Best of the U.S.: Shortly before the Games, Noah Hoffman was the top American in the international rankings at No. 28.
Best of the rest: Petter Northug of Norway has struggled of late but took home four medals from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and captured his second overall World Cup title last season. He'll get competition from Dario Cologna of Switzerland, among others.
U.S. chances to medal: On Dec. 31, Simi Hamilton won a sprint at the Tour de Ski in Switzerland, a World Cup stage race. He became the first American man to capture a significant international victory in three decades.
Little-known fact: The mass start race begins with a crowd of athletes at the starting line, everyone jostling for position and employing various strategies leading to an all-out sprint at the end.