19 Women Athletes to Watch at the 2022 Olympics
The 2022 Winter Olympics will be here before you know it, which means it’s time to get to know some of the incredible women athletes heading to Beijing. The US has a strong contingent, headlined by familiar faces like snowboarder Chloe Kim, alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, and short-track speed skater Maame Biney, but you’re also going to meet rising stars like figure skater Alysa Liu, hockey player Abby Roque, and long-track speed skater Erin Jackson. Of course, you’ll also want to keep an eye on other delegations from around the world. At just 17, freeskier Eileen Gu is already highly decorated and is poised to make a big debut for China, while the Russian contingent of women’s figure skaters, headlined by 15-year-old Kamila Valieva, has a legitimate chance to sweep the podium. There will be no shortage of storylines to follow at this Olympics.
If you’re just tuning back into the Winter Olympic world (is it just me, or does 2018 feel like a decade ago), we’ve prepped a primer on some of the women athletes we’ll be keeping an eye on at the 2022 Olympics. From the slopes to the ice rink to the bobsled track, keep reading to meet a few of the women will be pushing for the podium in Beijing.
To learn more about all the Olympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Winter Olympics, beginning Feb 3 on NBC.
Sport: Snowboarding (Halfpipe)
Chloe Kim was just 17 when she won halfpipe gold at the 2018 Olympics. In the four years since, Kim took a break from snowboarding, enrolled at Princeton, and returned to the sport refreshed and in a better place with her mental health. The time off didn’t slow Kim down in the slightest, either; she’s kept racking up competition wins and is considered a favorite to defend her Olympic gold.
Country: Alpine skiing
Mikaela Shiffrin’s seriously impressive resume already includes two Olympic Games and three medals (two gold, one silver). Since PyeongChang, her star has only continued to rise in the world of alpine skiing: Shiffrin broke the record for most world cup slalom wins in 2019 and, in 2021, tied the record for most world cup wins in a single discipline (again, slalom – she has 46!). If she can take home three medals at the 2022 Olympics, Shiffrin has the opportunity to become the most decorated American alpine skier in history; Bode Miller currently holds that title with six Olympic medals. Of course, it’s not like Shiffrin, who won her first Olympic medal at age 18, really has much more to prove.
Sport: Figure skating
Alysa Liu arrived on the American figure skating scene with a bang in 2019. At age 13, she promptly won the first of her two national titles that year, before she was even old enough to compete at the senior level. Now 16, Liu’s achievements include more than just hardware: she’s also the first American woman to complete a quad jump in a competition, and she’ll need that skill in order to hold her own against strong international competitors, including a Russian team that looks more dominant than ever. (More on that later!)
For the past two years, Eileen Gu has done nothing but win medals. The freeskier, who was born in the US and represents China in competition, is equally skilled in the halfpipe, big air, and slopestyle competitions; she has major competitive wins in each one, including 2021 world championship titles in halfpipe and slopestyle. Gu is already a star in the making – besides skiing professionally, she also models and has been accepted to Stanford – and as a medal favourite for the host nation, all eyes will be on the 17-year-old when she hits the snow.
Sport: Long-track speed skating
Erin Jackson has a thing for making history. In 2018, she became the first Black woman to qualify for the US Olympic team in long-track speed skating, ultimately finishing 24th in the 500m at PyeongChang. This year might be a different story. In November 2021, Jackson became the first Black American woman to win a speed skating world cup title, but that promptly became old news when she went on to win again, and again, and again, racking up four 500m world cup wins in the first five races of the season. A slip at the Olympic Trials threatened to derail Jackson’s Olympic plans, but her friend and fellow skater Brittany Bowe gave Jackson her 500m spot, saying “Erin has earned her right to be on this 500m team. She is ranked number one in the world, and no one is more deserving than her to get an opportunity to bring Team USA home a medal.”
Sport: Figure skating
Country: Russian Olympic Committee
Kamila Valieva made her international debut in 2019 and has been unstoppable ever since. No, really – she only debuted on the senior circuit in October 2021, and immediately started setting world records with her huge program scores. Case in point: she capped off her pre-Olympic run by breaking her own short program world record at the 2022 European Championships. Though any of the three Russian skaters could take home gold in Beijing (Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova won silver and bronze, respectively, at the European Championships), 15-year-old Valieva has to be seen as the favourite with her combination of soaring quad jumps and beautiful artistry.
Sport: Cross-country skiing
If you haven’t watched Jessie Diggins’s Olympic gold medal-winning relay finish recently, go ahead and do that now – trust me, it’s worth it. Diggins and her teammate Kikkan Randall won Team USA’s first Olympic cross-country gold medal in that race, but even before that memorable moment, Diggins was making a name for herself in cross-country skiing. She’s the most decorated US cross-country skier in world championship history, and in 2020 became the first North American to win the Tour de Ski (a cross-country skiing event modeled after the Tour de France). Expect to see Diggins in both individual and relay events in Beijing.
Sport: Short track speed skating
Maame Biney won our hearts in 2018 with her infectious smile and clear love for the sport of short-track speed skating, and she’s coming into 2022 faster than ever. Biney placed 14th in PyeongChang after becoming the first Black woman to compete on a US Olympic short track team, and she recently told POPSUGAR that, much as she would love to get on the podium, she plans to enjoy the Olympic experience more than anything. “I think just going to the Olympics and doing as best as I can and just proving to myself that I can do it is a goal for me.”
