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The 14 best athletes from Sochi Olympics

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source: AP
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SOCHI, Russia – The largest Winter Olympics in history (98 medal events) were always going to bring records and unprecedented achievements.

In Sochi, marks were set or tied for most career Olympics medals and golds, most medals at a single Games as well as several age records (young and old).

Here’s a list at the top 14 athletes from the Sochi Olympics, in reverse order:

14. Tina Maze (SLO), Alpine Skiing

Two gold medals in five events entered

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The Slovenian singing sensation became the third skier to finish in the top eight of all five Alpine events at one Winter Olympics. She tied for gold in the downhill and won the giant slalom outright, adding to her two silver medals from 2010.

Maze could have become the first skier to be in the top six of all events, but she faltered in her final race, the second slalom run Friday, to drop from third to eighth.

Still, Maze showed her best form all season, which had largely been a struggle up to Sochi that included a coaching change. In 2012-13, Maze put up the greatest World Cup season ever by a man or woman.

She is 30 with four Olympics under her belt and said that she has skied her final Olympic race.

13. Kamil Stoch (POL), Ski Jumping

Two gold medals in three events entered

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Stoch became the third man to sweep the individual ski jumping events, joining legends Matti Nykaenen and Simon Ammann.

Poland had never won more than one gold medal at a single Winter Olympics, so Stoch’s achievement could be considered the greatest in the nation’s Winter Games history.

12. Aleksander Zubkov (RUS), Bobsled

Two gold medals in two events entered

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Zubkov, 39, had a built-in advantage of having six or seven times more runs than Holcomb on the Sanki Sliding Center track than 2010 Olympic four-man champion Steven Holcomb, the American estimated.

Still, Zubkov should be commended for his sweep after Holcomb and Germany’s Max Arndt had been the best drivers over the World Cup season.

He had the fastest sled in six of eight total runs over two- and four-man races and had both gold medals secured before the final run barring major mistakes.

Zubkov became the sixth man to sweep the two- and four-man Olympic events and the second non-German, joining the Italian great Eugenio Monti.

11. Tatyana Volosozhar/Maksim Trankov (RUS), Figure Skating

Two gold medals in two events entered

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Volosozhar and Trankov restored Russian pairs dominance and became the first figure skaters to win multiple golds at one Winter Olympics with the new team event.

They came into Sochi with some doubts over recent flawed performances but were untouchable at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Volosozhar and Trankov were the final pair to go on the first night of competition in the team event and were 10 points better than the field.

They skipped the free skate in the team event and came back Feb. 11 for the pairs event with an even better short program – a world record score.

One night later, they were nine points better than the field in the free skate to win by 18 points, the margin that separated second from sixth.

10. Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt (GER), Luge

Two gold medals in two events entered

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The Germans swept the luge events, and the “Bayern-Express” was at the heart of it. Wendl and Arlt won the doubles by .522, the largest margin in the event’s history.

They then joined a powerhouse team in the relay, anchoring a one-second victory with the fastest doubles time by more than a half-second.

9. Marit Bjorgen (NOR), Cross-Country Skiing

Three gold medals in six events entered

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It’s a testament to her incredible talent that three golds could be considered less than expected from Bjorgen.

She went into the Olympics with a real shot to become the first Winter Olympian to win six medals at a single Games.

She fell short of that, placing fifth in two events and being eliminated in the semifinals of the sprint.

Still, Bjorgen prevailed amid ski wax issues that plagued the Norwegian team.

Bjorgen became the most decorated female Winter Olympian ever with 10 medals and six golds. Others have 10 medals with fewer golds.

She is 33 and is thinking about starting a family, making a run at 2018 appear unlikely.

8. Darya Domracheva (BLR), Biathlon

Three gold medals in five events entered

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Belarus doubled its previous best Winter Olympic output with six medals in Sochi. Half were won by Domracheva, who won three straight individual biathlon events, all by at least 20 seconds.

She became the first female Winter Olympic champion in her nation’s history (since1994).

Domracheva questionably skipped the mixed relay because she didn’t think Belarus had a shot at a medal.

7. Joss Christensen (USA), Ski Slopestyle

One gold medal in one event entered

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Hats off to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association for putting Christensen on the Olympic team over the previous two world champions.

