7 Gravity-Defying Athletes to Watch at the Games! | 2022 Winter Games
The cauldron is about to be lit and the Games are about to hit GO TIME!
As the start of the Beijing Olympics nears its opening act and the excitement continues to build, all eyes are on the incredible athletes who have put a lifetime of work into making their Olympic dreams come true. It hasn’t been an easy journey for any of them, with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting many athletes and their support systems on a personal level. But the time is now and the time has officially arrived to let all the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears show.
Approximately 3,000 athletes from roughly 95 countries are expected to compete in China and across screens around the World. 223 athletes will represent Team USA. From the veteran favorites to the hotshot newcomers, here are seven athletes to watch out for in Beijing! Let the Games begin!
Nathan Chen – Figure Skating
Nathan Chen has achieved just about everything there is to do in his sport. Six consecutive U.S. National titles, three World Championship golds, three consecutive wins at the Grand Prix Final, an Olympic bronze medal from the team event in 2018—the list goes on and on. The one thing he’s missing is Olympic gold. In Beijing, Chen will go head to head with Japan’s two-time defending gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu (although rumor has it he’s yet to arrive in Beijing) as well as a talented field of skaters such as reigning Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno (JPN) and the U.S.’s Vincent Zhou, who beat Chen at Skate America and won a bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships. Will Chen (aka “Rocket Man”) finally get that elusive Olympic gold medal in Beijing?
Shaun White – Snowboarding
With four Olympic appearances under his belt and three Olympic gold medals to his name, White will look to bring home his fourth in Beijing. Lingering side effects from COVID-19 forced him to pull out of the U.S. Grand Prix, the final Olympic qualifier for Team USA, but White bounced back in dramatic fashion (his specialty it seems sometimes) at the Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup final where he finished third, cementing his spot as one of four men heading to Beijing for Team USA. White, who holds the record for the most X-Games gold medals and the most Olympic medals by a snowboarder, will certainly have a lot of eyes on him when the Games begin!
Chloe Kim – Snowboarding
The youngest woman to ever win an Olympic gold medal in the halfpipe, Chloe Kim is ready to defend her title in Beijing. In what will be her second Olympics, Kim is feeling confident and more experienced. “I have a very clear picture of what I need to do as an athlete… going into the Olympics,” Kim told Olympics.com. After taking a 22 month break from the sport, Kim returned in 2021 and picked up right where she left off: winning. She won the Dew Tour to close out 2021 and then traveled to Switzerland for the 2022 Laax Open, where she won her sixth straight contest—the only snowboarder in the final to earn more than 90 points. If that is any indication of Kim’s level of preparedness, it’s safe to say she’s readier than ever.
Red Gerard – Snowboarding: Big Air, Slopestyle
Returning to his second Games, in 2018 Gerard went from a kid growing up on the slopes to the youngest men’s snowboarding gold medalist and the first Olympic Winter Games medalist born in this millennium. Overnight, he became a sensation across social media. He appeared on the morning shows and the late, late shows. The kid was suddenly in demand everywhere and grateful for the opportunities to promote his sport. It was a cool thing. Since Pyeongchang, he picked up gold in the Dew Tour (2020) and bronze at the X Games (2020). And at age 21, he’s ready to defend his title.
Erin Jackson – Speed Skating
Just five years after transitioning from inline skating to speed skating, Erin Jackson is ready to go for gold in Beijing! A mere four months after she began training, Jackson became the first Black woman to make a U.S. Olympic team back in 2018. Now with more experience under her belt, Jackson is in a good position to bring home some Olympic hardware. This season she won four of the last five 500m World Cup races and set a new American record (36.80 seconds) along the way. Jackson’s recent success has turned her into a gold medal favorite and if she succeeds, she would be the first U.S. woman to win a gold in the 500m since Bonnie Blair in 1994 and the first medal of any kind in speed skating since 2002.
Mikaela Shiffrin – Skiing
Sentimental favorite Shiffrin is a three-time Olympic medalist (two gold), three-time overall World Cup champion, and six-time world champion in alpine skiing. The 26-year-old who hails from Edwards, Colorado is chasing history at these Games is a gold medal contender in any event that she enters which could be five in Beijing – Downhill, Super G, Giant Slalom, Slalom and Combined. Depending on how many events she enters, Shiffrin could tie or break the record for most Olympic alpine skiing medals at a single Games (4). The current record was set in 2002 by Croatia’s Janica Kostelic.
Alysa Liu – Figure Skating
A rising star on the U.S. figure skating team, Alysa Liu has the potential to reach new heights in Beijing! She had great success as a junior, becoming the youngest U.S. woman to win a U.S. national title at the age of 13 and becoming the first junior American skater to land a triple Axel in international competition. Liu went on to defend her title at the senior level in 2019 and 2020 and also became the first female American skater to land a quad jump in competition. Despite withdrawing from the 2022 U.S. Championships due to testing positive for COVID-19, Liu was named to the U.S. Skating Olympic team and is expected to make big moves in her first Games! And while the Russian women look to have the podium spots all but locked up led by the undisputed queen Kamila Valiyeva and her teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, Beijing could provide Liu with invaluable experience looking ahead to Milano Cortina in 2026.
Photo of Red Gerard by Doug Clark
Congratulations to Leanne, our Inside Gymnastics 50 Most Artistic, Class of 2022 Cover Star!
In a stunning display of delicate grace and poise, our 50 Most Artistic Class of 2022 Cover Star Leanne Wong captured All-Around silver and balance beam bronze in her very first World Championships in Kitakyushu, Japan. Her beautiful floor routine was a crowd favorite throughout 2021, gaining some of the highest social media shares, loves and likes we’ve seen to date! Now, with her World medals secured, the 2020 Olympic alternate who trained at GAGE during her Elite career, is ready for her next chapter as a student athlete onstage at the University of Florida where her impeccable toe point, style and finesse should translate perfectly and make her an NCAA star!
Photo of Leanne Wong by Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics