The Olympics isn't just a celebration of sports ability that transcends national differences, of the indomitable human spirit, or of individual achievement. Sure, it's a tribute to all of those things, but it's also a really big reality show, featuring hundreds of characters and hard-to-follow plot lines. There are countries you've forgotten about and sports you've never seen. And then there are the good guys: the members of Team USA.
Here is a guide to this year's protagonists, who have new faces, but are taking on old roles – roles previously filled by the sort of successful athletes who end up getting lucrative sandwich-endorsement deals. The show goes on.
The new Apolo Ohno
In Vancouver: Apolo Anton Ohno
A big enough star heading into Vancouver that Alaska Airlines designed a Boeing 737 with his face on it, Ohno became the most decorated winter Olympian in U.S. history by securing two bronzes and a silver, bring his career medal count to eight. That's the kind of success that makes up for two near-misses in a more intensely followed competition – Dancing with the Stars.
In Sochi: J.R. Celski
After nearly severing his femoral artery five months before the Vancouver games, J.R. Celski, now 23, had himself a nice little Olympics, bringing home a pair of bronze medals in the 1500-meter and 5000-meter relay. But, like most things short track, his accomplishments got lost in the Ohnosphere. The swift-skating music fanatic – in 2013 Celski produced a movie on Seattle hip-hop called The Otherside – will have no such problem at Sochi.
Credit: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images