Five Olympic returners going for gold at the Beijing Games

Ester Ledecká of Team Czech Republic races in the World Cup Women's Super G in January. (Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

When the 2022 Beijing Games kick off with the opening ceremony on Friday, some of the Winter Olympics’ brightest stars will be making their return.

Here are five to look out for as the Games get underway this week:

1. Ester Ledecká

Ester Ledecká made history in 2018 when she became the first athlete to win two gold medals at the same Winter Olympics in two different types of equipment (skis and snowboard). The Czech snowboarder and skier won the super-G in alpine skiing and then took home gold in the parallel giant slalom. Just the second woman to win Olympic gold in two separate disciplines, she was also the first to do it at the same Olympics.

Ledecká has continued to alternate between the two sports and remains the most dominant snowboard racer in the world. Since 2018, she has entered 14 World Cup competitions in snowboarding, finishing in the top three 13 times. While she hasn’t had as much success in skiing, she still finished in the top 10 in the World Cup standings in both 2020 and 2021. Ledecká will look to defend her gold medal beginning with the parallel giant slalom on Tuesday, Feb. 8.

2. Chloe Kim

One of the breakout stars in PyeongChang, Chloe Kim is the reigning Olympic champion on halfpipe. She became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold when she captured the title at 17 years old in 2018. Her near-perfect score of 98.25 points on her final run was almost 10 points ahead of second-place finisher Liu Jiayu. As if that wasn’t enough, she also became the youngest woman to ever land two 1080-degree spins in a row at an Olympics.

She took nearly two years off from the sport following her 2018 Olympic gold-medal run to tend to an ankle injury. But since returning in 2021, she’s won every competition she has entered in, including the 2021 X Games and the 2021 World Championships. In mid-January, she won the halfpipe event at the Laax Open, making her the heavy favorite entering Beijing. She’ll look to defend her halfpipe medal beginning Wednesday, Feb. 9.

(Harry How/Getty Images)

3. USA women’s ice hockey

In 2018, the U.S. women’s hockey team won gold for the first time since the 1998 Olympics, taking down Canada 3-2 in a shootout in the championship game.

While the Lamoureux sisters have since retired, many of the stars from that team are making their return in 2022, including captain Kendall Coyne Schofield and gold-medal winning goaltender Maddie Rooney. Stars Hilary Knight and Amanda Kessel are also back for what could be their final Olympics.

The U.S. team will look to repeat its gold-medal run, and avenge its overtime loss to Canada at the 2021 World Championships, starting Thursday against Finland.

4. Mikaela Shiffrin

One of the top skiers in the world, Mikaela Shiffrin is gunning for the podium once again in Beijing. She won gold in slalom at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and followed it up with a gold in giant slalom four years later. With 47 victories in World Cup slalom, she’s the winningest skier in a single alpine discipline in history, male or female.

Heading into her third Olympics, Shiffrin will look to medal in every skiing event in Beijing. She had an up-and-down World Cup season, coming back from a back injury and being diagnosed with COVID-19 while battling rival Petra Vlhová. But on paper, she’s a multi-medal threat. If she wins more than one medal in Beijing, she’ll pass Julia Mancuso as the most decorated American female Alpine skier. If she wins three, she’ll tie Bode Miller for the most Olympic medals by an American skier with six.

Her first event, giant slalom, gets underway on Sunday.

5. Arianna Fontana

Italian short track speed skater Arianna Fontana is headed into her fifth Olympics in Beijing, looking to build on her gold-medal performance in the 500m short track in 2018. With 45 European Championships medals and eight Olympic Games medals, she’s the most decorated female short track speed skater in Olympic history.

In PyeongChang, Fontana also won silver in the team event and bronze in the 1000m event, giving her an Olympic medal at every contested distance. She’ll look to add to her medal count in Beijing and further cement her place in history, beginning with the 500m heats on Saturday.