The best athletes in the world will be taking the stage this February for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. The opening ceremony will take place on Friday, Feb. 9, with the closing ceremony to be held on Sunday, Feb. 25. These will be the second Olympic Games held in South Korea; the previous games were hosted by Seoul in 1988.
There will be 92 countries participating at this year’s Olympic Games. For Team USA, there will be 242 athletes competing (135 men, 107 women), according to the official United States Olympics website. So out of these 242 athletes, who should we be paying close attention to? According to NBC Sports, there are 18 U.S. athletes that we should be looking out for this year, nine of which we’ll focus on.
Slalom skier Mikaela Shiffrin made the list due to the fact she was the youngest Olympic slalom champion in the Sochi Games. The 22-year-old has a gold medal from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and three slalom World Championships.
Another athlete to look for is snowboarder Jamie Anderson, who also has a gold medal from Sochi’s slopestyle event in her trophy case. The California native won the first ever gold medal offered in slopestyle snowboarding.
Another fellow mountain sport-lover is Gus Kenworth, who also took home a medal in Sochi. The British-born American also finished third in the men’s slopestyle during the 2017 World Cup in Switzerland.
The youngest of the nine to watch is 17-year-old Chloe Kim. She will be competing in her first ever Olympic Games in snowboarding. Kim also won three 3 gold medals at the Winter X Games before the age of 16, making her the youngest athlete to do so. The youngster actually did qualify for the Sochi Olympics, but her age did not allow her to participate.
Next up is veteran skier, Lindsey Vonn. At the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010, she became the first American woman to win gold for downhill skiing. However, due to injuries, she could not participate in Sochi. She is considered to be a Team USA favorite this year.
Another youngster to watch is 18-year-old figure skater Nathan Chen. He has already become the first male figure skater to ever land five 5 quadruple jumps (one more than the triple axel) during a performance.
Next is California native bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor. She is known as the first black pilot to win an Olympic medal, the first woman to win medals as both brakeman and pilot, and the first American woman to win two bobsled Olympic medals.
Another skier to watch is Maddie Bowman. In her first Olympic Games in Sochi, she brought home a gold medal for skiing halfpipe at only 20 years of age. She tore her ACL in 2015, but managed to compete and win at the X Games the following season.
Last but certainly not least, ice dancers Alex and Maia Shibutani. The brother and sister duo officially became a team in 2004 and finished ninth at their first ever Olympic appearance in 2014.
These are just a few athletes to watch, but it is quite certain that unknown talent will emerge in the weeks to come.