As the 2014 Sochi games begin to fade into history, it's a perfect time to take a look at what was a rather underwhelming Olympics for Team USA. Sure the Americans finished second in the overall medal count with 28 medals trailing only host country Russia with 33, but when the world's most powerful country finishes fourth in the gold medal race that's got to be a disappointing Olympics no matter what silver lining one tries to find. Historically, the United States is the second most successful country in the Winter Olympics trailing only Norway in all-time gold medals and total medals won in the winter games, meaning big things are expected every four years. While the U.S. was in the hunt for the lead in total medal count until the final 36 hours of the Olympics when Russia sealed the deal, the U.S. was playing from behind in gold medals throughout most of the games and never got the momentum it needed.
Gold medals are a unique item and do a lot more for an athlete's career than their counterpart silver or bronze medal will do. It's been reported that the six grams of gold contained in a gold medal is only worth about $548 in actual value, but gold medals bring in an increased monetary value for athletes from their country's Olympic committee and corporate sponsorships. For any United States athlete to win a gold medal the USOC pays that athlete a $25,000 prize for his or her effort, which comes out to about $15,000 after taxes. However, the big money comes from corporate sponsorships. After U.S. Skier Lindsey Vonn won her gold medal in downhill skiing at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics she signed more lucrative sponsorship deals with companies like Red Bull, Oakley, Under Armour and Rolex and has an estimated net worth of $3 million. So, who will be the next American Olympian that will shine under the bright lights of the media world? Here are Corporate America's top choices:
9 Gold Medal #1: Sage Kotsenburg, Snowboard Men's Slopestyle - February 8
Things got off on such a good foot for Team USA as Sage Kotsenburg captured the first gold medal of the 2014 Sochi Games in the brand new Snowboarding event, Slopestyle. A judged event, which includes jumps and equipment that would more likely be seen at a skate park, saw Kotsenburg land a trick that he'd never tried before dubbed the "Holy Crail". The Idaho native had prior success in the Slopestyle event in the Winter X Games, winning two silver medals, but those likely pale in comparison to the gold medal he won in Sochi. At the young age of 20 big things will be expected from the Park City, Utah resident as he likely has at least a couple Olympics left in him to compete.
8 Gold Medal #2: Jamie Anderson, Snowboard Ladies' Slopestyle - February 9
A day after Kotsenburg's triumph, another American reigned in Slopestyle, this time it was Jamie Anderson who captured the ladies' event. The 23-year-old has had quite the successful career in Ladies' Slopestyle as she's won eight medals in the Winter X Games event, four of which have been gold. While Kotsenburg was somewhat of a surprise gold medalist on the men's side, there were high expectations from Anderson as the South Lake Tahoe, California native came in as the heavy favorite and delivered. Whether this fledgling Olympic sport will take off or not remains to be seen, but it doesn't hurt to have a well-accomplished spokesperson for the sport like Anderson.
7 Gold Medal #3: Kaitlyn Farrington, Ladies' Halfpipe (Snowboarding) - February 12
The third gold medal won by Team USA came once again in snowboarding, but this time in the halfpipe. It wasn't the halfpipe gold medalist so many were expecting though, as Kaitlyn Farrington won the ladies' halfpipe while two-time defending gold medalist Shaun White finished fourth a day earlier on the men's side. Similar to Kotsenburg, Farrington was a surprise gold medalist in her snowboarding event, and also has other similarities to her fellow American snowboarder as she too hails from Idaho, but now resides and trains in Utah. In order to win the gold Farrington needed to outperform three other halfpipe gold medalists: Americans Kelly Clark (2002) and Hannah Teter (2006), and Australian Torah Bright (2010). The 24-year-old's winning score of 91.75 was just enough to edge out Bright by .25 and Clark by a single point.
6 Gold Medal #4: Joss Christensen, Men's Ski Slopestyle - February 13
The new slopestyle events proved to be very beneficial to Team USA as they not only took gold medals in the snowboard version of the event in the men's and ladies' divisions, but followed that up with a gold and silver in the ski version. Two days after American Devin Logan earned silver in the ladies' division, Joss Christensen won the men's event and was joined on the podium by two fellow compatriots. The 22-year-old who's from Park City, Utah beat out Team USA members Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper thanks to two phenomenal runs of 95.8 and 93.8, which ended up being the two highest scores of the competition. Goepper was thought of as the favorite of the event after winning the last two gold medals in the Winter X games, but the Indiana native instead settled for bronze while Christensen took home gold.