Sport: Ice dance
Coming off their second straight national title, Madison Chock and Evan Bates have all the momentum they need to make Beijing their best Olympic showing yet, following eighth and ninth place finishes in 2014 and 2018. Chock and Bates are known for their difficult, creative lifts and the intricate storylines that they bring to the ice, usually accompanied by contemporary music; this year, the pair went with Billie Eilish for their rhythm dance and Daft Punk for their alien-themed free dance. (Fun fact: Chock also designs their costumes.) This feels like the year for Chock and Bates, so make sure you’re watching when they take the ice.
Sport: Snowboard cross
It’s unfortunate that Lindsey Jacobellis is remembered for the fall that cost her gold at the 2006 Olympics, because the snowboard cross veteran is just about the most successful athlete the sport has seen. Jacobellis is a five-time world and 10-time X Games individual champion, and Beijing will represent her fifth (!) Olympics. She hasn’t made it onto the podium since finishing second in 2006, but came painfully close with a fourth-place finish in PyeongChang. Jacobellis grabbed two third-place finishes in early January competitions, though, so she’s heading into Beijing with confidence on her side.
Sport: Snowboarding (Slopestyle)
Slopestyle entered the Olympic Games in 2014, and no one but Jamie Anderson has won it since. (She tacked on a big air silver in 2018 for good measure.) Even that doesn’t fully capture her dominance of the discipline. Anderson has won more slopestyle gold medals at the X Games than any other athlete, which has helped to make her the most decorated woman in the history of X Games – she has 20 medals total. It’s not very often that Anderson misses a podium, so we’re expecting big tricks out of the two-time gold medalist in Beijing.
Kaillie Humphries is already a decorated Olympian, but this will be her first year competing for Team USA. Humphries, originally from Canada, is no longer competing for her home country due to the abuse and harassment she alleges she faced from her coach on the Canadian team. Humphries has won three world titles since switching to Team USA, including two in the two-woman bobsled discipline. She officially became a naturalized citizen in December 2021, making it possible for her to represent the US in Beijing.
Sport: Ice hockey
As a member of the Wahnapitae First Nation, part of the Ojibwe First Nation, Abby Roque is the first Indigenous woman hockey player to be a part of Team USA – and she’ll do it with a team that, for the first time in 20 years, is defending an Olympic gold medal. Roque, a center, is in a good position to help them do just that. The 24-year-old is coming off of a standout college career at the University of Wisconsin and is already surrounded by some major hype. Teammate and four-time Olympian Hilary Knight, who has said, “I think she’s going to be the best player in the world. Plain and simple.”
Elana Meyers Taylor
Elana Meyers Taylor has medaled at all three Olympics she’s been a part of, in addition to racking up more bobsled world cup medals than you can comfortably count. Most recently, she broke a track record in a monobob (single-person bobsleigh) race this past December, en route to her third gold in four monobob world cup events. At 37, it’s clear that Meyers Taylor is as hungry as ever to win gold, and it can’t hurt that she has a little extra motivation this year. Meyers Taylor gave birth to her first child in 2020 and said last year, “I want to show Nico that you can persevere through anything. I want him to go out there and chase any dream he has without fear.”
Sport: Ice dance
Madison Hubbell and ice dance partner Zachary Donohue finished just off the podium at the 2018 Olympics, and it seemed to spur them to new heights in the seasons that followed. The pair won their first world championships medals in 2018, 2019, and 2021 (two silvers and a bronze in between), along with three national championship titles in the same years, fostering a friendly rivalry with fellow top-tier Americans Chock and Bates along the way. Along with her skillful skating, Donohue is known for her ability to emote on the ice; watch the pair’s “Hallelujah” free dance from last season to see for yourself. The pair will be retiring after this season, so expect them to leave it all on the ice.
Sport: Ski jumping
Meet Anna Hoffman, the newest addition to the Team USA roster. The 21-year-old officially became an Olympian on Jan. 24, when another country couldn’t fill one of its quota spots for ski jumping. That opened up a place for an American woman, and cleared the way for Hoffman to qualify for Beijing. That will make her the only US woman ski jumper competing at the 2022 Olympics, and Hoffman called it an “honour” to represent her country. “This has been a lifelong endeavor and I could not be happier,” she told USA Nordic. “It is so surreal to finally be able to achieve this dream.”
Sport: Long track speed skating
At 49, Claudia Pechstein will become the oldest Winter Olympian in history when she takes the ice in Beijing, and what a career it’s been. Pechstein competed in eight Olympics and has won five gold medals and nine medals total, mostly in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter events. Of her soon-to-be record-breaking Olympic appearance, Pechstein told the “Associated Press,” “It’s for me more than the gold.”
Becca Hamilton is heading to her second Olympic Games, and will once again compete in both the women’s team and mixed doubles competitions in PyeongChang. (Her mixed doubles partner? Matt Hamilton, a member of the gold medal-winning men’s team in 2018.) As part of Team Peterson on the women’s side, Hamilton won a bronze medal at the 2021 world championships and will be carrying that momentum into a tough competition in Beijing.
Sport: Snowboarding (Slopestyle, big air)
Making her Olympic debut in 2018, Hailey Langland notched sixth place and 14th place finishes in slopestyle and big air, respectively, and is ready to make her mark in Beijing as part of a strong US snowboarding team. “‘Never give up’ is a saying you always hear, but it speaks true to anything you do,” Langland told POPSUGAR in 2020. “If you stop, how will you know how far you could go?”