High or low: Two views of U.S. medal hopes for 2014 Winter Games

Time for predictions with pre-Olympic winter sports season at its end

Shaun White is after a third straight Olympic snowboard gold.   (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Shaun White is after a third straight Olympic snowboard gold. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images / February 1, 2013)

The United States racked up a record 37 medals, including nine gold, at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

With the pre-Olympic World Cup and world championship winter sports season over for U.S. athletes, it’s a good time to look at the U.S. chances for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

A glass-very-full view shows Team USA hauling home 52 medals, including 20 gold.

The glass-nearly-drained view shows just 22 medals, with 3 gold.

While the numbers will likely fall in between those estimates, both predictions are based on real possibilities.

You can see the evidence as the optimist and the pessimist weigh in, with the 2010 totals in parentheses after each sport:

*Alpine Skiing (2 gold, 8 medals)

Optimist (3 gold, 9 medals):  Lindsey Vonn comes back from knee surgery to win second straight downhill and get medal in Super-G.  Reigning world champion Mikaela Shiffrin wins the slalom.  Julia Mancuso get a medal in either Super-G or combined.  Another DH medal comes from Stacey Cook, Alice McKennis or Leanne Smith.  Ted Ligety wins giant slalom and gets medals in Super-G and combined.  Bode Miller returns from his year off to rustle up a medal.

Pessimist  (1 gold, 4 medals):  Vonn, not the same dominant speed skier, manages a medal in downhill.  (A glass-completely-empty pessimist, of course, would say she doesn’t recover in time for the Olympics.) Ligety wins GS and one other medal.  With Marlies Schild fully recovered from injury, Shiffrin drops lower on slalom podium.

*Nordic Combined: (1 gold, 4 medals)

Optimist (1 gold, 2 medals):  U.S. wins the team event.  One of the 2010 individual Olympic medalists, Bill Demong and Johnny Spillane, recaptures that form to reach the podium.

Pessimist (1 medal): U.S. gets a bronze in the team event.

*Cross-country Skiing (0)

Optimist:  (1 gold, 2 medals):  Reigning World Cup overall champion Kikkan Randall gets to ski her specialty in individual sprint (freestyle) at this Olympics and wins gold.  Reigning team sprint world champions Randall and Jessica Diggins, who won that title in freestyle, find enough mojo in classic style to win a medal.

Pessimist (1 medal):  Randall wins medal in individual sprint.

*Ski Jumping (0)

Optimist (1 gold):  Sarah Hendrickson win’s the inaugural Olympic women’s jumping competition.

Pessimist (1 medal):  Hendrickson takes second to Sara Takanashi of Japan.

*Freestyle Skiing: (1 gold, 4 medals)

Optimist (2 gold, 7 medals):  Hannah Kearney wins moguls gold, with Heather McPhie getting medal.  Medal for Patrick Deneen in moguls.  Emily Cook back from injury-riddled 2013 for aerials medal.  David Wise and Torin Yater-Wallace 1-2 (in some order) in halfpipe.  John Teller sneaks medal in ski cross.

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