Five athletes to watch during the 2018 Olympics


The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea are just around the corner with the opening ceremony scheduled to take place on Friday, February 9th (though some competitions will already start the day before).

To prepare for the festivities, we’ve written a series of articles with everything you need to know about these Olympics. From athletes to watch to history in the making and questions you may have.

We’re kicking off the series with five athletes you should absolutely, most definitely follow through the two weeks of the Olympics. As always, there are the usual suspects, including Lindsey Vaughn and Shaun White, but the following five could become household names, and bring home the loot.

 

Nathan Chen

The 18-year-old American figure skater secured himself the top spot at the US Championships days before the US figure-skating team for the 2018 Olympics was announced, extending his so far undefeated season. Chen landed a successful five quadruple jumps, a never-before-done routine. According to teamusa.org, he was the youngest US male to win a medal at the Figure Skating Grand Prix Final 2016, when he was just 17 years old.

Chen began skating when he was three years old, and was winning medals by the age of ten. He grew up in Salt Lake City, home of the 2002 Olympics, and would train at SLC Sports Complex with Apolo Ohno’s face plastered on the wall next to the Olympic rings.

He is arguably the favorite to win the gold, and would be the first US male to win the top prize since 2010 in Vancouver (Evan Lysacek).

The men’s figure skating begins on February 9th.

 

Yun Sung-bin

The South Korean skeleton slider will be competing in front of the home crowd, but at least for now he still says he doesn’t feel any added pressure to win gold. The world No. 1 recently won the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Cup and is the host country’s best chance to win a medal in an event that doesn’t take place on ice (i.e. speed skating, figure skating).

The 23-year-old has already made history for South Korea. In February 2016, he became the first ever South Korean to win a Skeleton World Cup title.

His biggest competition will come from Latvian brothers Martins and Tomass Dukurs and American Matt Antoine, who won the bronze in Sochi in 2014.

Skeleton begins on February 15th.

 

Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin is already an Olympic champion, she won gold in the slalom in Sochi in 2014, becoming the youngest Olympian to ever do so at 18 years old. Now the 22-year-old has come back for more, and is already the favorite to win three gold medals.

How good is she right now? She’s as close to unbeatable as possible. Shiffrin started in 17 World Cup races this season, landing on the podium in 14 of them and winning ten of them.

She will compete in the slalom – a win would make her the first to win back-to-back Olympic slalom golds – the giant slalom and the combined. Rumor has it she could also enter the super-G and downhill races as well.

Could we see her win five gold medals?

Women’s giant slalom begins February 11th, slalom on February 13th and combined on February 22nd.

 

Marcel Hirscher

Marcel Hirscher is heading to PyeongChang at the perfect time. The Austrian is nearly unbeatable as of late.

He recently won his seventh straight overall World Cup title, and fifth straight slalom win, after a dominant performance in the slalom at Wengen, beating Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen by 0.93 seconds. Hirscher has 53 World Cup wins under his belt, but this was his first at Wengen.

The 28-year-old is third on the all-time World Cup wins list and still has another race before heading to South Korea for the Olympics.

He won his first Olympic medal, a silver in slalom, in Sochi in 2014. This time around he will have at least four chances to win gold: the slalom, giant slalom, the combined and the new team event. He could decide to compete in the super-G as well.

But the clock is ticking, he has already hinted these Olympics could be his last.

The men’s combined begins February 12th, giant slalom February 17th, slalom February 21st and new team event on February 23rd.

 

Chloe Kim

Chloe Kim is considered a prodigy in snowboarding. The 17-year-old became the first female to land back-to-back 1080s and is expected to bring home a medal next month. The 2016-17 No. 1 is a 3-time X Games half-pipe gold medalist, 2-time Burton U.S. Open Champion, and 2-time World Snowboard Tour season champion, but has yet to compete in the Olympics. Mathematically, she would have qualified for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but she didn’t meet the minimum-age requirement to compete (13 years old at the time).

She began snowboarding at just 4 years old, and was competing by the time she was 6. She spent two years studying and training in Switzerland, from the age of 8-10.

Kim is the favorite to win the gold in PyeongChang, and if she does, she would become the youngest American to win a snowboarding Olympic medal (Kelly Clark was 18 when she won gold 16 years ago in 2002).

The women’s half-pipe begins on February 11th.