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Ten must-watch snowboarders and skiers at the Beijing Winter Olympics

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The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are set to kick off with an opening ceremony scheduled for Feb. 4. The world’s top athletes will descend upon the Olympic Village for the two-week competition, all in pursuit of a spot on the podium.

The Games’ skiing and snowboarding events in particular will feature some of the most exciting rivalries, compelling figures and heated contests.

Here are 10 snowboarders and skiers to keep an eye on during the Beijing Winter Olympics:

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1. Chloe Kim

Chloe Kim is one of Team USA’s biggest stars as the heavy favorite to take home gold in the women’s snowboard halfpipe. Beijing will mark Kim’s second consecutive Olympics after she clinched gold in 2018 at the PyeongChang Games at just 17 years old. Now 21, Kim is dominating the competition heading into February’s Winter Olympics, winning every event she has entered since 2021. In Beijing, look out for Kim to throw down a run featuring two 1080s with her signature big air.

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2. Mikaela Shiffrin

Returning for her third Olympics, Mikaela Shiffrin is looking to become the most decorated American alpine skier in Olympic history. The Colorado native currently holds three medals to her name, taking home gold in the slalom in Sochi 2014 and gold in the giant slalom and silver in the alpine combined in PyeongChang. Shiffrin has been racking up World Cup titles in the run-up to Beijing, solidifying herself as a favorite in the slalom and giant slalom and a challenger in every other downhill event. At just 26 years old, Shiffrin is expected to dominate the Winter Olympics’ podium once again as she competes in five events.

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3. Petra Vlhová

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhová is one of Shiffrin’s greatest rivals in the slalom and giant slalom, locking up the World Cup season title heading into the Winter Games. Already considered the greatest skier out of Slovakia, Vlhová hopes to add an Olympic medal to her growing resume. If anyone is going to spoil Shiffrin’s gold-medal run in Beijing, it may just be the 26-year-old Vlhová.

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4. Eileen Gu

Team China’s Eileen Gu is flying high as one of the host country’s star athletes. The California-born free skier has competed for China since 2019, winning gold in the halfpipe and slopestyle events at the 2021 World Championships. At 18 years old, Gu will make her Olympic debut in Beijing, competing in halfpipe, big air and slopestyle. A force on the slopes and an iconic cultural figure in China, Gu is set to make a splash at the Winter Games and potentially emerge as an international superstar.

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5. Sara Takanashi

Sara Takanashi is back for her third Winter Games, looking for gold after capturing bronze at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. The Japanese ski jumper has shattered almost every record in her sport, collecting 61 World Cup victories, the most ever by a skier. The 25-year-old has also earned a spot on the podium in a staggering 110 of her 167 World Cup appearances. Now all that’s left for Takanashi to accomplish is an Olympic gold, which has eluded the star up to this point.

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6. Charlotte Bankes

Charlotte Bankes is an Olympic veteran, competing in Sochi and PyeongChang, but Beijing will mark the snowboarder’s first Games representing Great Britain. The 26-year-old competed for France after moving to the country as a toddler before switching her affiliation to Great Britain in 2018. As the 2021 World Snowboard Cross Champion, Bankes is expected to make a run for gold in the event at Beijing.

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7. Lara Gut-Behrami

Swiss skier Lara Gut-Behrami is in top form ahead of Beijing, challenging Shiffrin, and the rest of the field, throughout the World Cup season. The 30-year-old is no stranger to Olympic competition, capturing gold in downhill during the 2014 Games. Winning gold in the super-g and giant slalom at the 2021 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, Gut-Behrami is one to watch, specifically in her most successful discipline, the super-G.

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8. Ester Ledecká

Ester Ledecká enters Beijing hoping to top a remarkable and historic PyeongChang Olympic Games. In 2018, the Czech athlete shocked the world when she captured gold in snowboarding’s parallel giant slalom and alpine skiing’s super-G, becoming the first woman Winter Olympian to win in two different sports in the same Games. The 26-year-old will compete in both disciplines in Beijing as a heavy favorite in snowboarding and a fierce challenger in alpine skiing.

(Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

9. Sofia Goggia

Sofia Goggia arrives in Beijing as the reigning Olympic downhill champion, ready to defend her title. The Italian skier won seven World Cup downhill races before crashing during a Jan. 15 competition, the longest streak in women’s skiing in 40 years. In Beijing, Goggia is expected to be a force in downhill and the super-G as well as the other alpine disciplines.

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10. Lindsey Jacobellis

After a series of narrow defeats in her previous four Olympic Games, Lindsey Jacobellis will be looking for redemption in Beijing. The American snowboardcross athlete nearly clinched gold at the 2006 Torino Olympics, throwing a celebratory method grab just before the race’s finish line, which caused her to fall and allowed her competitor to win the event. Jacobellis left Torino with silver, her best Olympic result, falling off the podium in the following three Games. In Beijing, Jacobellis will hope to secure the elusive gold medal in her fifth Olympic appearance.