US snowboarder Chloe Kim leads YOG medal charge
The Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) have been a crucial stepping stone to PyeongChang 2018 for many athletes. We track the #YOGjourney of five leading competitors – will any of them come away with a medal?
For roughly 225 athletes, the road to the Olympic Winter Games began with an appearance at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG). The 2012 and 2016 Winter YOG have given invaluable experience to a generation of leading athletes, not to mention the chance of a prestigious Olympic medal – more than 100 athletes at PyeongChang have previously won at least one Winter YOG medal. Here, we look at five leading contenders to make it an Olympic medal double in PyeongChang.
American snowboarder Chloe Kim has cemented her place at the top of her sport since she carried her country’s flag and won two gold medals at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016. Kim actually qualified for the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 – but as she was just 13 years of age, she’s had to wait four years to make her Games debut. As an American of Korean heritage, her timing is perfect: “Competing in my first Olympic Games in the country where my parents came from is pretty insane. It should be a fun ride.”
Like Kim, Slovak slalom specialist Petra Vlhová also has a Winter YOG gold medal in her pocket, having won slalom gold at the first Games in 2012 at the age of 16. Vlhová made her Winter Olympic debut two years later in Sochi, and is currently enjoying the best season of her career. Her skills in both the slalom and the giant slalom give her two terrific chances to make the PyeongChang podium.
Petra Vlhová competes in the women’s giant slalom on Monday 12 February, and the women’s slalom on Wednesday 14 February.
Known to her friends as “Jacka”, Loelling made history by winning skeleton gold at the first ever Winter YOG six years ago. The German powerhouse has since gone on to win two Skeleton World Cups, and arrives at PyeongChang hotly tipped for a medal. Loelling celebrated her 23rd birthday on Tuesday, and will be hoping to give herself a perfect birthday gift by making it a gold.
Jacqueline Loelling competes in the women’s skeleton, which begins on Friday 16 February.
Cross-country skier Magnus Kim was born in Busan to a Korean mother and a Norwegian father – but in 2015, he chose to represent the Republic of Korea rather than Norway in competition, and so is making his Olympic Winter Games debut in his home nation. Kim won two gold medals and a silver at the Winter YOG in 2016, and has since gone on to build a promising career. Still only 19, he’s got a terrific future ahead of him.
Magnus Kim competes in the men’s cross-country skiing, which begins on Sunday 11 February.
The eldest of two British sisters competing in the freestyle skiing competition, Katie Summerhayes has high hopes of winning her country’s first-ever Olympic medal in this thrilling sport. She certainly has the pedigree: having carried her country’s flag at the inaugural Winter YOG in 2012, she competed in Sochi and won slopestyle silver at the World Championships in 2015. Can Summerhayes make it a winter to remember? Watch this space…
Katie Summerhayes competes in the women’s slopestyle on Saturday 17 February.
Other names to watch
Every Winter YOG athlete who has made it to PyeongChang has a great story to tell. Moroccan skier Adam Lamhamedi became the first African to win a Winter YOG skiing gold in 2012 and then carried his nation’s flag in Sochi: “I wanted to show people that it is possible for Africa to have a skier,” he says, “[and] I wanted to act as an ambassador.” Two South American skiers, Michel Macedo from Brazil and Michael Poettoz from Colombia, are both making their Olympic Winter Games debut after competing at the Winter YOG in 2016. And then there’s Beau-James Wells and Jackson Wells, two of four brothers from New Zealand who, incredibly, have all competed in freestyle skiing at the Games.
Off the field of play
The Winter YOG connection doesn’t end on the field of play. Many of the brilliant Young Reporters who have previously covered the YOG have travelled to PyeongChang and are reporting on the Games. And look out, too, for the inspirational Young Change-Makers who are fulfilling a variety of roles in PyeongChang – working everywhere from doping control to arrivals and departures. If you see any of them around the Games, say hi!