Christensen was the final skier named to the four-man Olympic slopestyle team, but nobody could touch him at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

He posted the best score in each of the two qualifying runs. In the final, both of his runs would have won gold. He led the third U.S. Winter Olympic podium sweep ever and dedicated the win to his father, who had died due to a congenital heart condition in August.

6. Vic Wild (RUS), Alpine Snowboarding

Two gold medals in two events entered

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Coming in, many hoped an American would become the first person to win two snowboarding gold medals at one Winter Olympics in Sochi.

They expected Shaun White. They got Vic Wild.

Wild was born and raised in the U.S. but became frustrated with a lack of support from U.S. Snowboarding, so he married his Russian girlfriend and became a Russian citizen.

He had a better medal haul than any U.S. Olympian in Sochi, which must be quite satisfying. Even better, his wife, Alena Zavarzina, won a bronze medal in parallel giant slalom within minutes of Wild’s first gold on the same course.

5. Eva Samkova (CZE), Snowboard Cross

One gold medal in one event entered

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Both snowboard cross champions were dominant, sweeping quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, but Samkova gets the edge because she also won the seeding races by .59.

The 20-year-old who draws moustaches on her faces before races was not considered the favorite going in, but she became the must-see boarder in the final after Lindsey Jacobellis crashed out.

She delivered, too, leading just about from start to finish in all three rounds.

Samkova, the junior world champion in 2010, 2011 and 2013, had taken silver behind Jacobellis at the 2014 Winter X Games.

4. Jennifer Jones (CAN), Curling

One gold medal in one event entered

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Jones, 39, skipped the first women’s rink to go undefeated through the Olympics, winning all 11 matches en route to the Canadian women’s first gold since 2002.

Interestingly enough, her rink was pushed hardest by the last-place U.S. team, forcing an extra end in round-robin play.

Jones’ shots for the tournament were graded at an 86 percent success rate, seven percentage points better than the next best skip.

The difference between the second-best skip and the ninth-best skip was four percentage points. That gives an indication of Jones’ domination.

3. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR), Biathlon

Two gold medals in six events entered

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The Biathlon King was expected to break the record for most career Winter Olympic medals as part of deep Norwegian relay teams in the final week.

But he did half of it on his own, winning the first individual biathlon event for medal No. 12 and gold No. 7. At 40, he became the oldest individual Winter Olympic champion.

The record holder for medals and golds coming into the Olympics was retired Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie, who was on hand at the Laura Biathlon Complex.

Bjoerndalen went on to break the record for total medals and tie the record for golds in the new Olympic mixed relay event.

At 40, he finished his Olympic career with 13 medals and eight golds in another Olympic record – 27 events entered.

2. Ireen Wuest (NED), Speed Skating

Two gold medals, three silver in five events entered

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No nation was as dominant in an individual sport as the Dutch speed skaters. It was a team effort, but if one person must be singled out, make it Wuest.

She won her second Olympic title in the 3000m and helped the Netherlands to its first Olympic medal in the women’s team pursuit, a gold.

She also collected silvers in the 1000m, 1500m and 5000m, displaying the talent that’s made her the three-time reigning World Allround champion.

Wuest, the most decorated athlete at these Games, became the eighth athlete to win five medals at one Winter Olympics. It’s now been done at three straight Olympics, more commonplace with events being added to the program every four years.

Wuest, 27, said before the Olympics that she was hoping to compete in 2018. She is two medals away from the career Winter Olympic record for women.

1. Viktor Ahn (RUS), Short Track Speed Skating

Three gold medals, one silver medal in four events entered

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Ahn was one of the leading international stories going into the Games. He had won three golds and one bronze while skating for South Korea as Ahn Hyun-Soo at the 2006 Olympics.

Ahn did not qualify for the 2010 Olympics, and subsequent fallout with the Korea Skating Union led him to acquire Russian citizenship.

He flourished with his new nation in Sochi, astonishingly bettering his 2006 Olympic medal haul. Ahn was .077 away from becoming the first person to sweep all four short track golds.

He became the most decorated Olympic short track skater of all time, matching Apolo Ohno in medals but with more golds.

South Korean fans were irate over his success, especially compared with the South Korean men’s failure to win a medal.

Ahn, 28, is considering the 2018 Olympics, which are in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Oh boy.

U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
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Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order