excel in figure skating at the Vancouver Olympics. Now, he just needs to mature and hone his skills, a process that should take roughly four years.

Gregory Bretz, United States, snowboard: The 19-year-old snowboarder finished 12th after falling in the finals of the halfpipe. With four years of training and backing from a strong U.S. snowboarding community, expect Bretz to make the medal stand in Sochi.

U.S. men's Nordic-combined team: Not only did the U.S. go without a medal in the Nordic-combined for more than 80 years, the team and their sport also toiled in anonymity. Now, with three silver medals and one gold, the sport is likely to enjoy an "Olympic bump" in participation, donation and publicity. If they can ride that bump to grow their sport, they will have another huge medal haul in Sochi.

Women's ski jumpers: In a shocking case of gender discrimination out of a group that claims to be working for gender equality, women's ski jumpers weren't allowed to compete in Vancouver. They're expected to in Sochi, and will likely make enough noise to make up for their earlier exclusion.

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