Sochi: 10 world stars to watch

  • Last Updated: February 6 2014, 14:11 GMT

We pick out 10 of the star names to watch at the Winter Olympics, including cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen.

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen: One of the big names to watch
Ole Einar Bjoerndalen: One of the big names to watch

MIKAELA SHIFFRIN: The 18-year-old is destined to be one of the biggest alpine stars in Sochi as she battles Austrian rival Marlies Schild for slalom gold. Schild broke the record for all-time World Cup wins in December but Shiffrin is the reigning overall world champion and despite her age she will be confident of handling the pressure and claiming her sport's ultimate prize.

SIMON AMMANN: The Swiss ski-jump star won the prestigious Four Hills event for the first time in December, marking a timely return to form for the man who won double gold in Salt Lake City in 2002 - and returned to repeat the feat in Vancouver in 2010. Until his Four Hills triumph, Ammann had gone three years without a major win. Now few would dare bet against him in Sochi.

SHAUN WHITE: American snowboarding superstar White will not be content with retaining his half-pipe title in Sochi. White is also intent on branching out into the new slopestyle discipline, and the success or otherwise of the self-styled 'Flying Tomato' in chasing a second gold medal is bound to be one of the stories of the Games. Such is White's level of fame he is bound to start as a big favourite.

SARA TAKANASHI: Much talk about the Olympic debut of women's ski-jump has revolved around the American Sarah Hendrickson and her battle for fitness. But Japanese teenager Takanashi has more than proved Hendrickson's match, winning eight World Cup events in the 2012/13 season and the overall World Cup title at the age of just 16. Their duel is eagerly awaited in Sochi.

OLE EINAR BJOERNDALEN: Arguably the greatest biathlete of all time, Norwegian Bjoerndalen needs two more gold medals to match the all-time Winter Olympic record of eight held by his compatriot, cross country skier Bjorn Daehlie. He will be 40 by the time the Games comes round, but has returned to form at the right time after taking two World Cup silver medals in Oberhof this month.

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MARTINS DUKURS: The Latvian skeleton star has proved utterly dominant in his sport in recent years but still lacks Olympic gold having been pipped by Jon Montgomery last time out. This time Dukurs faces a battle from another home favourite - Russia's Alexander Tretiakov - but his superb start to the new 2013/14 season suggests Dukurs remains very much the man to beat.

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN: The Washington Capitals winger has led Russia to two world titles but his previous two attempts to claim Olympic medals have ended in failure. There would be no better stage for Ovechkin to reverse his nation's recent poor fortunes than in front of a home crowd in Sochi. Having made his debut as a 17-year-old in 2002, Ovechkin knows all too well what such a triumph would mean.

MARIT BJOERGEN: The Norwegian cross-country skier will be a big favourite to add to her mounting Olympic medal collection in Sochi. Bjoergen has claimed seven medals from her three previous Games - including a 2006 competition during which she was stricken with bronchitis. Bjoergen's performances at the start of the 2013/14 season suggest it is very much back to business as usual.

KIM YU NA: Few present in the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver will forget the extraordinary performance of South Korea's Kim Yu Na in claiming the women's figure skating title. Kim took time out of the sport after her triumph and was beset by a foot injury early in her attempted comeback, raising fears of her readiness for Sochi. But Kim has indicated she will be ready to defend her title.

WANG MENG: Notorious Chinese short-track star Wang Meng will once again give her rivals - and team-mates - short shrift as she bids to add to her total of six career Olympic medals. Fiery and volatile during training camps, Wang has nevertheless managed to do her talking on the ice, including four world golds in Debrecen in 2013. No one would dare write off her chances, least of all to her face.

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