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The 2022 Winter Olympics officially kicked off on February 4 and will continue through this Sunday, February 20. In the first two weeks of competition records have been broken and storylines have enraptured us.
This is also the first time in 30 years that we’ve been able to draw on the memory of the electric Summer Games in such near hindsight—they were only 6 months ago.
And the Americans who were at the top of their sport in Tokyo are taking note of athletes showing their skill in Beijing.
Sprinter Gabby Thomas, who took home a bronze medal in the 200 meters in August, has been following alpine skiing closely. “I’m amazed by how poised and technically sound the athletes can be…while on skis,” she says. “It’s really cool to see how fast they can go downhill—of course, I love fast!”
Even when their Olympic journey doesn’t turn out as planned, admiration runs deep. “I love following athletes like Mikaela Shiffrin and Nina O’Brien. Win or lose, they’re inspirations,” says Thomas.
O’Brien was taken out of competition after suffering multiple leg fractures at the giant slalom on February 7. She has since made it back to the United States to continue recovering.
Shiffrin has been the topic of discussion after the 2014 slalom gold medalist DNF’d, two days after also falling during the giant slalom. (Those who followed the Summer Games might find the commentary about Shiffrin eerily similar to the toxic discussion that surrounded Simone Biles.)
There’s still time to catch Shiffrin compete. Tune in tonight to watch her in the downhill ski event. In her third Olympic Games, this will be the first time she’s entered the downhill race.
Elise Cranny, who took 13th in the 5,000-meter final in Tokyo, also loves the alpine skiing events. “Such an incredible combination of strength and speed, and I am so impressed they are able to find control ripping down the mountain at such fast speeds,” she says.
Meanwhile, Cranny has been on a tear of her own, setting the American indoor record in the 5,000 meters at the Valentine Invitational over the weekend in 14:33.17.
“We also loved watching the men’s big air and seeing Colby Stevenson win silver,” says Cranny, who has been watching the Games with her teammate Vanessa Fraser. “The tricks they are able to do mid-air while being able to stick the landing on skis or a snowboard is absolutely incredible.”
Stevenson is set to compete tonight in the men’s freeski slopestyle qualification.
The snowboard halfpipe—and watching Chloe Kim take gold—has also been a big highlight for the Olympic runners.
“I’ve really enjoyed watching Chloe Kim compete. It’s inspiring to see her be able to push through the pressure of going back to back,” says Karissa Schweizer, who also represented Team USA in the 5,000 meters. “Being able to compete with that kind of pressure is something I admire.”
Though these summer Olympians are no stranger to the pressure of performance, Cranny notes there is a difference that fascinates her. “My favorite part about watching the Winter Olympics is seeing athletes stand at the top of the mountain getting ready to fly down and do tricks through the air with what appears to be such a fearlessness in their pursuit. To me, that is so different than any sort of ‘fear factor’ we experience racing around a track, and I am fascinated by what is going through their minds at that moment before they start their event,” she says.