What to expect at the 2018 Winter Olympics
As February quickly approaches, athletes and viewers are preparing for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Hosted in Pyeongchang, South Korea, this year’s Olympics will include 2,800 athletes from 85 different countries, who will compete from February 9th to February 25th.
According to teamusa.org, 97 out of the potential 240 U.S. athletes have already qualified for this year’s Olympics. All but one of the fifteen sports, bobsledding, have qualified athletes from the U.S. thus far. The final rosters for each sport will be published in the second half of January.
Team USA has several veteran Olympians traveling to Pyeongchang to represent their country, one being Mikaela Shiffrin. Shiffrin, an alpine skier, who will compete with one Olympic medal and four World Championship medals. In 2014, at age eighteen, she earned her first medal at the Olympic level when she took home gold in slalom, becoming the youngest athlete in history to win an Olympic gold medal in that event. Shiffrin is expected to excel in slalom, as well as be a contender in the combined and super giant slalom.
Another returning athlete is Nordic combined skier, Bryan Fletcher. Fletcher competed at the 2014 Olympics and won a bronze medal at the 2013 World Championship. He qualified for this year’s Olympics after taking first place in the U.S. Olympic Nordic Combined Trials. Fletcher is an athlete to keep an eye on, not only for his stellar performance in the trials, but because of his story. After being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age four, he began to ski as an escape during his four years of chemotherapy, according to BryanFletcher.com. Fletcher went into remission when he was eight and continued to pursue his dreams in skiing. His resilience will be needed in order to place in Nordic combined this winter.
Not only is Team USA sending seasoned Olympians to South Korea, but they also have some new young athletes who are anticipated to make a big splash in their first Olympic year.
Snowboarder Chloe Kim hopes to keep the momentum from past competitions going. At age seventeen, Kim has competed and medaled in four Winter X-Games and the 2016 Youth Winter Olympics, earning one silver and four gold medals. She was also nominated for Best Breakout Athlete in the 2016 ESPYS. Kim competes in both halfpipe and slopestyle, winning all her medals so far in halfpipe.
Two other athletes made history when they qualified for this year’s Olympics. Seventeen-year-old Maame Biney became the first black woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating team, stated on NBCNews.org. According to teamusa.org, Biney will compete on the short track and earned a place at the Olympics after taking first in the 500m at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
Accompanying Biney to Pyeongchang is 25-year-old Erin Jackson, who was the first black woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic long track speed skating team. Jackson will be an athlete to keep an eye on because of her unique history with speed skating. Although a decorated competitor in the skating world, her accolades were earned for inline skating, rather than ice skating. According to the Chicago Tribune, Jackson began training as a speed skater on the ice, full time, only four months ago.
Another unique situation for Team USA is the Men’s Hockey team. Coached by Tony Granoto, this year’s team will be made up of college, AHL, and international players. For the past five Winter Olympics, the U.S. team has rostered only NHL players, but after much discussion, no NHL player will be traveling to Pyeongchang to represent their country in the 2018 Olympics. Despite having a less experienced team, General manager Jim Johannson still expects a good showing this winter because of the great bank of talent in the U.S., stated on teamusa.org. The team will have a lot to live up to because of the success the USA hockey team has had, placing in the top four in three of the last four Winter Olympics.
The opening ceremony will air on Friday, February 9th at 6:00 am. Be sure to watch these top athletes and others compete for the gold in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.