by Julia Lee and Grace Grabowski, Sports Reporters
graphic by Julie Wang
Athletes to Watch
Amidst the many precautions China has implemented in hopes of curbing the spread of COVID-19, one thing remains: the abundance of incredibly talented athletes.
Shaun White, the iconic 35-year-old snowboarder who won gold in the last Olympics, has returned to Team USA to defend his medal in his fifth and final Olympics.
In an interview with Good Morning America, he said that his last Olympics feels bittersweet: “I’ve got this last dance sort of glow to it.”
Joining White on the United States snowboarding team is 18-year-old Dusty Henrickson, who is competing in the slopestyle event. Henrickson brings with him experience to his first Olympics with a gold medal finish in the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics.
Also competing for Team USA is figure skater Timothy Leduc, who is the first openly non-binary athlete to compete at a Winter Olympic Games.
In a press conference with CNN, Luduc said, “My hope is that the narrative shifts more to queer people [being] open and successful in sports. We’ve always been here, we’ve always been a part of sports. We just haven’t always been able to be open.”
Leduc is competing in the pairs free-skate event with partner Ashley Cain-Gribble. This is the duo’s first Olympics.
Formidable opponents to Leduc and Cain-Gribble are China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who have been competing together for 15 years since the ages 12 and 14.
The pair currently holds two gold and three silver World Championship medals and is looking for a comeback after losing by just .43 points to settle for a silver medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
Keep an eye out for these athletes, who are just a few of the thousands of athletes from around the globe, representing their home countries in Beijing with hopes of bringing home the gold.
The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, held 102 events. This year, seven new events were added: women’s monobob, mixed team aerials in freestyle skiing, men’s big air in freestyle skiing, women’s big air in freestyle skiing, mixed team relay in short-track speed skating, mixed team event in ski jumping and mixed team snowboarding cross. According to the Olympics website, “To increase gender equality at the Games, mixed events have become a core element of the Olympic program.”
Four of the nine mixed team events on the program are new to the Olympics. The snowboard cross mixed event began on Feb. 12 and was the first event to feature teams of one man and one woman. The men raced the course first, and once they passed the finish line, their partner’s gate opened at the top of the course, creating a staggered start. The course consisted of bumps, sharp turns and jumps.
Monobob is another new event, where a single woman pushes, drives and breaks her sled during her run. In previous Olympics, men competed in both four and two-person sleds, while women competed in only two-person sleds. This year, the Olympics has added the monobob event exclusively for female athletes.
On the other hand, freeski big air will be an event for both men and women. Similar to the snowboard big air event, which made its debut at the 2018 Games, athletes go off a big jump while completing tricks.
The Beijing Winter Olympics looks different this year due to COVID-19, but it is a focal point to watch as these events make their historic debuts during the ever-changing social and political state of the Games.