Top 13 U.S. Winter Olympians

These athletes took home gold, but also stole our hearts. Choose your favorite winter Olympian in our poll

Shaun White, Snowboarding
Shaun White, Snowboarding

Dorothy Hamill, Figure Skating

Dorothy Hamill, Figure Skating
(Tony Duffy / Getty Images)
Going into the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria, Dorothy Hamill had three consecutive U.S. national championship wins. Coming out, she had an Olympic gold. Not to mention, millions of adoring fans. Reporters called the 19-year-old figure skater “America’s Sweetheart.” Young girls across the country rushed out to get the skater’s pixie haircut and a Dorothy Hamill doll. And rising stars in the skating world worked to perfect her trademark spin, the Hamill Camel. At 53, Hamill continues to skate and mentor skaters, including 2010 Olympic hopeful Rachael Flatt.

Shaun White, Snowboarding

Shaun White, Snowboarding
(Joe Klamar / AFP / Getty Images)
Shaun White has become the face of snowboarding, gracing the covers of Sports Illustrated, Men’s Journal, Outside and Rolling Stone and starring in numerous commercials. On top of his 2006 and 2010 Olympic golds, “The Flying Tomato” (a nickname his mop of red hair earned him) has collected nine X Games gold medals and become the first athlete to medal in both the Summer and Winter X Games. (Did I mention he skateboards?) Last winter, he perfected six new tricks for the Vancouver Games, five of which had never been done before, in a secret halfpipe in the backcountry behind Colorado’s Silverton Mountain. In Vancouver, he finished his final run—a victory lap considering his first run secured him the gold—with his Double McTwist 1260, a maneuver connecting two flips and three and a half spins.

Bonnie Blair, Speed Skating

(Simon Bruty / ALLSPORT)

When Bonnie was born, her father was at a rink in Cornwall, New York, watching one of his five other children competing. It had to be announced over the loudspeaker that “another skater” had joined the Blair brood. She was on skates at age two, and by 23, she had worked her way up to the Olympic level. At 5 feet 4 inches and 130 pounds, Blair was a powerhouse. She raked in six medals, the most ever won by a winter Olympian, in the 1988, 1992 and 1994 Games. Five of the six, mind you, are gold.

Kristi Yamaguchi, Figure Skating

Kristi Yamaguchi, Figure Skating
(Eric Feferberg / AFP / Getty Images)

Kristi Yamaguchi’s success as a skater began in pairs skating with her partner, Rudy Galindo. But, by 1990, the California native turned her efforts to singles. In 1992, Yamaguchi became the national, Olympic and world champion. Her gold medal win at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France, broke a dry spell for the women’s team, which hadn’t clinched a gold since Dorothy Hamill in 1976. In 2008, Yamaguchi’s skating skills translated over to the dance floor, where she earned a new title, winner of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. This February, during the Vancouver Winter Games, she will be a special correspondent for the Today show.

Apolo Anton Ohno, Speed Skating

Apolo Anton Ohno, Speed Skating
(Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images)
With five medals in the last two Winter Olympic Games, short-track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno thought he had accomplished all that he could in the sport. He even switched gears to compete in and, like fellow Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi, win “Dancing with the Stars.” But Ohno’s back, with his signature bandana, soul patch and now a “Colbert Nation” logo blazoned on his speedsuit. (Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert raised around $250,000 from his fans to help fund the U.S. Speed Skating team’s trip to Vancouver, which had been jeopardized by a $300,000 budget shortfall.) One more medal, and Ohno will have caught up to six-time Olympic medalist Bonnie Blair. On day one of the games, he won silver in the 1500-meter event, catching up to six-time Olympic medalist Bonnie Blair. One more, in the 500 meter, 1,000 meter or 5,000 meter relay, and he will be the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian in history.

Picabo Street, Alpine Skiing

Picabo Street, Alpine Skiing
(Don Emmert / AFP / Getty Images)
Named after an Idaho town (not the game peek-a-boo), Picabo Street started ski racing at the age of six. In 1989, at age 17, she made the U.S. Ski Team, and after briefly being kicked off for too much partying and too little conditioning, she came to dominate the sport. In 1994, she took silver at the Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, and in 1995, she became the first American skier to win the World Cup, a title she defended the following year. But nobody knows the agony and ecstasy of the sport quite like Picabo. In 1996, she experienced her first in a series of injuries, a torn left ACL. Recovery was slow, but she started skiing again just a couple months before the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, where she eked out a gold in the super giant slalom. Later that season, she lost control in a race and crashed into a fence at 70 miles per hour, breaking her left femur and tearing her right ACL. Street returned to racing after two years of rehabilitation, but finally hung up her skis after finishing 16th in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Dick Button, Figure Skating

Dick Button, Figure Skating
(Allsport Hulton / Archive)

Dick Button has certainly left his mark on the figure skating world. In the 1940s and 50s, he logged a long list of firsts, becoming the first to perform a flying camel spin, which he invented; the first to land a double axel; the first to land a triple jump; and the first American skater to win the Olympic title, which he did in both the 1948 and 1952 Winter Games. Since the early 1960s, Button has been a figure skating commentator for ABC Sports.

