With less than a month to go until the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, it’s time to get to know the Team USA athletes. We’ve already figured out which events to set our DVRs for, and now we’re looking at the athletes who bring skill, discipline, and character to the Games. After all, athletic ability may be what gets you in the race, but heart is what makes you worth watching once you’re there.
Each and every Team USA athlete has a story worth telling, but we’ve chosen nine buzzy women and men who you’ll definitely want to follow along their Olympic journey.
- Mikaela Shiffrin, skier
At 22, Mikaela Shiffrin has been lauded as the best slalom skier in the world. She has a gold medal from Sochi and three slalom World Championships already in her trophy case, but as “the best technical skier of her generation,” we can expect her to go for more in PyeongChang.
- Jamie Anderson, snowboarder
Jamie Anderson already has one gold medal under her belt from 2014’s slopestyle event in Sochi. But her journey hasn’t always been easy: As she previously told SELF, a ruptured spleen at age 17 has given her a “greater appreciation for my body and wanting to take better care.” She’s spent 10 years training for this moment. Also, here she is holding a goat, because why not?
- Gus Kenworthy, skier
Gus Kenworthy took home a silver medal in Sochi, but at the time felt burdened by his deepest personal secret. In 2015, he came out as gay in an interview with ESPN. Instead of impacting his career negatively as he feared, Kenworthy says his confidence and performance on the slopes has skyrocketed. So has his support from fans and sponsors. Two years later, he’s landing in South Korea, ready to compete as himself.
- Chloe Kim, snowboarder
Breakout star Chloe Kim is competing in her first Olympics at just 17. Kim won three gold medals at the Winter X Games before she turned 16; she was the first athlete to do so. She actually met the criteria to qualify for the 2014 U.S. Olympic halfpipe team in Sochi but couldn’t participate because she was too young (just 13 at the time), according to NBC Olympics. She’s considered the gold-medal favorite for PyeongChang and would set another record if she medals: She would become the youngest American to win an Olympic medal in snowboarding. Kim, whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from South Korea, told People that “it’s some crazy luck” that her first Olympics are going to be there. “And a lot of my relatives over there have never really seen me compete before, so I think it’s going to be pretty cool for everyone.”
- Lindsey Vonn, skier
If you know one name on Team USA already, it’s probably Lindsey Vonn. In the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Vonn became the first American woman to win gold for downhill skiing. Due to injuries, she had to withdraw from Sochi in January 2014, just a month before the games began. This year, she’s healed, back, and ready to defend her medals. You’ll be seeing lots of Vonn, a Team USA favorite, this season.
- Nathan Chen, figure skater
One of the world’s best figure skaters at age 18, Nathan Chen is expected to break records (or at the very least, bring home a medal) in PyeongChang. Already in 2018, Chen has become the first male figure skater to ever land five quadruple jumps during a performance. You know the famous triple axel? This is one more rotation than that. Keep an eye out for Chen’s mesmerizing twirls.
- Elana Meyers Taylor, bobsledder
When California native Elana Meyers Taylor started bobsledding in 2007, she didn’t even own a winter coat. In 2010, she took home a bronze medal as brakeman (back of the sled) with teammate Erin Pac, and in 2014 won silver as pilot (in the front of the sled) with teammate Lauryn Williams. After Sochi, she wrote on her blog about how devastated she was about not placing first. “So what happened? This is a question I will ask repeatedly for the next four years,” she wrote. She then says that she will use her feelings for motivation: “As I go on with my career, even if I win a gold medal I’m sure that I won’t forget the pain I feel right now, but if I am fortunate enough to win a gold medal, I know it will be because of this moment.” Meyers Taylor has also made history: She was the first black pilot to win an Olympic medal, the first woman to win medals as both pilot and brakeman, and the first U.S. woman to win two bobsled Olympic medals. Here’s to making that three.
- Maddie Bowman, skier
Maddie Bowman was the favorite going into Sochi, her first Olympic games—and she did not disappoint. Bowman took home the gold for skiing halfpipe at just 20 years old. She’s still a favorite, though NBC Olympics notes she has some stiffer competition this year. After tearing her ACL in 2015, she came back full speed the next season to win at X Games. Stay tuned as she tries to defend her title in PyeongChang.
- Alex and Maia Shibutani, ice dancers
Brother and sister Alex and Maia Shibutani, also known as Shib Sibs, both started competing at a young age as singles skaters. They officially teamed up in 2004 to compete as an ice dancing duo. It has turned out to be a great move: They’ve won numerous medals at national championships—including placing first two times—and took home silver in the 2016 world championships and bronze in 2017. They finished ninth at their first Olympic appearance in Sochi. Tune in for the ice dancing, and stay for the jams—the Shib Sibs have performed to popular music like Coldplay and a Michael Jackson medley.