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(KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUSSIA - JANUARY 8: Sage Kotsenburg of the United States competes in the Men's Slopestyle Semifinals at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games Saturday February 8, 2014. (Photo by Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune) )
Olympics: ‘Team Utah’ already has sights set on Pyeongchang
Sports » Athletes with Utah ties pick up 14 medals, including five golds, in Sochi.
First Published Feb 22 2014 03:04 pm • Last Updated Feb 24 2014 07:19 am

Sochi, Russia • Fourteen athletes who live in Utah have won medals at the Sochi Olympics during the past two weeks, which would rank the state ninth on the medal table if it were a country.

And guess what?

At a glance

Utah medalists in Sochi

Athlete Residence Event Medal

Eddy Alvarez West Jordan Short-track relay Silver

Torah Bright Salt Lake City Snowboard halfpipe Silver

Maddie Bowman Salt Lake City Ski halfpipe Gold

J.R. Celski Salt Lake City Short-track relay Silver

Joss Christensen Park City Ski slopestyle Gold

Chris Creveling Midvale Short-track relay Silver

Alex Deibold Park City Snowboardcross Bronze

Kaitlyn Farrington Salt Lake City Snowboard halfpipe Gold

Steven Holcomb Park City Two-man bobsled Bronze

Sage Kotsenburg Park City Snowboard slopestyle Gold

Ted Ligety Park City Giant slalom Gold

Devin Logan Park City Ski slopestyle Silver

Jordan Malone West Jordan Short-track relay Silver

Noelle Pikus-Pace Eagle Mountain Skeleton Silver

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Most of them aren’t finished.

Almost all of the Utah residents who stood on the podium — including all five of the gold medalists — have indicated they plan to continue competing with an eye toward the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea. Only one, Eagle Mountain’s Noelle Pikus-Pace, is definitively retired after taking silver in the skeleton, though of course we’ve heard that from her before.

"I definitely want to be back in four years," ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson isn’t even one of the medalists, either.

But the Park City native was among the highest-profile Utahns here, as the reigning world champion in a sport making its Olympic debut. She came nowhere near the podium because of the lingering effects of reconstructive knee surgery barely six months ago, but the 19-year-old could be a fully healthy gold-medal contender in South Korea.

Same with the highest-profile local medalists here, Ted Ligety and Steven Holcomb.

Ligety became the first American man to win two Olympic medals in Alpine skiing when he won the giant slalom, cementing his standing as the greatest skier of his generation in that event.

Holcomb snapped a 62-year American medal drought in two-man bobsled, and has a chance Sunday to defend his four-man gold medal from the 2010 Vancouver Games in Canada. That would make him the only American to win more than one medal here.

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"I’m still only 29 years old," Ligety said. "I definitely plan on skiing through Korea and maybe after that for a little while. Who knows exactly how much longer I’m going to ski? But definitely through Korea," where he won his first World Cup race in 2006.

Holcomb said he’d evaluate his future after the conclusion of the four-man race, but has said previously that he expected to compete at least until 2018, when he will be 37 years old.

That almost hardly matters in bobsled, where some of the most accomplished drivers competed well into their 30s. Four-time champion Andre Lange, of Germany, won gold in Vancouver at age 36, for example, while Russia’s Alexander Zubkov leads the four-man race at age 39 after winning two-man gold.

"Honestly, I really love what I do," Holcomb said. "I don’t want to get a real job, so I may stick around a few more years. I’m not sure."

For many of the others, like gold medalists Sage Kotsenburg and Joss Christensen, of Park City, age is not an issue.

The 20-year-old Kotsenburg won the first gold of the Games in snowboard slopestyle, while Christensen, 22, won ski slopestyle — both were new events in Sochi — a few days later. Neither was among the headline favorites, but both now figure to steam towards Korea with a much higher profile and expectations, along with Maddie Bowman, the 20-year-old two-time Winter X Games champion who lives in Salt Lake City and won gold in halfpipe skiing, another new event that helped boost the American medal haul.

Kotsenburg might have even changed the direction of his sport, winning with unique style a competition that had been expected to be decided by the biggest mid-air tricks.

"I would love" to defend the title in South Korea, he said.

Same with Salt Lake City’s Kaitlyn Farrington, who stunned the last three Olympic champions to win the halfpipe snowboarding, after entering the competition hoping merely to reach the final. Among the former champions she defeated was Australia’s Torah Bright, who also lives in Salt Lake City and claimed the silver medal.

"I think I will go for another four years," Farrington said.

Farrington is among the athletes who moved to Utah in recent years to train, with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association based in Park City and U.S. Speedskating headquartered at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns. Athletes there have access to some of the best winter-sports training locations and facilities in the world, many built for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics.

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