Eight athletes must see before Milan-Cortina 2026

Skiers Shaun White will not be returning for another Winter Olympics. So does the Dutch speed skating legend Ireen Wust and Sven Kramer. Kamila Valieva probably don’t want to think about another Olympics for a long time. But the countdown to the next edition – in Milan and Cortina, Italy, in 2026 – begins on Sunday, the moment the Olympic flame goes out in Beijing. Who will be the stars then? The New York Times reporters who covered the Beijing Olympics offer a glimpse into the future.

No one has had a better time at the 2022 Olympics than American figure skater Alysa Liu, at 16 years old, the youngest athlete to compete for the US team in Beijing.

She shopped in the athletes’ village mall again and again, playing basketball with the Canadians (and knew it was an underhand, not overhand, that was the most effective. ) and hanging out with figure skating friends she’d never met in a sense. because of the pandemic.

“I can’t believe how much fun it is here!” Liu said. “I’m very happy!”

She’s also happy on the ice. In the women’s individual event, she slipped two clean shows, smiling from start to finish. She finished seventh in the women’s individual event and was the top American.

Liu, the two-time national champion from Richmond, California, was surprised that this turned out to be a good Games for her, she said, after she placed the lowest in the match. She injured her hip in 2020, and it took a while for her to relearn her triple jump.

Liu still doesn’t know if she will train for a second Olympics. College is approaching and she has other interests, including speaking out for LGBTQ rights and fighting racism. But her skating is still on the rise, so it’s very tempting to stick around here, she said.

The question is, will her body be able to endure this extreme sport long enough to compete for another four years?

– Juliet Macur

The first medal-winning event for skiing at the Beijing Games was in women’s skateboarding. Maybe it’s too early for 17-year-old Japan’s Kokomo Murase.

But 2026, when she’s 21, might be the right time.

Murase is part of a wave of Japan that is flocking to skiing. She’s been a dominant force in the sport for the past two years, but hasn’t been able to convert that into a major Olympics – at least in the gymnastics, where she’s 10th.

Nine days later, in high spirits, she quietly won the bronze medal, behind only Anna Gasser of Austria, the top donkey pitcher of the past few years, and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand, who won. got the gold medal in the ugly sport that Murase could imagine. for herself.

“I want to vent this frustration into the next Olympics to win a gold medal,” she wrote on Instagram.

Her biggest contest – everyone’s biggest contest – probably comes from Japan. At the Winter Olympics, 20-year-old Reira Iwabuchi finished fourth in air fourth and fifth in light athletics. Sena Tomita, 22, won bronze in the semifinals and her sister, Ruki Tomita, 20, came in fifth.

Japan’s qualifying round was bigger in the men’s, where Ayumu Hirano won gold in the half-pipe. Japan has four finalists, although hopes of winning a podium spot have been dashed. Add in Hiroaki Kunitake’s fourth place in the big air, and Takeru Otsuka’s top 10 performance in the sloppy and big air categories, and that’s making a Japanese medal in 2026.

But if there’s one name to keep in mind, let it be Kokomo Murase. She thought ahead.

– John Branch

All eyes were on Mikaela Shiffrin at the start of the giant race, but when she crashed, Nina O’Brien quickly rose to become the top American in the race. After the first run, 24-year-old Californian O’Brien came in sixth, within screaming distance from the podium.

On the second run, O’Brien chopped his turn, racing like someone ready to move up. About 20 yards from the finish line, O’Brien’s ski team caught the final gate and she flew over the top of her skis and tumbled in the snow. There was a scream, and a rush of doctors. O’Brien’s tibia stuck to her ski sock. It was broken. So did her fibula.

“Breaking,” she said of the experience.

O’Brien was one of a number of American skiers who attended Dartmouth College. It’s not a typical route to the Olympics and the World Cup circuit, but she’s been on the right track lately. She finished last season with 15th in the giant slalom, her best finish to date.

Horrible accidents and horrific injuries are endemic to Alpine skiing. Around the World Cup there was no shortage of skiers who came back from such a disaster and ended with Olympic medals hanging from their necks. Maybe in four years, O’Brien will be one of them.

– Matthew Futterman

Athletes who drink beer tend to peak in their late 20s and early 30s. The biggest stars of 2022, two Marte Roeiseland gold medalists and three Johannes Boe gold medalists, are all Norwegian, aged 31 and 28.

So what do we do about Elvira Oeberg? In Beijing, she won the silver medal in the sprint and trailed behind the incomparable Roeiseland and teammates to win the relay gold with Sweden. A couple of misses gave her a chance to win an extra medal in the individual event.

