Starting on Feb. 6, 2022, the quadrennial Winter Olympics were hosted in Beijing, China. The long-awaited sporting event brought people together from around the world to witness the greatest athletes compete in their respective winter sports. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Team USA’s athletes made historic impacts in the world of sports that deserve recognition.
Nathan Chen, Figure Skating
Nathan Chen was one of the headlining athletes for Team USA at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The young and inspiring 22-year-old Asian American figure skater made history when he won his first gold medal in the men’s figure skating event and set a new international figure skating world record in the men’s short program on Feb. 8. Many first-generation children, like me and Nathan Chen, have more opportunities available to us than our parents, who had to fight tooth and nail to find a job and support their families every day. Chen has proven that he is flourishing into something that will potentially help secure his parents’ future wellbeing at only 22 years old. It is inspiring to see a first-generation athlete, like myself, make history at such a young age.
Shaun White, Snowboarding
Shaun White is a veteran member of Team USA. He is an athlete that many looked forward to seeing compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics. After competing in five Olympics and winning gold medals in 2006, 2010 and 2018, it all came to an end with White’s final competition: the half-pipe in the Beijing Olympics. He gained attention at just 19 years old when he first competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics bringing home gold in the half-pipe. Although White finished fourth in his final Olympic run, for more than 20 years he has dominated the snowboarding competition. In 2006, he was the youngest snowboarder to compete in the Torino Olympics, and this year he was the oldest snowboarder to compete in the Beijing Olympics. I am truly in awe at the skill and finesse Shaun White has continuously shown in snowboarding. One of the many reasons why I love sports is being able to watch athletes dig deep and find their inner strength every time they face a challenge. Through his tenacity and drive Shaun White has proven that our minds and hearts are stronger than we think. His decision to retire from this competitive sport was a bit of a surprise to me because every time he fell or made a mistake, he always returned 10 times stronger than he was before. Thus, it did not come to my mind that he would want to step away forever. Shaun White will forever be remembered as the greatest snowboarder of all time.
Erin Jackson, Speed Skating
Speed skating was definitely not one of the many winter sports where Team USA expected a gold medal in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Team USA had not won this event since 1994, but that has now changed because of Erin Jackson. According to CBS News, Jackson was the first American to win the 500-meter speed skating event in 26 years and the first Black woman to ever win a gold medal in this event. Despite picking up ice skating five years ago, Jackson was relentless about learning speed skating. A surprising connection I made with Erin Jackson is that I myself picked up a sport just two years ago and decided to play competitively. Just like Jackson, my experience competing in different sports has provided me with the responsibility, moral values and skills to prepare myself for competing in another sport. Thus, to see her journey of picking up a sport just a couple of years ago and then making it into the Olympics and winning a gold medal is mind-blowing. Jackson’s newest title has proven that there don’t need to be any barriers when it comes to diversity in sports.
Chloe Kim, Snowboarding
At the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Chloe Kim became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold medal at just 17 years old. At the Olympics in 2022, she earned another title and made Olympic history as the first ever female snowboarder to win back-to-back snowboard half-pipe titles. She secured another gold medal in the halfpipe on Feb. 10. As an Asian American woman, sports have always been a part of my life, and I have to congratulate Chloe Kim for relentlessly working hard. Reaching this point in her career at such a young age and competing in the Winter Olympics at only 22 years old is incredible!
Alysa Liu, Figure Skating
Alysa Liu made her debut at the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing 2022. The 16-year-old Asian American figure skater became the youngest athlete in any sport to join Team USA at the Winter Olympics. I couldn’t help but enjoy seeing her shine, enjoy the surreal moment and have the time of her life on the ice. Liu is a teenager and the newest athlete to join the women’s figure skating short program. Although Liu did not secure a medal, she placed 8th under the ladies’ singles short program and 7th under the ladie’s singles Free Skating at her first Olympics. An athlete's perseverance to be a part of Team USA and represent their country illustrates their commitment, and Liu has very much proven that this year even at such a young age. Liu’s 2022 Winter Olympics debut is just the start of many other Olympics in her future.
Kaillie Humphries, Monobob
Kaillie Humphries left the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics with two titles. According to USA Today, the three-time Olympic medalist competed in her previous Olympic Games for Team Canada. Just a few months after gaining citizenship in America, Humphries won gold in her first competition representing the United States at the Olympics and in the process made history as the first-ever American to win the Women’s Monobob at the Olympic Games. While she may have competed for Team Canada in the past, I am grateful that Kaillie Humphries decided to continue her passion for Monobob while representing a different country. I hope her sacrifice is recognized and she receives support for her decision to compete for America. Since Humphries acquired such a title in the Women’s Monobob event, doors will open for other young girls and women in the Monobob. As Kaillie Humphries has begun a new chapter as a professional American athlete, I’m eager to see her prosper in the United States and win more medals in the next Winter Olympics.
By Hannah Taib, Staff Writer