The grace and grit of American athletes will be on display in South Korea as a mix of accomplished vets and hungry novices looks to better the U.S.’s total of 28 medals from Sochi. Meet a selection of the Americans who will be competing.
Shiffrin has 41 World Cup wins in five events (slalom, giant slalom, combined, parallel slalom, downhill), and she hasn’t even added the speed disciplines of downhill and Super-G to her regular repertoire yet. As a comparison, Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark holds the record for World Cup victories with 86, and he had 40 at Shiffrin’s age (he notched his 41st the day after his 23rd birthday). A gold for Shiffrin in the slalom in PyeongChang is as close to a sure thing as there is in an event on snow or ice.
Alex Shibutani (top), Maia Shibutani | Simon Bruty
The Shibutani siblings were heavy favorites to win their third straight national title in January, but Maia slipped during the free dance, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue took the gold. The question is whether that disappointment will linger, or if it will be the prelude to the Shib Sibs' Triumph in Sochi. Alex says that ever since he and his sister were preteens, “we were kind of obsessed with athletes’ storylines.” If they go from silver in January to gold in February, that’s a pretty good one.
Matt Mortensen (left), Jayson Terdiman | Simon Bruty
Mortensen and Terdiman have been paired together since right after the Sochi Olympics. Their rise was slow but steady; by year three, they were in third place in the final doubles luge standings. Mortensen, an eight-year Army veteran, is part of the Army World Class Athlete Program, which allows soldiers to compete in elite athletic events while they serve.
Susan Dunklee (left), Oksana Masters (center), Lowell Bailey | Simon Bruty
A skier for 30 years and a biathlete for 10, Dunklee became the first U.S. woman to win a medal in a biathlon world championship when she took silver in the mass start in Hochfilzen, Austria, in February, 2017. She lives in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and works with the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, a group of professional skiers and rowers who promote sustainability and endurance sports in their communities.
Bailey is entering his fourth Olympics, but this is no nostalgia tour. He keeps getting better. After finishing 27th in the individual biathlon in 2006 and 36th in the sprint and pursuit in 2010, he finished 8th in the individual in Sochi. Last year, he became the first American to win a biathlon world championship, taking the gold medal in the men’s 20-kilometer individual.
Masters won bronze in rowing in the 2012 Olympics but had to give it up after being diagnosed with spondylolisthesis. One of her vertebrae kept sliding forward over the one below; they rub against each other when she moves from side to side. Rather than retire from sports, she took up skiing, biathlon and cycling. She won silver and bronze in cross-country events in Sochi and nearly won bronze in cycling in Rio. Still, she says, “I don’t see myself as successful because I don’t have that gold medal yet.” This is her best chance. She won four gold medals at last year’s world championships.
Elana Meyers Taylor (left), Aja Evans (center), Jamie Greubel Poser | Simon Bruty
Meyers Taylor had gold in her grasp in Sochi before skidding on the final run and finishing with silver, a tenth of a second behind the winning Canadians. She says she would lie awake at night afterward, “haunted” by her error. She recovered to win gold in two of the next three world championships—including last year.
Greubel Poser has been looking forward to these Olympics for a very personal reason: Her sister Elizabeth was born in Korea and was adopted by the Greubel family. Together, Evans and Greubel Poser hope to improve upon the bronze they won in Sochi.
As a child in Chicago, Evans had Olympic dreams—in track. Her idol was Jackie-Joyner Kersee. She was a sprinter and shot-putter at Illinois—a rare combination—when a coach suggested she try bobsled. She knew nothing of the sport, but says, “That power, that strength and that explosiveness I have in both sprints and shot put allowed me to be the bobsledder that I am today.”
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The most successful U.S. ski racer in history has 78 World Cup victories, but only two Olympic medals (gold and bronze from Vancouver). The Korea Games will be her fourth Olympics, despite missing the Games in 2014, while recovering from knee surgery. She will compete in at least the downhill, Super-G and combined (a mix of downhill and slalom) in PyeongChang. She will be among the oldest racers on the mountain—but on any given day, she’s still faster than all of them.
