Team USA athletes to know ahead of the 2022 Beijing Olympics originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Olympic torch was passed on at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo two months ago, but it’s already time to turn our attention to the upcoming Winter Olympics.
The 2022 Beijing Olympics begin in just 100 days. The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics created an even shorter turnaround than usual between the Summer and Winter Games.
Instead of track and field, swimming and basketball, the world’s top athletes will be competing in skating, skiing and ice hockey. On top of that, there are some less familiar sports on the Winter Olympic docket, such as biathlon, nordic combined and skeleton.
Team USA will be sending a strong returning contingent to China in February. Here is a collection of one American athlete from each sport to get familiar with 100 days ahead of the Opening Ceremony:
Alpine skiing: Mikaela Shiffrin
Shiffrin is one of the faces of Team USA entering her third Olympic Games.
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At 18 years old, she won gold in Sochi to become the youngest ever women’s slalom Olympic champion. She picked up two more medals in PyeongChang, earning gold in the giant slalom and silver in the combined.
Shiffrin is rolling right now with Beijing around the corner. In her latest competition, she picked up her 70th career World Cup win on Oct. 23 in Austria.
Biathlon: Susan Dunklee
Susan Dunklee will also be competing in her third Olympics in February.
While most of the athletes mentioned here are projected to represent the U.S. in Beijing, Dunklee is one of just five Americans to officially qualify. She is joined by fellow biathlete Clare Egan along with three men’s ice hockey players.
Dunklee has competed in 10 career Olympic events with her best finish coming in the relay event in Sochi, where the U.S. team placed seventh. She finished 19th in the individual event in PyeongChang.
Bobsled: Lolo Jones
Lolo Jones famously transitioned from the summer track to a winter track, and she has her sights set on her first Olympic medal.
After competing for Team USA in hurdles at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, she made the 2014 Olympics in bobsled. She withdrew from the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials while she was recovering from a hip injury and was not selected for the 2018 Olympic team.
Despite missing out on the PyeongChang Games, Jones made a major statement earlier this year when she and teammate Kallie Humphries won the two-woman event at the 2021 World Championships in Germany. With a potential fourth Olympics on the horizon, Jones’ quest for the podium will be a major storyline in Beijing.
Elana Meyers Taylor, who won silver medals in the two-woman bobsled at each of the previous two Olympics, is another name to watch. She was one of three women selected as pilots for the U.S. women’s team ahead of the 2021-22 winter season.
Cross-country skiing: Jessie Diggins
“HERE COMES DIGGINS!”
After providing one of the best moments from the PyeongChang Games, Jessie Diggins is ready to earn even more hardware in PyeongChang.
Diggins and teammate Kikkan Randall shocked the world with their historic, nail-biter victory in the women’s team sprint three years ago. She is at the top of the cross-country skiing game right now, having become the first U.S. woman to ever secure the overall World Cup Crystal Globe this past March.
Curling: John Shuster
Shuster is looking for his fifth Olympic appearance and second Olympic gold.
The veteran curler has represented Team USA at each Winter Olympics dating back to 2006. He helped the U.S. earn bronze in his first Olympic appearance in Turin before missing the next two podiums. He then was the skip for the country’s first Olympic champion curling squad, which beat Sweden by a score of 10-7 in the gold medal match in PyeongChang.
Team Shuster qualified the U.S. for the Olympics back in April. The squad will still need to earn a trip to Beijing at the U.S. Olympic Trials in November.
Figure skating: Nathan Chen
Chen has certainly bounced back after missing out on the podium for the men’s individual event in PyeongChang.
The 22-year-old skater won 14 straight events immediately following the PyeongChang Games, including three world titles. That streak finally ended at Skate America on Saturday, where Vincent Zhou emerged victorious and Chen came in third.
Chen will have his sights set on gold in Beijing. He posted the top free skate score back at the 2018 Games but placed fifth overall due to an uncharacteristic performance in the short program. If he can put it all together in February, he could become the first American to earn men’s singles gold since Evan Lysacek in 2010.
Freestyle skiing: David Wise
David Wise owns the men’s halfpipe at the Olympics.
The Reno, Nev., native has earned gold in both editions of the event. He scored a 92.00 to win the inaugural Olympic gold in the event in Sochi and followed it up with a 97.20 final run in PyeongChang.
Wise broke his femur in 2019 and was hospitalized for 11 days. Since the injury, he has two top-10 World Ski Championships finishes and four top-four World Cup finishes.
