Which U.S. Olympians are destined for gold? Who will surprise? A breakdown of the nation’s best and locals alike

Nathan Chen performs in the men's free skate program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, Calif. Chen is planning an audacious five quads in his free skate at the Pyeongchang Olympics, and it could take at least three or four to have any shot at landing on the podium (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

As the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Olympics draws closer, here is a breakdown of Americans to watch as the Games unfold.

Medal favorites

Nathan Chen, Figure Skating • Yes, Salt Lake City’s skating prodigy called his own shot of making these Games as a 10-year-old phenom. Now he’s here, changing the landscape of the sport with a gold in sight.

Maddie Bowman, Freeskiing • One of Westminster’s student-athletes, the reigning Olympic gold medal champion has overcome a knee injury since Sochi to get back to peak form. Example: Bowman just won X Games ski halfpipe.

Jaelin Kauf, Moguls • The No. 1-ranked women’s mogul skier in the world hasn’t slowed down in her breakout season. The Park City transplant should land somewhere on the podium in Pyeongchang.

David Wise, Freeskiing • Can anyone catch Wise in the ski halfpipe? The Olympic gold medalist from 2014 continues to stay atop his game, and like Bowman, is coming off an X Games gold in the halfpipe.

Shaun White, Snowboarding • Life is different at 31, but White still can stomp a run like no other snowboarder. He put down a perfect 100 score in qualifying and can piece together a gold-medal performance on any given day.

Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing • She enters the Olympics on a dominant run at the World Cup level as the top overall women’s Alpine skier. The 2014 gold medalist could be in for a record haul.

Elana Meyers Taylor, Bobsled • The two-time Olympic medalist driver is coming off a gold medal at last year’s World Championships and has the experience to bring home her first Olympic gold.

Heather Bergsma, Long-Track Speedskating • The world-record holding U.S. skater now lives and trains full time in the Netherlands and has sights set on her first Olympic medal.

Chloe Kim, Snowboarding • At 17, Kim has been owning snowboard halfpipe for the last Olympic cycle. She had the scores to qualify in 2014 but was too young. The question is: Can anyone come close to her in the pipe?

Podium possibilities

Lindsey Vonn, Alping Skiing • On the right day, nobody can keep up with Vonn. The superstar skier said these are likely her last Games. Can she recapture the Olympic magic of nearly a decade ago?

Ted Ligety, Alpine Skiing • The gold in Sochi might seem long ago, and it is. The Park City legend has been under the knife plenty in the past four years with knee and back surgeries. But Ligety is determined to add to his Olympic medal count.

Sarah Hendrickson, Ski Jumping • In front of nearly 7,000 spectators at her home park for this year’s Olympic Trials, Hendrickson flew like the ski jumper who first captivated the sport. She’s determined to maintain that form in South Korea.

Faye Gulini, Snowboardcross • Salt Lake’s snowboard racer came agonizingly close in Sochi with a fourth-place finish. Her World Cup results have been stellar in the lead-up to Pyeongchang.

Katie Uhlaender, Skeleton • Now 33, she stood to receive a bronze medal from Sochi due to the Russian doping scandal, but news this week that 28 dopers had their bans lifted means she will have to charge for a new medal in Korea.

Maame Biney, Short-track Speedskating • Guaranteed to be one of the breakout names of the Games, Biney is one of the fastest 500-meter racers in the world. And she’s only 17.

J.R. Celski, Short-track Speedskating • The three-time Olympic medalist returns as the leader of a young, inexperienced short-track team. He’s still the main American threat to medal.

Brittany Bowe, Long-track Speedskating • Off the ice for nearly 18 months due to post-concussion syndrome, Bowe looked like her old self in the Olympic trials, which is great news for Team USA.

Gus Kenworthy, Freeskiing • The silver medalist in slopestyle in 2014 returns for a go at gold. Team USA will need Kenworthy’s best to offset the loss of gold medalist Joss Christensen.

Ashley Caldwell, Aerials • Known for never taking an easy jump, Caldwell has the ability to put down gold medal worthy jumps. The World Cup season was a struggle, but if she puts it all together in Pyeongchang, look out.

The dark horses

Morgan Schild, Moguls • While Jaelin Kauf has risen to new heights, Schild is right behind her. The Westminster student-athlete is one of the top athletes in the world in the air in moguls.

John-Henry Krueger, Short-Track Speedskating • An American who has trained in South Korea and now in the Netherlands, Krueger has the potential in multiple events to contend if he’s in a groove.

Lowell Bailey, Biathlon • Bailey made history in 2017, becoming the first American to ever win a World Championship in biathlon. Can his fourth Olympic appearance be another piece of history?

Adam Rippon, Figure Skating • The outspoken, talented skater and first openly gay male Winter Olympian has taken on Vice President Mike Pence in the media. Can the 28-year-old surprise on the ice in Pyeongchang?

Mac Bohonnon, Aerials • The University of Utah student and men’s aerialist has incorporated one of the most difficult tricks in his repertoire before the Games. If he unleashes and lands “the Hurricane,” it would be one of the great stories of these Olympics.

Joey Mantia, Long-Track Speedskating • One of Team USA’s fastest skaters, Mantia will contend in the men’s 1,000- and 1,500-meter events in Pyeong­chang.

Red Gerard, Snowboarding • The 17-year-old snowboarding daredevil in big air and slopestyle grew up idolizing many of his 2018 Olympic teammates. Will the diminutive 5-foot-5 boarder surprise the field?

Summer Britcher, Luge • The U.S. has decorated luge athlete Erin Hamlin, who is in her fourth Games. But Britcher, 23, is the No. 3 ranked woman in the World Cup standings entering the Olympics.

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