5 Gold Medal #5: Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Ice Dancing - February 17
The only multiple person or team gold medal won by the United States in the 2014 Sochi Games came in Ice Dancing, an event the Americans had never won gold in before. The favorites going into the event, the duo performed extremely well to edge out defending Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. Interestingly enough, Davis and White share an ice dancing coach with the Canadian team, Marina Zoueva, who has led both couples to dominate the event over the past four years. Right now Davis and White appear to have the upper hand, having not been defeated in competition since 2012. The two are both from Michigan and 27 and 26 years old with Davis being 10 months older than White. The pair has been working together for 17 years, but no romantic relationship has evolved between the two as both have said that they're each in relationships with other people.
4 Gold Medal #6: David Wise, Men's Ski Halfpipe - February 18
Sixteen years after Snowboarding Halfpipe made its debut in the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Ski Halfpipe was introduced this year in the Sochi Games. Again, like many of the other first time events in 2014, the new addition to the games benefited Team USA as David Wise of Reno, Nevada skied his way to victory to win the inaugural gold medal in the Men's Ski Halfpipe. The 23-year-old's score of 92 on the first run of the finals was enough to hold up, which included nailing a 1260 rightside double-cork, his specialty trick. The self-proclaimed Christian has had success prior to his Olympic introduction having won three consecutive gold medals in 2012, '13 and '14 in the Winter X Games' Superpipe Freestyle Ski competition. Wise is a young father and husband, which could be very attractive to certain corporations looking for a spokesperson as he profits from his win.
3 Gold Medal #7: Ted Ligety, Men's Giant Slalom - February 19
After not making the podium at the 2010 Vancouver Games, Ted Ligety the 2006 Combined gold medalist in Torino, got off to a less than stellar start in Sochi finishing 12th in the Super Combined and 14th in the Super G. But only a few days later Ligety earned a second career gold medal by shredding his way through the snow in the Men's Giant Slalom. The Salt Lake City native won the event by a mere .48 of a second over France's Steve Missillier with a time of 2:45.29. Ligety competed in one final alpine skiing event before his games were over the Men's Slalom, which he failed to finish along with 34 of the 77 other skiers competing, and criticized the setup calling it "borderline unsportsmanlike." The 29-year-old already had a net worth of $2 million prior to the games, but don't be surprised if his net worth goes up significantly as he's now a multiple gold medal winner.
2 Gold Medal #8: Maddie Bowman, Ladies' Ski Halfpipe - February 20
Adding to the freestyle ski gold medals won by Joss Christensen and David Wise, Maddie Bowman won the third gold medal in that category, winning the first ever Ladies' Ski Halfpipe. The 20-year-old posted a solid yet unspectacular score of 85.80 in the contest, which was just enough to win gold by a .40 margin over Marie Martinod of France. Bowman of South Lake Tahoe, California looks to be an up-and-coming star as she's won back-to-back gold medals in the Winter X Games Superpipe Freestyle Ski competition and could be a valuable athlete for corporations to market, especially if the sport takes off.
1 Gold Medal #9: Mikaela Shiffrin, Ladies' Slalom - February 21
The final gold medal of the games for the United States was an exciting and promising one as 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin skied her way into the history books in the Ladies' Slalom. The precocious teenager made history by becoming the youngest slalom winner at the Winter Olympics, male or female, with a winning time of 1:45.44 to beat out Marlies Schild of Austria by .53 of a second. The Colorado native and New Hampshire resident had a fair amount of expectation from the media going into the games as she had already won the Ladies' Slalom in the 2013 World Championships at the age of 17, so the win was not completely out of the blue. Shiffrin could be a great Olympic champion for all anybody knows and marketers are definitely likely to pounce on her potential as a star. After all, Shriffin is likely to compete in not only one or two more Olympic games in 2018 and 2022, but possibly three or four more as she'll only be 30 in 2026 and 34 in 2030.