By Basia Wojcik, Will Ober, and Whitney DeMercurio
Just six months after the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, the world’s athletes are back with their beanies and scarves for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. While these games have been severely challenged by the ongoing pandemic and controversy surrounding the host city, once the Olympic flame is lit, all eyes will turn to the athletes whose awe inspiring performances and moving stories keep us coming back.
Team USA Olympians to Watch:
Hilary Knight, Ice Hockey
Four-time Olympian and three-time Olympic medalist, Hilary Knight is an American ice hockey forward not to be messed with. Last year, the 32-year-old became the career leading scorer at the world championships – and in Beijing, she will be the oldest U.S. women’s hockey Olympian in history when she appears in her fourth Games. Follow her on Instagram: @hilaryknight.
Chloe Kim, Snowboarding
Coming off a strong performance at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, where she was the youngest Olympic gold medalist in snowboard halfpipe history, 21-year-old Chloe Kim is back to compete in Beijing. Already a two-time Olympic gold medalist, she has quite the history of winning snowboarding competitions. Chloe began snowboarding at age four and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Follow her on Instagram: @chloekim.
Maame Biney, Speedskating
At the PyeongChang Games, then 18-year-old Maame Biney made history as the first Black woman to compete at an Olympics for the U.S. short track speed skating team. Now 22-years-old, Maame is back to compete in Beijing. With four world champion titles under her belt, she’s sure to be a great competitor and one to watch. Follow her on Instagram: @biney.biney.
Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing
Mikaela Shiffrin is a two-time Olympian, three-time medalist, and six-time world champion alpine ski racer. She has an extensive list of career highlights that make her a powerful force in the competition. In Beijing, Mikaela is aiming to compete in all five disciplines: Downhill, Super G, Giant Slalom, Slalom, and Combined. Follow her on Instagram: @mikaelashiffrin.
Shaun White, Snowboarding
Shaun White is perhaps the most well-known Olympian on our list, and at 35-years-old, this American snowboarding legend is still very much one to watch. Competing in his fifth (and final) Olympic games, Shaun will attempt to win his fourth gold medal in the halfpipe. Follow him on Instagram: @shaunwhite.
Aja Evans, Bobsled
Aja Evans is an Olympic medalist who competes as a brakeman in bobsledding. She won bronze in Sochi in the 2014 Games and placed fifth in PyeongChang in 2018 – both for pilot Jamie Greubel Poser. The U.S. women have won medals at every Olympic Winter Games since women’s bobsled debuted at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, so hopefully the streak continues for Aja and team in Beijing. Follow her on Instagram: @ajalevans.
Jessie Diggins, Cross Country Skiing
Jessie Diggins is an American cross country ski racer and three-time Olympian. She won gold in the women’s cross-country skiing team sprint in the PyeongChang Games, becoming the first American woman to medal in cross-country. Jessie has been skiing since the age of three and is one to keep your eye on in Beijing. Follow her on Instagram: @jessiediggins.
Red Gerard, Snowboarding
21-year-old snowboarder Red Gerard might be one of the younger athletes competing this year, but he also might be one of the strongest competitors to look out for. Red heads into his second Olympic appearance as the defending gold medalist in slope-style. Follow him on Instagram: @redgerard.
Nathan Chen, Figure Skating
Two-time Olympian and one-time Olympic bronze medalist, 22-year-old Nathan Chen is one to keep your eyes out for. In 2017, he became the first man in figure skating history to land five quadruple jumps in a single performance. Nathan finished fifth in PyeongChang and is headed to Beijing ready to take gold. He got off to a flying start in the team event on Friday, scoring a personal best in the short program. Follow him on Instagram: @nathanwchen.
John Shuster, Curling
John Shuster is not only looking to defend his gold medal in Beijing, he will also be the first curler to carry the American flag in an Olympic opening ceremony. Curling has become increasingly popular and is one of the most-watched Winter Olympic sports, and that is largely thanks to John and the USA curlers. He is a five-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medalist, winning bronze in Torino in the 2006 Games, and winning gold in PyeongChang in the 2018 Games. Follow him on Instagram: @shoostie.
