Many of the world’s best athletes are preparing for the Beijing Winter Olympics in February. And with all eyes on the Games, these are some of the top ones to watch.
The world’s top female speed skater will be making her second Olympic appearance after Team USA teammate Brittany Bowe gave up her spot. Jackson, 29, is just months removed from winning the speed skating World Cup, becoming the first Black woman to do so. She is currently ranked No. 1 in the women’s 500-meter by the International Skating Union and will compete in the same event in Beijing.
Will Shiffrin continue her dominance? She won the last women’s World Cup slalom before the Beijing Olympics. It was Shiffrin’s 47th career slalom win, making her the first skier in World Cup history to win that many races in a single discipline. Shiffrin, who won gold in the slalom at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and in the giant slalom at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, is expected to be a top contender in this year’s Games.
White will make his fifth Olympics appearance after finishing fourth among Americans in the World Snowboard Points list before Beijing. He has three gold medals in the halfpipe – from 2006, 2014 and 2018 – making him the most decorated male Olympic snowboarder. It will likely be the curtain call for White’s Olympic career. He told Rolling Stone magazine he wants to retire from the Games after Beijing.
The 21-year-old turned heads in Pyeongchang four years ago, when, at 17 years old, she won gold in the halfpipe, becoming the youngest American to ever medal in snowboarding. Now, she is favored yet again to repeat as Olympic halfpipe champion. Despite her success, she recently shared her struggles with mental health and the pressure of expectations as an Olympian. Part of the reason she’s comfortable going public is because “people are starting to become more accepting and also talking about these [mental health] issues more,” she said.
After a frightening crash in her final run that knocked her out of the Pyeongchang Olympics, the luger will be back for the upcoming Olympics. The incident broke her neck and back, and it nearly ended her career. Since then, she has documented her recovery and while she admits she gets scared sometimes, she said Beijing will be another shot at earning a medal. She’s also part of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
Chen, 22, recently won his sixth figure skating championship and is now aiming for gold in Beijing. Expected to be a top contender in the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018, he failed to medal in the individual event. However, he did earn a bronze medal in the team event.
The curling legend will be back for this fifth Winter Olympics. After two straight disappointing Olympic appearances in 2010 and 2014, Shuster and his team finally won gold in 2018, a first for the Americans in the event. No one has ever won multiple gold medals in men’s curling, but Shuster and his team want to take a stab at it, saying his team is “full of fighters.”
U.S. women’s hockey team
USA Hockey announced its roster for the women’s ice hockey team this month, and they’re ready to defend their gold medal in Beijing. Of their 23 players, 15 have prior Olympic experience. Among them, forward Hilary Knight returns for her fourth Olympics. Team USA’s ongoing rivalry with Canada, who has four gold medals in the event, will be must-see TV if they meet again in the finals.
This will be the second-straight Winter Olympics with no NHL players.
Elana Meyers Taylor
Three-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor heads to Beijing as a favorite in the monobob, which makes its Olympic debut in February. Meyers Taylor secured the women’s monobob overall world cup title and knows her way around a bobsled – she won silver in 2018 and 2014 and captured bronze in 2010 in the two-woman bobsled.
The 25-year-old figure skater won a national championship this month, becoming the oldest woman to hold the title since 1927. It was her ninth appearance at national championships and her first title. Bell, a two-time Olympic medalist, now has her eyes on Beijing, where no individual woman 25 years or older has figure skated for Team USA in the Winter Olympics since 1928.
“Age is literally a number,” Bell told NBC Sports. “It means nothing. If you have a dream, there is no limit on the time you have to achieve that dream, for sure.”
The freestyle skier is going to Beijing and is an Olympic medal favorite. Ferreira, who is the son of a pro Argentinian soccer player, won silver after his performance in the ski halfpipe in Pyeongchang and won X Games Aspen in 2019 and 2020.