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Colorado Springs (AFP) – The United States named its largest ever delegation for a Winter Games by announcing it is sending 230 athletes to the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Five-time Olympic medallist Shani Davis, slalom skier Mikaela Shiffrin and 36-year-old Bode Miller highlight the 230-member team that will travel to Sochi for the Games beginning February 6. The team, which includes 125 men and 105 women, is the largest of any country in the history of the Winter Games.

“This distinguished group … is a true testament to the growing number of winter sport opportunities across the United States,” said Alan Ashley, American chef de mission. “With 106 returning Olympians, this year’s team is an exceptional blend of youth and experience.”

The Americans would like to equal or better their performance in 2010 where they put together their most successful Winter Games with 37 medals, including nine gold.

But they will be hard pressed to do so as there will be some big names missing — skier Lindsey Vonn and figure skater Evan Lysacek both withdrew with injuries, while short-track speedskater Apolo Ohno has retired.

Eight-time medallist Ohno is the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian in history, Vonn won the women’s downhill in Vancouver and figure skater Lysacek took gold in men’s singles.

Team USA will be represented in all 15 disciplines in seven sports and will be paced by a potent alpine ski team that won eight medals in 2010, twice as many as any other nation.

Davis, who won consecutive Olympic gold and silver medals in the 1,000 metres and 2,000 metres, is competing in his fourth Games. He has a chance to become the first American male to win three gold in the same event at consecutive Olympics.

Miller is one of the senior members of the ski team and likely in his fifth and final Games. In 16 seasons on the World Cup circuit he has 33 victories but has failed to win an Olympic medal outside of the comfort of North America. In the 2006 Turin Games, Miller came home empty handed but then managed to win his lone career Olympic gold in super combined at the Vancouver Olympics four years later.

With Vonn pulling out due to injuries, the U.S. would like these Games to become a breakout Olympics for teenage phenom Shiffrin.

The 18-year-old slalom skier Shiffrin is one of the USA’s best chances for a gold. In 2012, she captured the World Championship and she now has seven career World Cup slalom wins.

The oldest and youngest Olympians on the USA are 46-year-old women’s curler Ann Swishelm and freestyle skier Maggie Voisin, who is just 15.

The women’s hockey team features a set of twins Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureaux, and Amanda Kessel who is the sister of men’s player Phil Kessel. The women’s team is a heavy favourite to take gold which for them would mark the first time since women’s hockey debuted at the 1998 Nagano Games in Japan.

Photo: Toshifumi Kitamura via AFP

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