The XXIV Winter Olympic Games get underway on Thursday (U.S. time) in and around Beijing, and the whole world is expected to tune in with great anticipation and wonderment.
But enough about politics.
Nearly 3,000 athletes will be on hand to slide, skate, jump or do whatever else is necessary to achieve success on ice and/or snow over the next couple of weeks, providing hours of entertainment for winter sports enthusiasts, armchair athletes and fashionistas alike.
There will be 109 events contested over seven sports and 15 disciplines, and you can be sure that the 1,581 men and 1,290 women who will be wearing their various countries’ national colors will do their best to make the folks back home proud.
And you can bet that everyone of those athletes has a story to tell.
But because this is a skiing and snowboarding portal, we’re going to narrow our focus a quite a bit and present ten athletes that merit a special look in these disciplines.
One of the most decorated Alpine ski racers in history, the 26-year-old from Colorado has her eyes on five events: giant slalom, slalom, super-G, downhill and combined. Shiffrin, whose 73 World Cup tour wins are third to Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 and Lindsey Vonn’s 82 on the all-time list, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist (slalom in 2014 and GS in ‘18); she also took the combined silver in ‘18.
The erstwhile Flying Tomato is practically synonymous with the sport of halfpipe snowboarding, having won Olympic gold three times (‘06, ‘10 and ‘18) and Winter X-Games gold eight times (he’s also won five X-Games slopestyle events). The 35-year-old native of San Diego is looking pretty good after getting on the podium (3rd place) in Laax, Switzerland last month for the first time in international competition since the Pyeongchang Winter Games of 2018.
The vivacious 30-year-old from Minnesota, who entered U.S. ski lore by winning (with the now-retired Kikkan Randall) the 2018 Games’ team sprint competition for America’s first-ever Olympic Nordic gold medal, is the defending overall World Cup champ and recently won the prestigious Tour de Ski, a multi-stage event in Switzerland.
When she was 17, the Long Beach, Calif., native became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold medal. Four years on, Kim, who has won two world championships and six Winter X-Games golds in the halfpipe, is looking to repeat her performance from Pyeongchang, and her chances look good: She hasn’t lost in competition since March of 2019.
The 26-year-old Czech stunned the skiing/snowboarding world in 2018 when she won gold medals in both Alpine skiing’s super-G and snowboarding’s parallel giant slalom at Pyeongchang, becoming the first person to win golds using different pieces of equipment at the same Games. Ledecka, who last month finished third in a World Cup downhill event in Italy, is hoping to become the second person to do so.
The 27-year-old freestyle skier from Colorado is famously known for two things: His sky-high amplitude in the halfpipe and his on-screen persona, Hotdog Hans. Ferreira, a seven-time Winter X-Games medalist who took home this third gold medal at last month’s event, is looking to improve on his silver medal performance at Pyeongchang.
With 71 World Cup victories — his latest coming last month in Deer Valley — and 101 podium appearances over the past 12 years, the 29-year-old Canadian is the most accomplished moguls skier of all time. Kingsbury, who also six World Championships gold medals, is expected to defend his moguls title at Beijing.
The 18-year-old fashion model and soon-to-be Stanford undergrad from San Francisco will compete for China (her mom was born there) in skiing’s halfpipe, slopestyle and big air events. Gu is certainly not a dilettante: She has 8 World Cup wins and 12 podium appearances over the past 3-plus seasons, and she won a pair of gold medals at last year’s World Championships in Aspen.
With 25 career Winter X-Games medals, the 31-year-old snowboarder from South Lake Tahoe is the annual event’s most decorated women’s athlete. After winning slopestyle gold at Sochi and Pyeongchang and big air silver at Pyeongchang, Anderson, who will compete in both events at Beijing, has a very good chance of becoming the first snowboarder of either gender to win five Olympic medals.
Alexsander Aamodt Kilde
Probably more widely known as half of skiing’s power couple (Kilde and Shiffrin are an item), the 29-year-old Norwegian speed specialist has had a half-dozen victories (3 each in downhill and super-G) on the World Cup tour this season and leads the season points standings in both disciplines.