International idol

Helena Jonsson won the Svenska Dagbladet Gold Medal, awarded for Sweden's most significant sports achievement. Jens-Olrich Koch/Getty Images

This article appears in the Feb. 22 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn and Johnny Weir may be getting all the pre-Olympic hype in the U.S. But other countries have their own Games heroes. Here's a few.


25, Sweden



PAST FACT Mom Eva put Helena on skis as a toddler; dad Hans gave her an air
rifle at 10.

HYPE Won World Cup in 2009 and leads again this season.

FANFARE With three medals from worlds, Jonsson topped French Open finalist
Robin Soderling for 2009's Svenska Dagbladet Gold Medal, given annually for
Sweden's most significant sports achievement.


31, Austria

Alpine Skiing: slalom, GS, Super G, combined

PAST MEDALS: 2 Gold, 2 Bronze

PAST FACT Nickname: Der Blitz aus Pitz, or the Lightning Bolt From Pitztal.

HYPE Won World Cup overall in 2006 and leads this season.

FANFARE Austria is
Alpine-crazy, which helps explain the Benni Raich Brucke,
a 310-foot bridge in Raich's hometown. It celebrates his success on skis and his love of
bungee jumping.