LAUSANNE, Switzerland ? The United States never has won more than 13 medals at a Winter Olympics. Next month, it expects to almost double that record.
Buoyed by the recent performances of skater Michelle Kwan, skier Bode Miller and other athletes, U.S. Olympic Committee leaders predicted Wednesday that Americans would win at least 20 medals at the Salt Lake City Games.
U.S. medal prospects figured prominently as new USOC chief executive Lloyd Ward and USOC president Sandra Baldwin met with International Olympic Committee head Jacques Rogge.
"I am very optimistic that we will win our 20 medals," Baldwin said in an interview. "It was a real stretch when we started. But my personal count may even be a little higher than that. I have every confidence if a couple of key athletes don't get hurt that we'll be right there."
The United States, which often dominates the medals table at the Summer Olympics, is not a traditional winter sports power. American athletes won 13 medals at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, matching the total achieved in 1994 at Lillehammer, Norway.
But host nations traditionally experience an increase in medals, and the United States should also benefit from the addition of skeleton and women's bobsled in Salt Lake.
Kwan's scintillating victory at last week's U.S. figure skating championships and Miller's series of wins and podium finishes on the World Cup ski circuit this winter have added to the USOC's high hopes.
Baldwin cited medal chances in snowboarding, freestyle skiing, speedskating and bobsledding.
"It has been the expectation that the United States must get strong in winter sport, and this is our showcase opportunity," she said. "We've invested a lot of time and money in having our winter sports do well, and we'll have a great legacy with the facilities afterwards. Now we just have to watch it pay off."
"Everybody seems to be peaking at the right time," Ward said. "We like what we see."
Rogge said 20 medals is a "fairly reasonable objective."
View a medals table listing the number of all U.S. medals won in each Olympic Games.