SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Get ready for a red, white and blue Olympics.
With Americans enjoying the home-field advantage and some rising stars eager for a world stage, this could be a golden Winter Games for U.S. athletes.
From the ice where Apolo Anton Ohno races and the American women's hockey team should dominate to the slopes where Bode Miller will be a favorite, America's athletes figure to give flag-waving fans plenty to cheer about.
The goal is 20 medals, seven more than the United States has ever won at the Winter Olympics. With chants of ''USA, USA'' reverberating through the Wasatch Mountains, it could go even higher.
Things look so good that even bobsledders could win a medal for the first time in 46 years, thanks mostly to the addition of women in the sport.
The stage is set as never before. Now all they have to do is perform when it counts for 17 days in Salt Lake City, beginning Feb. 8.
''This is our showcase opportunity,'' U.S. Olympic Committee president Sandra Baldwin said. ''We've invested a lot of time and money in having our winter sports do well and we'll have a great legacy with the facilities afterward. Now we just have to watch it pay off.''
Many Americans will watch an assortment of sports they would generally ignore to see if the nation's winter athletes can top the 13 medals won at both the 1994 Lillehammer Games and the 1998 Nagano Games.
Sheer numbers are in their favor. There are 10 more events for a total of 78 in 15 disciplines. In all, athletes will go home with 477 medals.
If the United States reaches its goal of 20 medals, the majority probably will come from the skiing and speedskating entries.
Half of those medals could come in speedskating alone, with the 19-year-old Ohno a favorite in any of the four Roller Derby-type short-track events he's in.
''Apolo can medal in every race,'' said Fred Benjamin, president of U.S. Speedskating.
Ten speedskating medals might be a bit optimistic, but it reflects an almost giddy attitude U.S. officials have about the prospects of a medal haul in Salt Lake City.
That comes from a renewed commitment by the USOC to winter sports over the last decade. U.S. athletes also have been able to ski the moguls outside Salt Lake City and practice on the speedskating oval and bobsled and luge runs on a regular basis.
''Everybody seems to be peaking at the right time,'' USOC president Lloyd Ward said. ''We like what we see.''
While the United States has dominated at the Summer Olympics and ranks third overall behind Norway and the former Soviet Union in winter medals, it hasn't done as well recently at the Winter Games.
Take away Eric Heiden's five gold medals in 1980, and the United States is averaging just slightly more than nine medals a games for the last six Winter Olympics.
That figures to change when U.S. athletes get in front of crowds energized with patriotic fever and eager to see their countrymen succeed. A good showing would be especially important to a country that hasn't fully recovered from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Japan enjoyed its status as host country to win more medals in Nagano than ever before, and the American team should get a similar boost.
That's fine with the International Olympic Committee, which needs the excitement of the home team doing well to help justify the nearly $2 billion price tag of the games.
''The performance of the home team is of vital importance to the spirit of the games,'' IOC president Jacques Rogge said.
The Americans should win more medals this time, but forget any in cross country, ski jumping or biathlon.
The women's hockey team -- unbeaten through 28 games of exhibition play -- seems almost certain to win a gold, and medals await in figure skating where Michelle Kwan is favored and Todd Eldredge has one last chance.
Ohno and Miller should provide plenty of excitement, while the United States has three legitimate contenders in snowboarding, too.
And, of course, Nagano gold medalist Jonny Moseley returns to lead a strong freestyle skiing team that is as quotable as it is good.
''If I can come down, throw a 360 mute grab up top, ski the middle clean, and do the Dinner Roll at the bottom with a bute grab, that's the run,'' Moseley said. ''It's over. K.O. punch. Right there.''
A sport-by-sport look at U.S. medal chances:
ALPINE SKIING: Miller is the fastest slalom skier in the world -- when he's not sprawled out on the snow. The 24-year-old from Franconia, N.H., crashes often but has four World Cup wins this season, three in the slalom and one in the giant slalom. When he wins it's by big margins, and he is peaking at just the right time. Miller will try to become the first U.S. skier to win a slalom medal since Phil and Steve Mahre took the gold and silver in Sarajevo in 1984. Daron Rahlves could threaten in the Super G and the downhill, which will be without Austria's Hermann Maier.
Picabo Street will be back to defend her gold medal in the Super G, but two years away from ski racing following a horrific crash a month after Nagano has taken its toll. Street has yet to finish in the top three in World Cup this season. Kristen Clark, who won a World Cup downhill last season, is one of several promising young U.S. skiers, while Caroline Lalive could be competitive in the combined event.
BIATHLON: Norwegians and Germans will dominate here in a sport that hasn't caught on in the United States. Last year, the U.S. Biathlon Association had to plead for donations just to keep its athletes skiing and shooting.
BOBSLED: Women's bobsled is a medal event for the first time, and it didn't take long for the U.S. women to get involved in a pre-Olympic tizzy. Jean Racine, a gold medal favorite, dumped her best friend, Jen Davidson, last month and took on new partner Gea Johnson. The two went on to set a track record to win the U.S. trials, leaving Davidson to protest on the sideline. The team of Jill Bakken and Vonnetta Flowers is another medal contender.
American men haven't won a bobsled medal since 1956, but that drought could be broken by Todd Hays, the current World Cup leader, who won a World Cup four-man race last year. Five-time Olympian Brian Shimer made his way into his last games at age 39.
CROSS COUNTRY -- Another sport in which America just can't seem to compete. The United States is fielding a team that won't come close to a medal.
CURLING -- An Olympic medal sport for the first time, with Canada favored for the gold. The U.S. team could sneak in and grab a medal if the stones slide right.
FIGURE SKATING -- With a coach or without, Michelle Kwan is a favorite. She won the U.S. championships and will probably duel with Russia's Irina Slutskaya for the gold that eluded her despite a near flawless performance in Nagano. Teen-agers Sasha Cohen and Sarah Hughes could make things interesting. On the men's side, 30-year-old Todd Eldredge will have to overcome his aversion to the quad to have a chance to medal, while Michael Weiss and Tim Goebel have outside chances at silver or bronze.
FREESTYLE SKIING -- There should be some medals won here, dude. Moseley has been working on his Dinner Roll 720 jump that could win him a second gold if he pulls it off, while Eric Bergoust is currently the best aerialist in the world and should win a second gold himself. The United States also has three legitimate medal contenders on the halfpipe in snowboarding, including 1998 bronze medalists Shannon Dunn and Ross Powers.
ICE HOCKEY -- Herb Brooks can't recreate the ''Miracle on Ice,'' mostly because the Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore. And now NHL All-Stars fill the rosters of several countries, leaving the United States with its work cut out for it if it hopes to medal. One thing's for sure, though -- U.S. hockey players probably won't trash their rooms as they did after losing in Nagano.
Things are more clear-cut on the women's side, where the U.S. team goes for a second gold. The women were not only 28-0-0 in pre-Olympic play through mid-January, but were also 8-0-0 against Canada, the team they will probably face in the finals. In a Jan. 22 game against China, they won 16-0.
LUGE -- Germans should dominate here again, with American medal hopes a long shot. In skeleton, though, third generation Olympian Jim Shea and Chris Soule are medal contenders.
SKI JUMPING -- See cross country.
SPEEDSKATING -- Ohno isn't only a headline writer's dream -- he's also the defending World Cup short-track champion. Ohno will be a medal contender in four events in this raucous sport. The long-track team is also loaded with potential medal candidates, including Chris Witty, who won two medals in Nagano but is recovering from energy-sapping mononucleosis.
End Adv for Jan. 26-27
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