Team USA is favored to top the Sochi Olympics medal count in large part because America has innovated a unique Olympic ecosystem that thrives without a penny of federal money.
The formal press conference for the US short track speedskating team has ended, and Jordan Malone is sitting to the side of a stage, completely at ease, chatting with the journalists who have huddled around him like freezing men before a fire.
At the moment, he's talking about how his aunt Dina has to buy his blades ($500 a set), because he frankly doesn't have that much money to spare. It is the archetypal tale of the American Olympian: passionate, supremely talented, and nearly broke.
Yet the scene unfolding in Dostoyevsky Hall on the Tuesday before the Sochi Olympics opened echoes in ways deeper than the obvious. What Malone says, how he is acting, and the fact that he is even here – paraded before the media when he would almost certainly rather be doing anything else – speaks to what has made the United States unique in the global Olympic movement.