Eric Heiden, Speed Skating

Eric Heiden, Speed Skating
(Tony Duffy / Allsport)

Speed skater Eric Heiden took the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games by storm, placing first in all five speed skating events. He set new Olympic records in each distance, snatched a world record in the 10,000 meters and became the first (and still the only) American to win five gold medals in a single Winter Games. After retiring from speed skating, Heiden pursued cycling. He won the U.S. Professional Cycling Championship in 1985 and entered the Tour de France in 1986, though a fall prevented him from finishing. In February, Heiden, 51, now an orthopedic surgeon, will return to the Olympics. This time, as the U.S. Speedskating team’s doctor.

U.S. Men’s Hockey Team of 1980

U.S. Mens Hockey Team of 1980
(Focus on Sport / Getty Images)

The United States hockey team beat all odds when it landed in the medal round of the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. In the semifinals, the team faced the Soviet Union, who had taken home the last four Olympic golds and pummeled the U.S., 10-3, in an exhibition game just weeks before. The game was a nail biter, tied until the U.S. team’s captain Mike Eruzione scored a goal with ten minutes of play to go. “Do you believe in miracles?” sportscaster Al Michaels famously asked in the last frenetic seconds of the game. “Yes!” The U.S. won 4-3 and advanced to play Finland in the final, ultimately claiming the gold. But it was the semifinal game that went down in Olympic history as the “Miracle on Ice.”

Peggy Fleming, Figure Skating

Peggy Fleming, Figure Skating
(Staff / AFP / Getty Images)

In 1961, United States figure skating was dealt a harsh blow when a plane flying the U.S. team to the world championship crashed outside of Brussels, Belgium. Peggy Fleming, then a 12-year-old skater from San Jose, California, lost her coach, Bill Kipp, in the accident. But she continued to skate. By 1967, Fleming had won four U.S., one North American and two world titles. To many, she represented the rebirth of skating. ABC’s Wide World of Sports declared her its Athlete of the Year in 1967, and the skater earned the United States its only gold medal in the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France.

Scott Hamilton, Figure Skating

Scott Hamilton, Figure Skating
(Focus on Sport / Getty Images)
As a child, Scott Hamilton’s growth was noticeably stunted. His illness boggled doctors, but with exercise, particularly his ice skating, Hamilton’s condition improved. Judges doubted that his 5 foot 2.5 inch, 108-pound frame could carry him to a competitive level, but what he lacked in stature, he made up for in energy and athleticism. Hamilton reigned as national and world champion from 1981 to 1984, and ended his amateur career on a high note—a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. After the Olympics, he helped start the touring company “Stars on Ice” and skated professionally, wowing the audience with his signature back flip.

Dan Jansen, Speed Skating

Dan Jansen, Speed Skating
(Chris Cole / Allsport)

When speed skater Dan Jansen won a gold medal at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, he received a congratulatory fax from former president Ronald Reagan saying, “good things come to those who wait!” Jansen made his Olympic debut at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo, where, at age 18, he clinched a respectable fourth place finish. He returned in 1988, but his sister Jane died of leukemia the day of his first race. With the news weighing heavily on him, he fell in both the 500 meter and 1000 meter events. He competed again in 1992, but didn’t make medal standings. Sadly, it seemed like history was going to repeat itself yet again, when Jansen lost his footing during the 500 meter event in 1994’s Olympics in Lillehammer. But four days later, in the 1000 meter, he clocked a world record, and finally nabbed a gold. Victory never tasted so sweet!

Brian Boitano, Figure Skating

(Clive Brunskill / Allsport)

The 1988 Winter Games in Calgary was the highlight of an illustrious career for three-time Olympian Brian Boitano. It was a “Battle of the Brians,” with Boitano edging out his fiercest competitor, Canadian skater Brian Orser, for the gold in men’s singles. After some years skating professionally—and a rule change made by the International Skating Union in 1992, allowing professionals to be reinstated as eligible Olympic skaters—Boitano staged a comeback. In 1994, at age 30, he competed in Lillehammer but placed sixth. Post-Olympics, he toured with “Champions on Ice.” More recently, he has become a Food Network personality, as host of “What Would Brian Boitano Make?” The title of the show, which first aired in August 2009 and begins again in March, plays off a song called “What Would Brian Boitano Do” from the 1999 South Park movie.