Ice hockey: Patrick Kane
American hockey fans will be treated to some more familiar faces at the 2022 Olympics.
The NHL and NHLPA reached an agreement with the IIHF and IOC in September that will allow NHL players to participate in Beijing after they were kept out of the 2018 Games. Three members of Team USA have already been announced for the 2022 Games: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones and Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane.
Kane netted three goals during Team USA’s run to a silver medal in 2010. He tallied just two points, both assists, in 2014 as the U.S. was left off the podium following a 5-0 defeat to Finland in the bronze medal game. Team USA lost to the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals in 2018, but with Kane leading a group of NHL reinforcements, it is in position to earn a medal in 2022.
Luge: Chris Mazdzer
Chris Mazdzer made history in PyeongChang, but he will need to overcome a major obstacle to make more in Beijing.
The 33-year-old New York native earned Team USA’s first ever men’s singles luge medal with silver in 2018. In 2022, he can become the first luge athlete to participate in three Olympic events: singles, doubles and team relay.
Mazdzer will need to bounce back from an injury setback to even participate at the upcoming Olympics. He broke his foot during training in late September, but he said he is hopeful to recover and make history in Beijing.
Nordic combined: Taylor Fletcher
Nordic combined is not one of Team USA’s strongest sports. It collected all four of its career nordic combined medals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
As of early October, Taylor Fletcher was the only American in the top 50 of the Olympic quota allocation list and there are 55 total quota spots available for competition in Beijing. Fletcher has participated in four individual nordic combined events and two team events, along with a team ski jumping event, across the previous three Olympics. His best individual finish was 20th in the individual large hill at the Sochi Games.
Short track speed skating: Kristen Santos
The U.S. women have missed out on the short track podium at each of the last two Olympics. Could Kristen Santos get Team USA back on the board?
The Fairfield, Conn., native finished fourth in the 500m at the ISU World Short Track Championships. She also placed sixth in the 3000m and eighth overall. She could be a dark horse competitor if she makes it to Beijing.
John-Henry Krueger earned Team USA its only short track medal in PyeongChang with a silver performance in the 1000m. Following the 2018 Olympics, the American-born Hungarian switched allegiances, so he is no longer representing the U.S.
Skeleton: Katie Uhlaender
Katie Uhlaender is in line to make her fifth Olympic appearance in February.
She has six world championship medals to her name, but has yet to earn one on the Olympic stage. Her best finish came in 2014 when she placed fourth after being just .04 seconds off of Elena Nikitina’s bronze-winning time. She followed that up with a 13th-place result in PyeongChang.
Uhlaender is still the top American woman in skeleton right now at No. 18 in the world. Kendall Wesenberg, who finished 17th in PyeongChang, is the next-best American at No. 21 in the world.
Ski jumping: Kevin Bickner
Ski jumping is usually dominated by European competitors, but if you’re looking for an American to root for, there’s Kevin Bickner.
Bickner was Team USA’s top men’s competitor for ski jumping in PyeongChang. He finished 18th in the individual men’s normal hill, 20th in the individual men’s large hill and helped bring the U.S. to ninth in the men’s team large hill.
Bickner placed fourth at the U.S. Ski Jumping national championships in July after taking a break from the sport during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Casey Larson won the event.
The U.S. won just one Olympic ski jumping medal. Anders Haugen earned bronze in the men’s individual large hill event in 1924, the first year of the Winter Olympics.
Snowboarding: Chloe Kim
Kim was one of the biggest stars to emerge from the PyeongChang Games, and she is poised to make more noise in Beijing.
Kim is accustomed to setting records. With a win at the 2016 X Games, she became the first ever athlete to win three X Games golds before turning 16 years old. At just 17, Kim clinched the women’s halfpipe gold medal with a spectacular 98.25 run.
She took some time away from the sport following the 2018-19 season and enrolled at Princeton University. She returned to the circuit this past January and didn’t miss a beat, claiming another X Games title.
Heading into her second Olympics, Kim will look to add to both her collection and reputation as one of the greatest snowboarders of all time.
Speedskating: Brittany Bowe
Brittany Bowe is looking to finally add a gold medal to her resume.
The Ocala, Fla., native has held four world records in her career and still has the best ever time in the women’s 1000m (1:11.61). Along with that, she has seven golds, eight silvers and five bronze World Championship medals.
Still, she has just a single Olympic medal, which came in the form of a bronze in the women’s team pursuit in PyeongChang after leaving Sochi empty-handed. Heading into her third Games, Bowe will have more medals on her mind.