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 hope for U.S. hockey
In Vancouver: Brian Rafalski
He won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2000, then a silver medal with Team USA at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. By the time Brian Rafalski reached Vancouver, he was pushing 40, very much an elder statesman for Team USA. Still, he had arguably the best Olympics of any American, finishing tied for third with eight points, including four goals, and was named the best defenseman of the tournament.
In Sochi: Jonathan Quick
Technically speaking, Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick (pictured) was on Team USA in 2010, but he might as well have been listed as "intern." As that team's third goaltender, Quick didn't see any game play. These days, he's the key to gold, having grown into one of the NHL's most dominant goalies. His lights-out playoff run in 2012, leading the Kings to a Stanley Cup on the strength of an impressive 1.41 goals against average, displayed how good he can be. In 2014, he's America's best chance for a miracle on ice.
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