River Radamus, Alpine Skiing
River Radamus is an American alpine ski racer from Colorado and three-time Winter Youth Olympic gold medalist. At 23-years-old, this will be his first Olympic appearance, but hopes are high for River. Follow him on Instagram: @riverradamus.
Erin Jackson, Speed Skating
Not only is two-time Olympian Erin Jackson the first Black woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in long track speed skating, she is also the first Black woman to win a World Cup, the sport’s highest honor. To top it all off, Jackson is the world’s top ranked woman in the 500 meter event for speed skating. She is a force to be reckoned with, to say the least. Follow Erin on Instagram: @speedyj.
Abby Roque, Ice Hockey
First-time Olympian Abby Roque will likely be the first Native American woman to play hockey at the Winter Olympics. She is currently the only BIPOC athlete on the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team and hopes to be an inspiration for Indigenous kids to play the sport. Follow her on Instagram: @abby_roque.
Team USA Paralympians To Watch:
Oksana Masters, Cross-Country Skiing, Biathlon
Oksana Masters is a five-time Paralympian and 10-time Paralympic medalist across four sports – rowing, cycling, skiing, and biathlon. After an excellent showing at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, where she double gold in women’s cross-country middle distance and sprint, she’s ready to compete in Beijing. Follow her on Instagram: @oksanamasters.
Dan Cnossen, Cross-Country Skiing, Biathlon
Two-time Paralympian and six-time Paralympic medalist, Dan Cnossen is heading into his third Paralympic Games at age 41, where he will compete in biathlon and cross-country skiing. And while he is a skilled athlete, Dan is just as impressive outside of his sport – he was awarded both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Valor from the Secretary of the Navy for his service in combat, not to mention, he has two graduate degrees from Harvard.
Brittani Coury, Snowboarding
Brittani Coury is a one-time Paralympian and one-time Paralympic medalist, bringing home silver in the 2018 Games in PyeongChang for snowboarding. Follow her on Instagram: @brittanicoury.
Mike Schultz, Snowboarding
Snowboarder Mike Schultz is a one-time Paralympian and two-time medalist. He won gold for snowboard cross and silver for banked slalom in the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, where he also served as the flag-bearer for the U.S. Mike is also the founder of a prosthetics business, BioDapt Inc. Follow Mike on Instagram: @monstermikeschultz.
Andrew Kurka, Alpine Skiing
American alpine skier Andrew Kurka is a two-time Paralympian with one gold medal and one silver medal from the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. Follow him on Instagram: @andrewkurka.
Kendall Gretsch, Cross-Country Skiing, Biathlon
Kendall Gretsch is an American athlete who competes in cross country skiing and biathlon during the winter and paratriathlon in the summer. She won gold at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, and two gold medals in Nordic skiing at the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang in 2018. Follow Kendall on Instagram: @k.gretsch.
Laurie Stephens, Alpine Skiing
Laurie Stephens is a four-time Paralympian alpine skier with seven medals under her belt – two gold, two silver, and three bronze. She was named the Paralympic Sportswoman of the Year in 2006 by the U.S. Olympic Committee and has many more impressive career highlights that make her a very tough competitor.
Brody Roybal, Sled Hockey
Brody Roybal is an American sled hockey forward. He is a two-time Paralympian and a two-time Paralympic Winter Games gold medalist after competing in PyeongChang in 2018. Follow Brody on Instagram: @brodyusa4.
OK, so we’re biased, especially since Team USA has been our professional focus in these games. But we truly salute every athlete in the games, and what they’ve achieved already to represent their countries on the world stage. The time has come to celebrate them.
Basia Wojcik is VP, Sports Account Management in TMA’s Chicago hub.
Will Ober is Director, Celebrity & Influencer in TMA’s NYC hub.
Whitney DeMercurio is VP, Account Management.
[header image: olympics.com]