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Lindsey Vonn returns as the face of a talent-rich U.S. ski team

Nathan Fenno, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Olympics

Regardless of the outcome, Vonn expects this to be her final Olympics.

"It's what I think about when I wake up and it's what I think about when I go to sleep," she said of the Games.

But Vonn's preeminence will be challenged by U.S. teammate Mikaela Shiffrin. She is the world's most dominant skier, amassing almost twice as many overall points as Switzerland's Wendy Holdener, the No. 2 competitor on the World Cup circuit this season.

At the Sochi Olympics, Shiffrin, 22, became the youngest competitor to ever win the slalom. And she hasn't slowed down. Shiffrin won nine of 10 races during a three-week stretch in December and January.

She's the heavy favorite to defend the title in the slalom and will contend to finish on the podium in the giant slalom and combined events, as well.

"There's a target on my back and I'm just trying to stay ahead of the arrow that's trying to catch me," Shiffrin said recently.

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But two of the most familiar names in U.S. skiing won't be competing in Pyeongchang. Instead, Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso will be working for NBC.

Miller, who won six Olympic medals, retired in October. Mancuso, the most decorated female U.S. Olympic skier, followed suit in January, unable to fully return after right hip surgery that sidelined her for two seasons.

There are other absences. Two of the best U.S. speed specialists, Steven Nyman and Travis Ganong, suffered serious knee injuries in the last month and a half that kept them at home. And Jackie Wiles, expected to be a key part of the women's team, suffered several serious injuries to her left leg after crashing in Germany last week.

Chip White, the U.S. women's speed coach, called the loss of Wiles "difficult to watch."

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