MOST UNLIKELY CROSSOVER
ANNA SIDOROVA, Russia
Russia has never suffered a shortage of winsome female athletes. But in a nation of cover-model sports stars such as Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova and Anna Semonovich, the winner of recent Russian online polls to name the country's most beautiful athlete has been, surprisingly enough, a curler. Sidorova, 22, a Moscow native, turned to curling after a leg injury ended her figure skating career at age 12. Ever since she made her Games debut as a last- minute replacement in Vancouver (where she was the youngest skip at the Games), she has shown up on seemingly every "hottest Olympians" list. All that aside, Sidorova rocks as an athlete: She led Russia to the European title in 2012.
February 3, 2014
VANESSA VANAKORN, Thailand
Better known to music fans as Vanessa-Mae, the British-based Vanakorn, 35 (a lifelong skier who's using her Thai father's last name while competing in the slalom in Sochi) is a renowned violinist. At 13 she set a record as the youngest soloist to record concertos by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. She then began fusing her classical repertoire with pop and techno on more than a dozen albums. Accustomed to turning heads with her alluring outfits and racy photo shoots, Vanakorn will race in comparative anonymity as one of Thailand's two Olympians.
VIC WILD, Russia
After falling in love with and marrying Russian snowboarding champ Alena Zavarzina in 2011, Wild, a native of White Salmon, Wash., gave up his spot on the U.S. snowboarding team, obtained Russian citizenship and began riding for his wife's country. In Sochi both he and she will compete for medals in the new Olympic event of parallel slalom. Russia's coach has already credited Wild, 27, with raising the level of performances on his newly adopted team.
JAMAICAN BOBSLED TEAM
Ending a 12-year Games absence, the crowd favorites will return in a two-man sled driven by four-time Olympian Winston Watts. Watts, 46, had retired, moved to Wyoming and taken an oil-field job in 2010, when he was persuaded to try a comeback. Having raised the funds to go, he and pusher Marvin Dixon, 28, will be the most welcome sight in Sochi.
HUBERTUS VON HOHENLOHE, Mexico
The Dos Equis man has nothing on this Mexican-born, Spanish-raised, Austrian-based, Andy Warhol--influenced German prince, pop singer, photographer, businessman, five-language polyglot and six-time Olympic slalom skier who loves wild racing suits. (His 2010 outfit bore images of pistols and bandoleros.) In Sochi, von Hohenlohe will turn 55 and become the second-oldest Winter Olympian in history. What'll he wear? A mariachi-themed outfit.
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
In a promotional deal, Tonga's first Winter Olympian, luger Fuahea Semi, legally changed his name to that of a German underwear company, Bruno Banani.
THEY SAID IT
"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
Winston Churchill, 1939