by Rob Joyce
Have you noticed Americans disagree on, well, everything? Sports, politics, the color of the sky, if there’s an opinion one way, there are five screaming heads to dissent. One general point of consensus, though, is the Olympics, where everyone is rooting for Team USA. And with every Olympiad comes along a handful of athletes that become household names in sports with which we are otherwise largely unfamiliar. As all eyes turn to Pyeongchang, who are the names on Team USA that could take home gold and write their names in the history of American Olympians?
The only veteran on our list, Anderson won a gold medal in the slopestyle in 2014 in its inaugural Olympic competition. A recognizable name for the better part of a decade, the 32-year-old could cement her place in history with a couple of wins. One gold would make her the first woman to earn two at the Olympics in snowboarding; two golds would be a record for any snowboarder, male or female.
Medal or not, the 17-year-old Biney’s story is remarkable. Born in Ghana, Maame (pronounced MAH-may) came to the U.S. when she was five with her father and is now the first African-American woman to qualify for the Americans in speed skating. While she’s also racing in the 1,500 meters, she’s the U.S. favorite to medal in the 500. She’s on a similar career path as legend Bonnie Blair, who qualified for her first Games at age 19, though she didn’t medal, eventually won five Olympic golds in her decorated career.
The 18-year-old has been bred for this moment for years. He won the U.S. novice championship at age 10, had a record-setting junior championship performance at 12 and then won a pair of national championships. Evan Lysacek is the only American male to win gold in the last seven Olympics, but Chen could join him, in the process becoming the youngest male to take first since Dick Button in 1948. He’s a star in the making, and he could shine in the world spotlight.
The three-time X-Games champion is just 17-year-old, but is primed to compete right away in the snowboarding halfpipe and slopestyle. In fact, the only reason she didn’t qualify for the 2014 Sochi Games is because, at 13, she was too young. Now she has a very good chance to medal in South Korea, her parents’ homeland, in what should be the first of many Olympic Games for this prodigy.
Lindsey Vonn is the most recognizable name in skiing, and for good reason. But with enough time Shiffrin might surpass the legend. The 22-year-old already took home a gold in the slalom in Sochi and has a legitimate chance to take home three golds in Pyeongchang, in the slalom, giant slalom and alpine. Now she’s branching out to the speed disciplines, coming off a World Cup win in downhill back in December.