The Magazine: Olympic Techniques

The XXII Winter Games (Feb. 6-23) in Sochi, Russia, will be a blur of power, speed, grace and agility. To help you better understand what you'll be seeing, we've broken down the techniques of medal hopefuls representing Team USA. Look closely enough and you might even spot their golden edges.

Figure skating: Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir/Quad throw

Their considerable height difference -- Castelli is five feet, Shnapir is 6-foot-4 -- helps the reigning U.S. champions execute spectacular lifts and throws. While the audience and judges focus on Castelli, Shnapir's job is to project his partner up to four feet into the air, then meet her when she lands more than 24 feet away.

"It's about sticking with what feels comfortable for Marissa," Shnapir says. "I'm not the one being thrown across the ice." The duo, who first competed together in 2007, showed us their unique twist on a move they added to their free-skate repertoire in 2012: a throw quadruple salchow, one of pairs skating's most difficult jumps. -- Noah Davis

Freestyle skiing: Heather McPhie/Moguls run

In Olympic freestyle moguls skiing, a superlative jump can be the difference between silver and gold. "It provides the 'wow' factor," says McPhie, a two-time U.S. champion. "It puts a big exclamation point on your run." No trick on the circuit involves a higher degree of difficulty than the D-spin, or off-axis 720, and McPhie is one of the only women to throw it in competition. The 29-year-old, who crashed in the 2010 Olympic final, hopes to ride the D-spin to redemption in Sochi. Here's how her wow move unfolds. -- Devon O'Neil

Two-man bobsled: Steve Holcomb and Steve Langton/Start run

Holcomb, who drove the four-man "Night Train" to gold in 2010, says that when push comes to sled, coordination is key. "If you're trying to move a car, you don't each push it individually -- you need to move at the same time," he says. "It's the same thing with a [500-pound sled]." In 2012 Holcomb and pushman Steve Langton became the first American team to win the two-man world championship. In November they won a World Cup race in a track record of 1:49.22 with these ice moves. -- Anna Katherine Clemmons

Ski jumping: Sarah Hendrickson/Takeoff

Hendrickson, 19, has already landed almost 10,000 jumps in her life. "People ask if I freak out about flying so high, but I've done it so much, I don't get nervous anymore," says the reigning world ski champion, who started alpine skiing at age 2 and launched herself off a ramp five years later. The 5-foot-4 wunderkind can soar up to 437 feet and, provided she can perform at a top level after right knee surgery last August, is a podium contender in the women's K90 (70-meter) event, which makes its Olympic debut in Sochi. Here's how she takes flight. -- Matt McCue

Curling: U.S. women's team/Stone throw and brushing

End the shutout. That's the mission for Team Brown, the U.S. women's curling squad named for its veteran skip. An American team has never medaled in curling, an event that returned to the Winter Olympics in 1998. But come Sochi, this crew -- Erika Brown, vice skip Debbie McCormick, lead Ann Swisshelm and second Jessica Schultz -- are going for the sweep. Here's a look at the part each woman plays in the delicate tag-team art of getting the rock down the ice and into the house, a.k.a. the big bull's-eye. -- Carmen R. Thompson

Speedskating: Heather Richardson/Starting line

One thing Richardson has on her side heading into Sochi is momentum. She's both the reigning world sprint champion and the World Cup champion in what she names her best event, the 1,000-meter race. Now she's looking to become the first U.S. woman since 2002 to medal in long-track speed skating. Her winning strategy? Seize the lead early. "In the 500 meters, you can't recover from a bad start," she says. "In the 1,000, you have more room -- but not much." The 24-year-old champ explains how she gets off on the right track. -- Chris Gigley

Snowboarding: Kelly Clark/Frontside Cork 720

A few years ago, Clark took inventory of her riding and asked herself, What's missing? The answer: inverted spins. So in 2011, in the midst of a 16-event winning streak, she added the frontside cork 720 to her quiver. At X Games Aspen 2013, Clark launched the trick 11 feet out of the halfpipe on her final hit, nailing her most technically difficult run ever. Here's how the soon-to-be four-time Olympian and 2002 gold medalist plans to stick the 720 in Sochi. -- Alyssa Roenigk

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