Coveted by television programmers for its ability to captivate the XX chromosome crowd, figure skating is often shown opposite NFL games -- but it's not just the fairer sex tuning in to watch the action. According to Nielsen, the sport was the fifth-most viewed event of Vancouver 2010, and the third-most buzz-worthy. Whose blades will bring the U.S. glory this time around? Stay tuned for our list of the top U.S. figure skaters heading into Sochi -- and beyond.
A mere week ago, the team's medal hopes seemed right at home in the slim-to-none category -- but don't count our boys out just yet. On his way to gold at the 2014 U.S. National Championships, Jeremy Abbott threw down a short program for the ages and showed the kind of talent that could put him on the podium before Sochi is all said and done.
Technically, Wagner should never have punched a ticket to Sochi, but she's still talented enough to be a serious threat to every competitor there. Why, you ask, should she remain stateside? Well, despite being an odds-on favorite to 3-peat at this year's U.S. National Championship, she fell twice and finished a distant fourth. The event is considered a de-facto qualifier for the Olympics and prior to 2014, the U.S. Figure Skating Association had never passed over a top-three finisher who was otherwise eligible to make the team. Still, it did so this time around, spurning Mirai Nagasu in favor of the fallen star. If performing while the whole world looks on wasn't pressure enough, Wagner now needs to contend with the ire of the skating establishment, whose collective feathers were ruffled by her inclusion on the team.
In the stranger than fiction category, eighteen-year old Gracie Gold will be in hot pursuit of her own surname at Sochi. Fresh off a first-place finish at the U.S. National Championships, the young skater is a dark-horse contender for Team U.S.A. With the spotlight fixed firmly on her teammate, Gold might just manage to twirl under the radar.
Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Whether you're playing volleyball, cricket, or quidditch, 6-peats are pretty much unheard of; unless, of course, you're Meryl Davis and Charlie White. The ice dancing duo have been tops at the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships for the better part of a decade, but, as decorated as these two athletes are, there's one accolade they've yet to capture: Olympic gold. In 2010, the pair skated their way to a silver, but after winning two world championships in the following three years, they're the favorite heading into Sochi.
What do you think of our list? Any skaters we left out? Let us know in the commments.