U.S. Athletes Looking To Make History At The 2022 Winter Olympics And Paralympics
by Bob Reinert
A host of Team USA Olympians and Paralympians have been working hard to represent the nation in February at the Olympics or March at the Paralympics, and a number of them seem likely to shine.
Among the Team USA athletes looking to make history this year are:
Mikaela Shiffrin takes first place during the women's giant slalom at the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup on Dec. 21, 2021 in Courchevel, France.
The records keep falling as Shiffrin continues her march toward all-time greatness.
Late last month at Killington, Vermont, Shiffrin tied the great Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden for the most world cup wins in a single discipline with 46 by winning the women’s slalom. It was her fifth straight slalom win at Killington, dating back to 2016.
Shiffrin now has a total of 72 world cup victories.
Shiffrin already held the women’s record in one discipline, having passed Marlies Schild of Switzerland, who had 35 slalom wins, some time ago.
The 26-year-old American is tops in the 2021-22 overall women’s world cup standings.
Nathan Chen skates in the men's free skate during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Much is expected of Chen, but the fact remains that he is seeking his first individual Olympic podium in Beijing. Chen won a team bronze medal in 2018 but struggled in the short program of the individual competition and finished fifth.
This time around, he’s a three-time world champion and a bona fide gold-medal favorite. Undefeated since PyeongChang, Chen’s winning streak ended in October at Skate America, but he quickly started a new one the next week at Skate Canada.
The 22-year-old Chen will be a heavy favorite at the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which take place Jan. 3-9 in Nashville, Tennessee. He has won five straight U.S. titles.
Dusty Henricksen poses at a Team USA Beijing 2022 Olympic shoot on Sept. 12, 2021 in Irvine, Calif.
Though he’s young and would be making his Olympic debut, Henricksen could have an impact for Team USA in the slopestyle event.
Henricksen, the 2020 Youth Olympic Games gold medalist, became the first American man in a dozen years to win the event at the Winter X Games this past January in Aspen, Colorado. The last American to win the slopestyle was a guy named Shaun White in 2009.
Henricksen is just 18 years old, but his future looks bright.
Alysa Liu skates in the women's short program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 14, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Liu, already a two-time national champion, could make her Olympic debut at the tender age of 16.
Despite her domestic success, the California native has limited experience on the senior international level due to age restrictions. Those are now in in the review mirror, and so far this season, Liu has wins at the Cranberry Cup International and two Challenger Series events in Europe. On the senior Grand Prix circuit, she placed fifth at Skate Canada and fourth at NHK.
Liu, who finished fourth at the 2021 U.S. championships after earning gold medals in 2019 and 2020, will skate in the 2022 event in January.
Erin Jackson poses at a Team USA Beijing 2022 Olympic shoot on Sept. 12, 2021 in Irvine, Calif.
Four years ago, Jackson began her meteoric rise, going from inline to ice speedskating and making her Olympic debut just a few months later. In recent weeks she’s taken another giant leap.
Jackson, who already became the first Black woman to make a U.S. Olympic long-track team, in November became the first Black woman to win a speedskating world cup race. The Ocala, Florida, native has since won three more, all at her signature 500-meter distance. In the season’s third event at the Utah Olympic Oval, Jackson established a personal best and a new national record at the distance with a time of 36.809 seconds.
Paralympians looking to make their marks include:
Dani Aravich poses at a Team USA Beijing 2022 Paralympic shoot on Sept. 12, 2021 in Irvine, Calif.
Just six months after making her Paralympic debut at the Summer Games in Tokyo, Aravich hopes to make her first Winter Games appearance in Beijing.
In Tokyo, Aravich ran in a preliminary heat of the women’s 400-meter T47. She placed fifth in the heat in 1:03.76 seconds.
Where Aravich had a background as a Division 1 track and field and cross-country athlete, she’s relatively new to the world of Nordic skiing and biathlon. She’s hoping her experience in Tokyo will help her better prepare for Beijing.
Kendall Gretsch competes during the mass start for the cross country open relay event at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on March 17, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
Like Aravich, Gretsch is trying to pull off the difficult summer/winter double with just a half-year in between the two major events. The difference between the two is Nordic experience — Gretsch has a bit more of it.
The 29-year-old Gretsch has won three gold medals at a pair of Paralympic Games, with two of them coming in Nordic skiing in 2018 and one from paratriathlon this past summer in Tokyo. In doing so, she became the fifth American to win gold in both the Summer and Winter Paralympics (Oksana Masters became the sixth just days later, and she’ll be going for more Nordic gold in Beijing too).
In the recent Para Nordic skiing world cup opener in Canmore, Alberta, Gretsch amassed a total of six medals.
Evan Strong celebrates after competing during the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on March 16, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
Eight years ago, Strong became the first man to win a Paralympic gold medal in snowboarding when he won the snowboardcross event in Sochi. He went on to win a silver medal in 2018 in banked slalom, and now at age 35 is going for another.
Strong, a talented skateboarder growing up, has been a groundbreaking Para snowboarder ever since taking up the sport in 2007. Having claimed every major title in the sport, he doesn’t have anything yet to prove, yet he’s still proving to be one of the best, including winning two gold medals at a recent snowboardcross world cup stop in Landgraaf, Netherlands.
The U.S. Sled Hockey Team gathers before a game against Canada on Oct. 27, 2021 in St. Louis, Miss.
In 2018, the U.S. became the first sled hockey team to win three straight Paralympic gold medals. The Americans hope to make it four straight in Beijing.
Since sled hockey was introduced at the Games in 1994, the U.S. has taken home five medals, with four of them being gold. Star players such as Declan Farmer, Rico Roman and Brody Roybal are set to begin a residency in January in Nashville.
Canada will once again be the Americans’ biggest rival. In addition to meeting in the 2018 Paralympic gold-medal game, the teams have also met in the past two world championships finals, with the U.S. defeating Canada 5-1 in June to claim a second straight world title.