When skeleton returned to the Olympics in 2002 after a 64-year hiatus, Antoine watched on TV and was intrigued. He was sent home from his first skeleton training camp because he wasn’t good enough and did not make an Olympic team until 2014—but when he did, he won bronze.
A former gymnast, Chen has something in common with Simone Biles: He is so gifted that he pulls off what few others even try. Chen landed a record five quadruple jumps at January’s U.S. championships—a toe loop, Salchow, loop, flip and Lutz—and is the only undefeated male skater in the world this season.
Hard to believe, but when Ligety first made an Olympic team, in 2006, he was both a surprise and an afterthought. Now Ted Shred is heading to his fourth Games. One of the great slalom skiers in history, Ligety will be looking for his third Olympic medal. His first two were gold.
Alex Rigsby (left), Meghan Duggan (right), Jordan Greenway | Simon Bruty
Duggan and Rigsby lead a women’s team that has a gold-or-bust attitude after its excruciating finish in Sochi. The U.S. led Canada 2–1 with a minute left in the gold medal game before falling in overtime. While the women are hoping to beat the gold-medal favorite Canadian team this time, Greenway and the men are just hoping to land on the podium in what is essentially a new event: hockey without NHL players for the first time since 1994.
Nick Goepper (left), Gus Kenworthy | Simon Bruty
Goepper, who won bronze in slopestyle in Sochi, experienced some depression after the high of the Games, but says that deemphasizing skiing since has made him better prepared to handle the success that may await in PyeongChang. The silver medalist in Sochi, Kenworthy says he has been liberated by the attention he received after coming out as gay in 2015: “I had a long time where I would qualify first at the X Games and then fall in the finals. The pressure got to me. I don’t know if it’s because I was in the closet, but I think it was something that was ever present in my mind. It was always distracting.”
Shuster—the skip of Team Shuster—is the first American male curler to make four Olympic teams. He won bronze in 2006. The big difference for Shuster this time around are additions (he has two- and four-year-old sons) and subtraction (the former bartender has lost 30 pounds since Sochi).
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The 5’ 2”, 115 lb. Kim is a half-pipe prodigy—the only woman to land back-to-back 1080s. At the 2016 X Games, she won three gold medals at age 15 and ever since has been the presumptive golden girl for 2018. (Kim would have qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in 2014 but was too young.) Wildly popular at any event, her Korean heritage will make her a crowd favorite in PyeongChang.
Torin Yater-Wallace (left), Aaron Blunck | Simon Bruty
Yater-Wallace and his girlfriend, ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson, have helped each other battle through injuries: she has had multiple knee surgeries and he broke his ribs in a crash before Sochi. In November of 2015, he came down with a life-threatening case of streptococcus and had to be put in a medically induced coma for 10 days. After losing 20 pounds, Yater-Wallace is healthy again, and a threat in halfpipe.
Blunck has been skiing since he was 18—that is, 18 months. His mother and grandfather were ski instructors in Colorado. He began competing in freestyle skiing when he was eight. He graduated from the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy and made the Olympic team in 2014, at age 17.
In the summer of 2016, a collision in practice left Bowe with a concussion—and an uncertain future. She was off the ice for nearly 18 months. “There were plenty of times when I just felt lost,” she says. “It’s scary if something is stripped from you, especially if you’re not expecting it.” Now she is hoping to add an Olympic title to her collection of nine world championships medals.
Andrew Kurka (left), Thomas Walsh | Simon Bruty
Kurka’s first Olympic dreams were of wrestling. He was an Alaska state champion when he was eight. Then an ATV accident left him paralyzed at age 13. Two years later, he tried mono-skiing, and now he is the reigning world champion in the downhill, silver medalist in the giant slalom and a bronze medalist in the Super-G.
Walsh’s first ski instructor was Eileen Shiffrin, Mikaela’s mom, in Vail. He and Mikaela even went to his prom together. He was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in 2009, and eventually gave up skiing. He picked it up again after watching Shiffrin at Sochi. Within his first year, he won slalom and giant slalom World Cup races.
