The Olympics are a great generator of breakout stars. The athletes generally only gain major attention every four years, meaning new potential stars are coming onto the scene all the time. Even older athletes are finding success in the Olympics after battling obscurity and other obstacles earlier in their careers.
Here are 10 star athletes whose presence at the PyeongChang Olympics have gained them newfound fame and support.
1) Chloe Kim
It takes more than dominance in your sport to become a true Olympic breakout star — you must have a personality, too. Chloe Kim, gold medalist in the women’s snowboard halfpipe, has both in spades. Kim flew to gold in the halfpipe event, then tweeted her way into our hearts with a series of extremely relatable food tweets. That personality should serve her well, and given that she’s just 17 years old, we should be seeing her at future Winter Olympics for years to come.
2) Maddie Rooney
NBC analyst Tanith White used some unfortunate wording when discussing the Shibutani siblings’ performance at the Olympics on Monday.
White was talking about Alex and Maia Shibutani — the American brother and sister figure skating team — and mentioned a potential weakness. She referred to it as a “chink in the armor.”
“Chink in the armor” is a phrase used to describe a weakness. But when it is used in the context of anybody who is Asian, it becomes questionable because the word is also a slur for Asian people.
White has received rave reviews for her commentary of the 2018 Winter Games and has not shown any hostility or ill feelings towards the Shibutanis. It’s quite clear that she did not have any malicious intent and really just used some lazy and poor phrasing. That has not stopped some from reacting negatively towards the wording.
For now, the matter has not received much attention unlike when an employee was fired for doing the same thing.
The 2018 Winter Olympic Games are underway, and it’s time to familiarize yourself with some U.S. athletes you need to root for. Here’s a look at 15 of the most important U.S. athletes competing at the Winter Games and what they hope (and many believe) they can accomplish.
15. Kelly Clark, snowboarder
34-year-old Kelly Clark is no stranger to Olympic competition, having competed in every single Winter Games since 2002. She won halfpipe gold in 2002 and then brought home bronze in the same event in both 2010 and 2014. Clark is also a one-time Winter Dew Tour gold medalist, one-time New Zealand Winter Games gold medalist ,and a five-time Winter X Games gold medalist. Her wealth of experience not only puts her ahead of the competition, but becomes exceptionally valuable for Team USA as a whole.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to represent my country to the rest of the world, to represent snowboarding and women, it’s been one of the greatest privileges of my life,” Clark told PEOPLE. “And it’s really fun as an athlete because you work four years for a 30-second halfpipe run, so you really get to see what you built. It’s really a rubber-meets-the-road type of situation.”
14. Bradie Tennell, figure skater
Though the Winter Olympics are sometimes looked at as the “little brother” of the Summer Games — there’s no basketball, track and field, or gymnastics! — the events always prove to be entertaining.
And though there’s one extra knock on the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Games — NHL players won’t be competing — it’s all but certain Americans will still find themselves glued to the action. NBC’s coverage of the 2014 Sochi Games averaged 21.4 million viewers, which is a number comparable to the viewership of an early-round NFL playoff game or a much-hyped regular season game, an impressive feat considering the Games span 17 nights.
With the competitions based around less-heralded sports such as curling, speed-skating, and snowboarding, there are always a few breakout stars. In the 2014 Sochi Games (can you believe it’s been four years?), the U.S. had T.J. Oshie, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Sage Kotsenburg — not to mention the incredible commentary of Johnny Weir.
With this year’s Games less than one month away (they’ll run Feb. 9-25), we thought some of you could use a primer on a handful of the key United States athletes who will compete in South Korea. Here are 10 home-grown athletes who will likely dominate NBC’s coverage.
1. Lindsey Vonn, Skier