Winter Games Athletes
One of Poland's biggest gold-medal hopes, Kowalczyk heads to the Olympics fresh off another World Cup victory after winning the 10km classical mass-start race Jan. 19. Kowalczyk, who started competing internationally at the junior world championships in 2000, has come a long way since her one-year suspension for taking dexamethasone in 2005. Kowalczyk became the first Polish cross-country skier to medal at the Olympics with a third-place finish in the 30km freestyle event in 2006. The 31-year-old went on to win three more medals at the 2010 Games, including gold in the 30km classical race after beating rival Marit Bjoergen of Norway by 0.3 seconds. Kowalczyk, who specializes in classical-style competition, also took home silver in the individual sprint and bronze in the 15km pursuit. Kowalczyk has 30 career World Cup victories and owns four overall titles, most recently winning in 2012-13. Kowalczyk is the only skier - male or female - to win the Tour de Ski in four consecutive seasons. Though she withdrew from competition in 2013 in protest after the format was changed due to weather, she has a record 14 stage wins in the event. Already one of the premier athletes in her sport, Kowalczyk will be looking to add to her legacy in what could be her final Olympics. Kowalczyk is currently ranked fifth in the FIS overall standings. She is third in distance and sixth in sprint.