Latvia's Martins Dukurs is often considered the world's greatest skeleton slider. You probably wouldn't know that from his Olympic results, though.
The Latvian made his Winter Games debut at Torino 2006 and earned back-to-back silvers at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014. He barely missed a bronze at PyeongChang 2018, just 0.11 seconds off Great Britain's Dominic Parsons (Parsons retired in 2019). But Dukurs' world championships performances throughout the second half of the 2010s have made him a legend in his chosen sport. He won the men's title six times: 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2019, with a silver in 2013. More recently, the 37-year-old won his third straight World Cup overall title during the 2021-22 season.
Could it finally be his time to shine at the 2022 Winter Olympics?
Dukurs will certainly face stiff competition, likely from Germany – which has dominated the Games' first scheduled sliding sport, luge. (Not to mention his brother, Tomass, another Olympic five-timer who placed 4-4-5 at the last three Games.)
Germany's Christopher Grotheer, 29, won back-to-back world championship golds in the 2020 and 2021 men's races; last year also saw him pick up a title in the mixed team event. Axel Jungk was the tournament's runner-up in 2018 and 2020. With a few significant bronze and silver medals to his name – not to mention a victory at the 2021 Olympic test event – Alexander Gassner has a fair shot at snatching first on the serpentine track known as "The Flying Snow Dragon."
Remarkably, the most consistent aspect of Olympic men's skeleton is that the host nation has claimed gold at each of the last three Games. (Watch out for South Korea's defending gold medalist "Iron Man" Yun Sung-Bin, though his results the last few seasons have been subpar.*) Training under famed coach Andy Schmidt – who helped Great Britain score the last three women's singles golds – relative unknowns Yan Wengag or Yin Zheng could sneak onto the podium.
The sole U.S. men's skeleton athlete headed into the Games, 32-year-old Andrew Blaser began as a pole vaulter at the University of Idaho. He later found skeleton through an interest in bobsled.
Blaser ranked world No. 28 at the time of selection, ahead of three-time Olympian John Daly. He is one of the record number of openly gay athletes competing at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Watch Heats 1 and 2 of men's skeleton at the 2022 Winter Olympics Wednesday, February 9 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Yun Sung-Bin had retired. He has not, and will compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics.