We’re calling it: South Korea will play host to Team America’s most successful Winter Olympics ever. Why? We’re stacked. We’ve got established superstars like Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White; a slew of ringers in some of the more unheralded sports, including biathlete Lowell Bailey and nordic skier Kikkan Randall; and a litter of fresh talent, many of whom have been quietly dominating their sport for the past couple of years.
Take a look, if you will, at our alpine athletes. Mikaela Shiffrin you probably know. The 22-year-old earned gold in slalom at the 2014 Sochi Games and took the overall World Cup title last year. This time around she’s favored to repeat in the slalom, and expected to be on the podium in the giant slalom and the super combined as well. Then there’s our young snowboarding crew: Red Gerard won his first World Cup slopestyle event last season; Maddie Mastro is consistently on the halfpipe podium at the U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships; Hailey Langland won last year’s X Games big-air competition. All three are 17 years old.
Finally, there’s Chloe Kim. The snowboard prodigy broke out four years ago, when she was just 13, taking 12th in the halfpipe event at the 2013 U.S. Open in Vail, Colorado. “As soon as she came on the scene, you knew she’d be the future,” says Jack Mitrani, a former competitive snowboarder who announces the X Games for ESPN. “She has incredible style, and she goes ten feet higher above the pipe than anybody else.” In 2015 and 2016, she won back-to-back titles at the X Games.
“She’s the female Shaun White,” says Mitrani. Well, not quite. For that, Kim will need some Olympic bling and a hell of a lot more notoriety. But if all goes well, she’ll be leaving South Korea with her face on a Wheaties box and a Flying Tomato–esque nickname. Which seems appropriate, since this will likely be the last Olympics for White and the rest of his contemporaries, including Vonn and reigning Olympic GS champ Ted Ligety. The snowboard king will soon be dead. Long live the queen. But first: total Olympic domination by the most formidable U.S. squad ever to don full Lycra.
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To learn more, visit teamusa.org. The Olympics begin live on Feb 8.
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