Alex Ovechkin - Russian, 26, Ice Hockey (23)
Alex Ovechkin has had a chequered year in the NHL but the moment to which his glittering career has been building will soon arrive.
The Soviet Union’s dominance of Olympic ice hockey was near total but Russia have not won gold since the fall of Communism. Home hopes will be pinned on this left winger in two years’ time.
The Washington Capitals captain has been a Sochi 2014 ambassador since 2009 and is already his country’s biggest sporting star; his quest to lead a talented but underachieving team to the ultimate prize should be the defining narrative of Russia’s first winter Games. The NHL’s new partnership with Russian broadcaster VGTRK | RTR, initially signed for one year, will see domestic expectation build further.
Back in Washington, Ovechkin remains one of the league’s big draws. He has led his team’s scoring again, despite an occasionally off-colour season in which he refused an invitation to the All-Star game during a three-game suspension in January and has struggled for time on the rink in a more conservative post-season Capitals system.
Away from the ice, he has been stepping out with Russian tennis player Maria Kirilenko, generating column inches on both sides of the Bering Strait.
The 26-year-old’s representative at IMG, David Abrutyn, has been typically busy. In the space of a few autumn days last year, he added longterm deals with Nike and Bauer to the portfolio of Russia’s most heavily endorsed male athlete.