Evan Bates (left), Madison Chock | Simon Bruty
On Chock’s 16th birthday she went on a date with Bates. Soon after, they went their separate ways, in separate rinks, with different skating partners and relationships with other people. Now they are together, on the ice and off—and one of three U.S. teams with medal hopes.
The 4' 10" Chen recorded the highest short-program score in U.S. Nationals history last year, winning the individual title and stamping herself as the next great American skater. Her time came before many imagined. After a rough 2017, Chen finished third at Nationals a few weeks ago and took Ashley Wagner’s spot in PyeongChang. Her mentor is fellow Fremont native and 1992 Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi.
Chase Josey (left), Mike Schultz (left center), Hagen Kearney (right center), Brenna Huckaby | Simon Bruty
Schultz was an able-bodied snowmobile racer known as “Monster Mike” until 2008, when he drifted off course, flying off his snowmobile and landing on his left leg. His leg was grossly hyper extended, and eventually amputated. Schultz thought his career was over at age 27. But he worked for weeks in his garage in St. Cloud, building his own prosthetic leg, and at last year’s world championships he won silver in the banked slalom and finished fourth in snowboard cross.
Huckaby was a gymnast in Louisiana before bone cancer took her right leg when she was a teenager. At that point, she had never seen snow, but once she did, she fell in love with it. She took a break from her career in early 2016 for the birth of her daughter, Lilah, and returned in 2017 to win gold at the world championships in snowboard cross and banked slalom. Now she is looking to add medals at her first Paralympics.
Josey had a breakout performance at the 2016 X Games, where he won a bronze in the superpipe. Soon after, at a Grand Prix event in Switzerland, he became the first person to land five doubles in a single superpipe run. In a sport that is as much about pushing boundaries as winning medals, Josey could be a trailblazer in Pyeongchang.
Take all your snowboarding stereotypes and … well, they fit. Kearney is a long-haired, bearded dude who loves motorcycling, skateboarding, playing guitar and drums in a heavy-metal band and, yes, snowboarding. Early in his career, he was a freestyle snowboarder, but he switched to snowboard cross and his career took off. He finished the 2016–17 season ranked 5th in the world.
Declan Farmer (left), Josh Pauls | Simon Bruty
Farmer, who was born without legs, started playing sled hockey at age nine. By 14, he was on the national team. At 16, he assisted on the Olympic gold-medal winning goal in Sochi. Now, at 20, he is going for another gold—before returning to Princeton to pursue his economics degree.
Pauls had both legs amputated when he was 10 months old but he still dreamed of being the first NHL goalie with no legs. He switched to forward, where he has helped the U.S. team in a variety of ways—including, but not limited to, pointing a Mr. Potato Head figure toward the opponent’s locker room before every game. (Yes, his nickname is “Spuds.”)
She made the team in Sochi at age 15, only to fracture her fibula training on the day of the Opening Ceremony. In her first competition back, she tore her left ACL and menisci. Now 19, Voisin still carries the same carefree attitude that made her a prodigy: “Yes, my goal is to win medals and whatnot, but this is what I love to do. If I focus on that more than medals, I’m successful.”
Simi Hamilton (left), Jessie Diggins | Simon Bruty
Hamilton loves to surf, kayak, run and bike, but if he seems born to ski, that’s because he was. His grandfather, D.R.C. (Darcy) Brown was a co-founder of the Aspen Skiing Company, and its CEO from 1957 to ’79. Hamilton grew up in Aspen and won nine junior national titles.
Diggins started skiing as a toddler in Minnesota and has become one of the most successful female U.S. cross-country skiers ever. She says her silver and bronze medals at the 2017 World Championships give her confidence heading to Pyeongchang: “I know that it’s possible because I’ve done it before. Same competitors, same race.”
After finishing 10th in aerials in Sochi, Caldwell decided to add more difficult tricks. For a while, all she had to show for her daring were bumps and bruises. But last year, at the world aerial skiing championships, she became the first woman to land a full-double-full-full (three flips with four twists). That helped propel her from ninth place after the first round to the gold. She was the first U.S. woman in 22 years to win at the aerial worlds.