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Athletes to watch in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

Athletes to watch in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics
Posted at 8:24 PM, Aug 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-08 13:59:14-04

Thanks to the COVID-19 postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games, the 2022 Beijing Olympics are already just six months out.

Look ahead with a refresher on a handful of the world's top winter athletes...

Abby Roque, Hockey (USA)

Abby Roque will be making her Olympic debut for the USA women’s hockey team in the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games in what should be appointment television. Roque is one of the most decorated college hockey players in recent history, as her four-year career at Wisconsin saw her tally 170 points in 155 games. She was named the WCHA Offensive Player of the Year twice, and in her senior season, she was named USCHO Division-I Women’s Player of the Year.

Now, Roque will join forces with Team USA, a squad that will, for the first time in 20 years, enter the 2022 Beijing Olympics as the reigning gold medalists. She’s no stranger to international competition, despite 2022 being her Olympic debut, as she has already won two gold medals as a member of Team USA’s junior national team.

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Abby Roque #18 of Team Adidas speaks with the media during the Dream Gap Tour against Team Women's Sports Foundation at United Center on March 06, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.
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Conor McDavid, Hockey (Canada)

After the NHL ultimately decided in 2018 not to let its players participate in the PyeongChang Olympics, many of the world’s best hockey players will make their Olympic debuts in 2022 – and 24-year-old Conor McDavid may be the most intriguing name on the list.

The Edmonton Oilers’ center has long expressed his desire to represent Team Canada at the Olympic Games; prior to being selected with the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, he helped Canada’s U18 team win gold at the World Championships in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Now, McDavid should have the chance to lead Canada to another gold – only this time, at the highest level.

McDavid is considered one of the best hockey players in the world and has the hardware to back it up; in 2021, he became only the second player in NHL history to win the Hart Trophy by unanimous vote, joining Wayne Gretzky.

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Chloe Kim, Snowboarding (USA)

In the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, Chloe Kim showed the makings of a Team USA superstar. At just 17 years old, the snowboarder won a gold medal in the halfpipe, making her the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding medal. And the accomplishment came just three years after she won a silver medal in the 2014 X-Games – despite being just 14 years old – making her the youngest X-Games medalist.

Kim is the reigning Olympic Champion, World Champion and X-Games Champion in the halfpipe. In Beijing, at the age of 21, she'll have a chance to further cement her legacy.

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Gold medalist Chloe Kim (USA) celebrates after competing in the halfpipe event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Phoenix Snow Park.
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Mikael Kingsbury, Freestyle Skiing (Canada)

Mikael Kingsbury, one of the most decorated mogul skiers of all time, will take his talents to Beijing coming off a gold-medal moguls performance in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and a silver-medal moguls performance in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Kingsbury already holds the record for the most Freestyle World Championship medals of any male competitor in history; now, to solidify his legacy, he’ll look to take home his second straight Olympic gold.

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Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) celebrates winning gold on the podium in the freestyle skiing men's moguls final 3 during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Phoenix Snow Park.
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Charlotte Kalla, Cross-Country Skiing (Sweden)

Charlotte Kalla is a multi-event skiing star for Sweden that has earned nine Olympic medals in her career, including three golds in three different events (10-kilometer freestyle, Vancouver 2010; 4 x 5-kilometer relay, Sochi 2014; 15-kilometer skiathlon, PyeongChang 2018). She has won multiple medals in every Olympics she’s participated in and is regarded as Sweden’s most successful female cross-country skier of all time.

Kalla would be an athlete to watch under any circumstance, but perhaps none better than in the 2022 Olympics. At 34 years old, Kalla could very well hang up her skis and retire after Beijing – only time will tell if she can claim more medals on her way out.

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Charlotte Kalla (SWE) celebrates first place in the cross country skiing 2 x 7.5 km double pursuit during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Alpensia Cross-Country Centre.
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Yuzuru Hanyu, Figure Skating (Japan)

Yuzuru Hanyu stands alone atop the men’s figure skating ranks, and he’ll look to bolster his resume at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. The 26-year-old has dominated the sport since he first entered and boasts 17 non-Olympics medals to go along with two Olympic golds. He won the men’s singles competition at both the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games and the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games, and he’ll look to add a third gold to his collection in 2022.

Hanyu’s feats span far past the two most recent Olympic games. He became the first Asian men’s singles figure skater to win a gold medal in 2014, as well as the youngest male skater to win gold since 1948. Including his performances at non-Olympics events, Hanyu has broken world records 19 times.

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Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing (USA)

Mikaela Shiffrin is coming off back-to-back winter Olympic gold medals, having won the slalom gold in the 2014 Sochi Olympics followed by the giant slalom gold in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. Her first gold came in 2014, when she was just 19 years old – the youngest slalom champion in Olympic history.

She won four medals in the 2021 World Championships and will remain atop the list of skiers to watch in the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games. If her Olympic performance is anything like the last two, she won’t be hard to miss, either: she participated in multiple events in the past two Olympics, and she projects as a top-tier contender in slalom, giant slalom and combined events.

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Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) celebrates winning the silver medal in the ladies alpine skiing combined event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Jeongseon Alpine Centre.
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Pita Taufatofua, Cross-Country Skiing (Tonga)

Should he qualify for the Tongan skiing team, Pita Taufatofua has a chance to make history in the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games and become the first-ever athlete to participate in four-straight Olympic Games. That’s not four Winter Olympic Games, either — Taufatofua, a skier in the Winter Olympics and Taekwondo fighter in the Summer Olympics, has already become the first athlete to participate in three-straight (Rio 2016, Pyeongchang 2018, Tokyo 2020).

Taufatofua is known by many as the “Shirtless Tongan,” after generating attention as Tonga’s flagbearer for three-straight Opening Ceremonies. But he’s an athlete first, and he’ll hope to compete again as a freestyle skier in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

SEE MORE: 'Shirtless Tongan' Pita Taufatofua leads country during Parade of Nations

Natalie Geisenberger, Luge (Germany)

Natalie Geisenberger has completely dominated the luge in the past two Olympic Games. She won a gold medal in both the singles and team relay luge in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, then repeated her double-gold performance in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

It should go without saying that Geisenberger, a four-time gold medalist, is an athlete to watch in the Beijing Olympics. Plus, she is on the cusp of history: one more gold would make her the first athlete to win three straight gold medals in women’s luge.

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Natalie Geisenberger of Germany celebrates winning silver during the medals ceremony for the Women's Single Luge in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Medals Plaza.
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