Colorado's Mikaela Shiffrin competed in slalom and giant slalom events in Sochi. 

(Photo: Courtesy of ESPA/Mitchell Gunn)
The Winter Olympics starting Friday in Sochi, Russia, officially feature 19 Coloradans.

That includes Mikaela Shiffrin, the 18-year-old skier from Eagle-Vail who is expected to medal in at least one and maybe two ski racing events, according to John Meyer, who covers the Olympics and skiing for the Denver Post.

If the amount of coverage Shiffrin is getting nationally is any indication, she's the athlete most likely to grace Wheaties boxes as America's next Olympic hero. (For example, this recent Washington Post feature.)

Meyer says the attention is warranted. He's covered every elite U.S. skier for the past two decades, and tells Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner that Shiffrin is one of the most exciting skiers he's ever watched. He's equally dazzled by her kindness and that of her parents, who he says aren't typical ski parents. 

Colorado Matters talked to Shiffrin last year, as she was making a splash on the World Cup circuit.

While this will be Shiffrin's first Olympics, Meyer has covered 10 previous summer and winter games for the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post.

Recently Meyer was given a lifetime achievement award from both the International Ski Federation and the U.S. Ski Team, and he's been called "America's ski writer."

Like Shiffrin, other Coloradans are making their Olympic debuts, including snowboarder Arielle Gold and cross-country skier Noah Hamilton.

And Coloradans are prominently featured in new ski and snowboard events, which focus on jumps and terrain parks instead of downhill racing.

Figure skater Jeremy Abbott of Aspen will be competing in his second Olympics. He placed ninth at the Vancouver Games in 2010. Meyer expects Abbott to finish higher this time, but says much has changed in the sport of figure skating, particularly for men.

Meyer says skaters are trying more athletic tricks than they did previously, making it harder to predict who will medal.

Meyer says in addition to the downhill races, he's especially excited to cover the Nordic combined men's events, since three of the four U.S. athletes on the team are from Colorado Springs. That includes Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, brothers who will be competing for the first time together in an Olympics.

Meyer takes issue with the official count of 19 Coloradan athletes competing in the games, since it's based on where an athlete identifies his or her hometown. Meyer says that counting athletes who train or spend most of their time in Colorado pushes the total to as high as 25 athletes.

Television broadcasts of the events start Thursday night, February 6. The opening ceremonies will be broadcast in the U.S. on Friday, February 7, starting at 6:30pm MT.