Winter Olympics: Who are the ones to watch in Beijing?

By Sports Desk February 04, 2022 617

Friday sees the official beginning of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, as the best of the best in cold-weather sports converge on Beijing.

Around 90 National Olympic Committees will participate, with approximately 2,900 athletes taking part in the 109 events at 13 different venues.

Some of the world's finest athletes will take to the snow or ice, though you may not necessarily know who in particular to look out for if you aren't a regular follower of winter sports.

Stats Perform has you covered, profiling seven of the most notable figures to keep an eye out for in Beijing…

Eileen Gu – Freestyle skiing

Nicknamed the "Snow Princess" in China, Gu will be one of the most intriguing athletes competing in these Games. The freestyle skier won two gold medals at both the Winter X Games 2021 and the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships.

Aside from being very good at her sport, Gu is also signed to a modelling agency and has appeared in local editions of Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.

The 18-year-old is very much a medal hopeful, which is why it delighted China when the Californian decided to represent the country of her mother's birth instead of the United States.

Francesco Friedrich – Bobsleigh

Germans are good at bobsledding, winning gold in every bobsleigh event at PyeongChang 2018, and driver Friedrich might just be the best of the bunch.

The 31-year-old won a shared gold medal in the two-man bobsled in PyeongChang (with Canada), and an outright gold in the four-man event.

Friedrich also led the squad that comfortably won gold at the 2021 IBSF World Championships in a time almost a full second faster than runners-up Latvia, and recently won the World Cup title despite the German four-man bobsleigh suffering its first defeat of the Olympic season in the final race before Beijing 2022, coming second to Latvia.

Mikaela Shiffrin – Alpine skiing

A two-time Olympic gold medallist, Shiffrin also won four medals at the 2021 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, including gold in the Alpine combined.

Other notable achievements include being the youngest slalom champion in Olympic Alpine skiing history, she has won the most world cup slalom races in history (45) and became the first Alpine skier to win the world championship in the same discipline (slalom) at four championships in a row.

Suzanne Schulting – Short track speed skating

The dominant Dutch athlete won gold in every event at the Speed Skating World Championships in March last year, becoming only the second female to do so.

Schulting won gold in 2018 in the 1000-metre race and will be hoping to win multiple short track events in Beijing.

In November, the 24-year-old gave an interview to the official Olympics website, saying: "I'm super motivated to train again and to do my best and become even better than last year. I want to go for gold at Beijing and of course to work for the upcoming World Cups."

Mikael Kingsbury – Freestyle skiing

Kingsbury might be the main one to watch early on in Beijing as he has already qualified for the freestyle skiing final, which takes place on Saturday.

The Canadian has won the most medals at the Freestyle World Championships of any male skier in history and is the reigning Olympic and world champion in the moguls.

Kingsbury started his Olympics on Thursday with a flawless run in qualifying to book an automatic spot in the final, finishing with a score of 81.15 at the Genting Snow Park.

Chloe Kim – Snowboarding

Snowboarding has become one of the most popular events at the Winter Olympics since it was first introduced in 1998.

One of the main snowboarders to keep an eye on in Beijing is Kim, who made history at PyeongChang 2018 when she won gold in the women's snowboard halfpipe at the age of just 17, becoming the youngest female competitor to win an Olympic snowboarding gold.

The American is also the current world, Olympic and X Games champion in the halfpipe and was the first to win all three titles.

Yuzuru Hanyu – Figure skating

The Japanese sensation has broken figure skating world records a staggering 19 times and has seven world championship medals and four Grand Prix titles to his name.

Hanyu is also a two-time Olympic champion and there is a tradition after each skate where his fans throw Winnie the Pooh cuddly toys onto the ice. But given the 2018 film was banned in China following social media comparisons between the cartoon bear and Chinese president Xi Jinping, it is perhaps for the best that only local spectators will be in attendance in Beijing.

The 27-year-old is aiming for a third consecutive title in the men's singles competition, which has not been achieved since 1928.

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Last modified on Friday, 04 February 2022 06:24
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