Who to Watch at the Olympics: Figure Skaters and More

Photo Courtesy of ostrava2017.eu || Jenny Ly ’18 writes that Evgenia Medvedeva, left above, is a must-see this Winter Olympics. 

Photo Courtesy of ostrava2017.eu || Jenny Ly ’18 writes that Evgenia Medvedeva, left above, is a must-see this Winter Olympics. 

Jenny Ly ’18

It’s finally time for the Winter Olympics, which will kick off in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 9. Team USA is sending the largest contingent of athletes to the Games, 242 in total, who will participate in all fifteen sports. As a busy Smithie does not have the time to watch all the events, I would suggest tuning in for figure skating. It is the perfect combination of theater, physicality and grace, not to mention mental fortitude and beautiful costumes. These are a few skaters whose stories (and social media) have captured my attention in the season leading up to the Olympics:

  1. Adam Rippon, USA, men’s singles event

Adam is a breath of fresh air and a confident, honest competitor. He is not only the U.S.’s first openly gay Winter Olympic competitor, but he is also one of the oldest in his discipline at 28. Although Rippon is not as technically strong as his teammate Nathan Chen, who has consistently thrown down quad after quad jump in competition, viewers will not be disappointed by Rippon’s interpretation and performance, which earned him gold at the 2016 U.S. Nationals.

Adam is tenacious and this is likely to be his only trip to the Olympics: When he dislocated his shoulder during his long program at Skate America, he put it back in place, and carried on to win second. Adam is a joy to watch. His sophisticated artistry and heart stands out in a field full of stiffer, stone-faced teens racing around the rink in preparation for the next impressive trick. In his free skate, Adam will be portraying the recovery of a bird with a broken wing, mirroring his own life experience when he broke his foot last year.

2. Evgenia Medvedeva, Russia, ladies’ singles event

Continuing with the theme of injury and recovery, Evgenia was undefeated since she came onto the scene in 2015, racking up gold medals left and right. However, she was sidelined with a stress fracture in her right foot, and when she returned to compete at the European Championships this January, she was beaten by fellow Russian Alina Zagitova by three points. I have high hopes that Evgenia will have fire in her belly after that defeat and will dominate the world stage once again. She is a professional storyteller out on the ice, and viewers can tell that she connects with her music. It also helps that Evgenia is rock-solid with jumping, when so many of her competitors choke or wobble on the ice. When I watch Evgenia, I never feel nervous that she may fall, and I can relax and enjoy the program.

3. As for the rest of the ladies:

I’ll be biting my lip as I watch Mirai Nagasu, another beautiful skater. Mirai is making a comeback after getting shafted by Ashley Wagner in the 2014 Olympics, and has learned the triple axel, a skill no one other lady will be doing. Newcomer Bradie Tennell pulled off an upset, winning gold at the 2017 U.S. Nationals by skating cleanly. Bradie has a lot of room to grow artistically, but she is young and it’ll be exciting to watch her at her first Olympics.

4. Maia and Alex Shibutani, or the “Shib Sibs”

I’m rooting for the Shibutanis because they’re young, hip, and making bank. They’re sponsored by Polo Ralph Lauren, Minute Maid, Tumi travel and many more companies, and they’re about my age! I admire their success. They’re also Asian, so I’m really feeling that representation.

They’re graceful dancers, and I think they’re bringing ice dance into the 21st century with their musical choices, whereas other teams stick to classical. In past years, they’ve chosen to skate to a mix of Frank Sinatra and Jay-Z, Coldplay, Michael Buble, and Michael Jackson.

Honorable mentions:

Gus Kenworthy is an American freestyle skier who won a silver medal in 2014 and is returning as an openly gay athlete. You might recognize his handsome face from a Head & Shoulders shampoo ad, United Airlines or any company who wants to market itself as in touch with the LGBTQ community.

Kenworthy is a role model to youngsters in extreme action sports and has professed that he’s proud to represent his country and the LGTBQ community.

Chloe Kim, 17-year-old Korean-American prodigy of freestyle snowboarding, who defies gravity with back-to-back 1080s. She is the heavy favorite to smash the competition in PyeongChang.