Pretty good game, isn’t it? Well, there are plenty of biathlon fans who see even bigger things to come in 2026. Because Oeberg is only 22 years old.

She won her first World Cup event only in December. If she keeps getting better, who knows? While a biathlon is an event where disaster could strike at any moment with some poor shooting, Oeberg seems like a pretty solid bet for a lot of gold.

Oeberg and her sister, Hanna, revived the Swedish women’s biathlon. When Hanna won a gold medal in 2018, it was the country’s first for women in 12 years.

While Hanna, now 26, is still far from done, Elvira seems poised to peak at 26 in 2026. (And why not 32 in 2030?)

– Victor Mather

Italy isn’t exactly known as a powerhouse in the sport of curling, but Stefania Constantini is helping her country move in that direction.

Win after victory, Constantini wowed billiard fans around the world – but especially in Italy – in mixed doubles. She and her partner, Amos Mosaner, stood out: For one, at 6 feet 6 inches, Mosaner is by far the tallest on the ice. They are young (she is 22, he is 26). And they’re really, really good.

In one sense, their success seemed inevitable: Constantini was the captain of the Italian women’s national team, which failed to qualify for the Olympics. Before the Olympics, she was still working as a salesperson at a North Face store.

Constantini was hailed as unbelievable and deadly accurate. She and Mosaner beat one opponent after another: the United States, Great Britain, China, Sweden, Norway. After each victory, she talks about wanting to improve the reputation of curling in Italy, knowing full well that in four years the Winter Olympics will take place in Milan and her hometown, Cortina d’Ampezzo .

Looks like it worked: She was greeted on her return like a hero, huge bouquets of flowers placed in her hands as the crowd cheered. She and Mosaner were undefeated, winning their country’s first championship: Italy now has an Olympic medal in snooker and it’s gold.

– Rick Rojas

River Radamus, who turned 24 in the Beijing Olympics, is the youngest member of the U.S. men’s Alpine team to compete in the Olympics. He was not attracted by his first appearance at the Olympics, nor did he want to fit in. Instead, he dyed his hair blonde in the pattern of a snow leopard and did so on purpose.

“I can’t take myself too seriously,” Radamus said. “It’s like a statement.”

It’s an attitude that Radamus has adopted over and over again at the Olympics, and it has served him well. The son of two longtime national sledding coaches, he has one of the brightest futures on the American Alpine team, and he proved it by coming close to winning a medal. bronze in the men’s slalom tournament in Beijing.

Racing in a blizzard of snow, Radamus seemed encouraged by the fact that much of the field was distracted. Despite finishing ninth in the massive slalom standings of this season’s World Cup, Radamus is fourth in Beijing, just 0.26 seconds behind bronze medalist Mathieu Faivre of France. His second run consisted of two small slips in the middle of the racecourse. They don’t bother Radamus.

“They are mistakes of aggression rather than terrorism,” he said.

Raised in Colorado, Radamus was a three-time first-time gold medalist at the Youth Olympic Games in 2016 and has developed a reputation as a major event racer. He has been compared to two-time Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety, a mentor and former teammate who has also been in brilliant form in his 20s. At this season’s World Cup inaugural race. in Sölden, Austria, which has been notable for the sport’s return to Europe, Radamus, who has struggled to achieve top heavyweight results in multiple World Cup races, finished in first place. beautiful friday.

At the finish line, one of the first things he did was take off his helmet to reveal his snow leopard hairstyle.

– Bill Pennington

When her toe poked over the finish line and her time flashed across the board, Femke Kok knew her Olympics were over. She finished fourth in the women’s 500-meter speed skating race, with some of the fastest skaters in the world still in action. Two hands quickly cover the face; “I didn’t feel like I could show my worth,” she later Written on Instagram.

Her final place was sixth, two tenths of a second ahead of medals. In acceleration, profits are good, and that is hard to beat. However, from a different angle, Kok’s Games has been a huge success. She made her Olympic debut at the age of 21, and she’s trying to do what only another Dutch woman has ever done despite the dominance of Dutch speed skating: win a 500 meter medal.

Dutch skater who has won at least one medal in all but three races at the Olympics. But while they have many competitors in the middle and long distances, the short distances are run by skaters from Japan, the United States, China and other countries. Focusing on sprints, Kok won’t have the opportunity to pile up Olympic medals like compatriots Ireen Wüst and Sven Kramer.

But she will have another chance, and perhaps several, to open up a new path. Her opponents should be worried.

– Kevin Draper

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/20/sports/olympics/winter-olympics-athletes-2026.html Eight athletes must see before Milan-Cortina 2026

Fry Electronics Team

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