espnW’s “Destination: Sochi” provides unique way to track Winter Olympics journeys of eight U.S. athletes

Destination Sochi
Destination Sochi

As all eyes turn to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics, which begin a week from today, espnW launches its coverage with a unique social approach. The site recently rolled out “Destination: Sochi,” an in-depth look at the Olympic journeys of eight female athletes who all share the same goal: winning the gold medal.

espnW follows the athletes’ stories through their exclusive espnW.com blog contributions and the conversations they create over their personal social media accounts. The female athletes are: speed skater Brittany Bowe, snowboarder Kelly Clark, aerial skier Emily Cook, ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson, snowboarder Elena Hight, hockey’s Hilary Knight, bobsledder Elana Meyers, and figure skater Ashley Wagner. Front Row asked Joy Russo, deputy editor of espnW.com, to explain this unique look at some of the United States’ top female athletes.

What was the thinking that went into “Destination Sochi”?
We wanted to find a new, creative way to cover female Olympic hopefuls, not only through the first-person blogs they file to espnW, but also by capturing their conversations with fans through social media platforms. We believe “Destination: Sochi” does that, and also gives readers an easy way to navigate through the experience on any screen (PCs, tablets and mobile devices).

Why were these eight athletes selected?
It’s hard to narrow all of the Olympic hopefuls and their stories down to eight; that’s one of the nice problems to have in covering the Olympics — you always have so many great stories to choose from. But we wanted “Destination: Sochi” to cover a wide range of sports and stories from women who have taken different paths to reach Sochi, from Ashley Wagner’s controversial nomination to the Olympic team, to Elana Meyers trying to reach the podium again in bobsled, to Sarah Hendrickson fighting back from reconstructive knee surgery to make the ski jumping squad.

What storylines will espnW be following?
From the continued blogs from athletes, to our video and analysis from Sochi and our espnW writers back home, we are looking to provide a unique perspective to fans that will capture the conversations created on and off the competitive stage. The security and logistical issues and reaction to Russia’s anti-gay law will be top of mind throughout the entire Games and something we can’t and shouldn’t ignore.

As far as the actual events, the top storylines for me when it comes to female athletes are: How defending World Cup slalom champ Mikaela Shiffrin responds in her first Olympics (especially with Lindsey Vonn out of the event); the U.S. women’s hockey team trying to win its first gold since 1998; women ski jumpers competing in their first Olympics after fighting for inclusion for years; and [bobsledder] Lolo Jones appearing in her first Winter Games. And then, there’s figure skating. See, it’s hard to narrow down those great stories.