Many of the U.S. athletes who competed in the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012 in Innsbruck, Austria, have gone on to excel in their sports since then, including becoming Olympians in 2014. They are also Olympic hopefuls and medal contenders as the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games draw closer.
As we gear up for the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games to begin on Feb. 12, here’s a closer look at just a few of those athletes and what they have accomplished since those 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Sarah Anderson, Curling
A fifth-place finisher at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, Sarah Anderson is hitting just the right marks as the 2018 Winter Games close in. She won a national junior championship and also a national mixed doubles title in 2015. She then placed fifth in both the world juniors and world mixed doubles with Youth Olympic Games teammate and boyfriend Korey Dropkin. Sarah and her sister Taylor already have a bit of TV celebrity in them; they appeared on Nickelodeon’s “Figure It Out” show.
Codie Bascue, Bobsled
In just four years, bobsledder Codie Bascue has moved up from a seventh-place finish at the 2012 Youth Olympic Games to pilot of one the United States’ three four-man bobsleds on the world cup circuit. Bascue made his world championships debut in both four-man and two-man in 2015. He has three top-20 finishes in four-man world cup races this season. It’s a path that has Bascue headed toward the PyeongChang 2018 Games. “For his age, he’s ahead of the game. He’s got a natural feel for the ice,” said U.S. coach Brian Shimer.
Aaron Blunck, Freestyle Skiing
Winning a bronze medal at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games helped freeskier Aaron Blunck reach the international stage. By 2014, he made his Olympic debut (seventh place in men’s halfpipe), scored multiple world cup medals and had an invite to the Winter X Games. He has finished among the top 10 each of the last three years in the AFP world rankings in men’s halfpipe. A back injury in 2015 slowed him, but Blunck was back at the top of the medals podium in the U.S. Grand Prix earlier this month in Park City, Utah. “Coming out here, it just feels good to know I put in the work and the work is finally paying off from the injury,” Blunck said.
Summer Britcher, Luge
Less than four years after Summer Britcher won a gold medal at the Winter Youth Olympic Games, she reached No. 1 on the women’s luge world cup tour. After a winning a gold medal in the team relay and finishing fifth in women’s singles in Innsbruck, she won a silver medal in the team relay two years later at the junior world championships and also made her Olympic debut, finishing 15th in women’s singles in Sochi, Russia. This season, she rose to No. 1 in the world cup rankings and missed a podium finish in the 2016 world championships by just one spot, finishing fourth in the women’s sprint. She enters the final two events of the 2015-16 world cup season in second place.
Patrick Caldwell, Cross-Country Skiing
Patrick Caldwell, a bronze medalist in the cross-country skiing/biathlon mixed nation relay at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, won a junior national championship in 2014 and has climbed his way to a spot on the national team. Caldwell won his first USSA Super Tour race of the season on Feb. 6 in Craftsbury, Vermont, winning the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle by more than 37 seconds. Caldwell, a 2018 Olympic hopeful, will compete in the FIS Junior/U23 World Ski Championships in late February in Rasnov, Romania.
Sean Doherty, Biathlon
It didn’t take Sean Doherty long to make it from the Winter Youth Olympic Games to the Olympic Winter Games. After winning a bronze medal in Innsbruck, Doherty at 18 became the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team in Sochi and finished 16th in the team relay. One year after the Youth Olympic Games, he won a gold medal and two silver medals at the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships, becoming the first U.S. biathlete to triple medal at a world championship. He equaled that feat in the 2016 junior worlds, winning a gold medal in pursuit, and silver and bronze medals, and ending his career at the junior worlds with 10 medals. He is hoping to earn the United States’ first Olympic medal in biathlon in 2018 in PyeongChang
Korey Dropkin, Curling
A bronze medalist in mixed nation doubles, Korey Dropkin, 20, won his third men’s junior national title in January. He also finished fifth at the 2015 world mixed doubles championships with Sarah Anderson. Dropkin is coming off a sixth-place finish in the 2015 U.S. championships and is focused on qualifying for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. In addition to medaling in mixed doubles in Innsbruck, he placed fifth in the team competition. Dropkin is a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Jack Eichel, Ice Hockey
An incredible four-year stretch began for Buffalo Sabres star rookie Jack Eichel with the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, when he tied for the team lead in points with two goals and four assists. He went on in the next two years to win silver and gold medals at the U18 world championships. He was captain of the U.S. team in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship just months before leading Boston University to the NCAA championship game and then going to the Sabres as the second pick in the NHL Draft. “He’s got good charisma,” Jim Johansson, assistant executive director of USA Hockey, told the Buffalo News. “He really enjoys the pureness of the game and exudes that to all the people that are around.”
Ben Ferguson, Snowboarding
Ben Ferguson, a rising snowboarding star who medaled twice at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, won the superpipe silver medal at this year’s Winter X Games. It was his first X Games medal. Ferguson, who won the halfpipe and was second in slopestyle in Innsbruck, narrowly missed making the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. Among his top performances was a first-place finish in the Red Bull Double Pipe in 2015 in Aspen, Colorado.
Raychel Germaine, Luge
Raychel Germaine is a part of the impressive youth movement in USA Luge. She joined Youth Olympic teammates Summer Britcher and Tucker West at this year’s luge world championships and was one of three American women to finish among the top 10 in women’s singles in the U23 world championships. Germaine was 10th, trailing Britcher’s silver medal and Emily Sweeney’s fourth-place finish. Germaine’s season began with third- and fourth-place finishes in the fall seeding races, qualifying her for the USA Luge world cup team, and she finished seventh in her second world cup career start in Lake Placid, New York.
Arielle Gold, Snowboarding
Since winning a pair of silver medals at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, Arielle Gold has established herself as one of the top snowboarders in the world. Just 19 years old, Gold has medaled three times in five Winter X Games appearances, including winning a silver medal in this year’s women’s superpipe in Aspen, Colorado. The only two times she didn’t win a medal, Gold finished fourth. She won a junior world championship in 2013. A 2018 Olympic hopeful, Gold qualified for the 2014 Olympics, but she separated her shoulder during a training run in Sochi.
Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, Figure Skating
The sister-and-brother ice dancing team from Maryland finished just off the podium in fourth place at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games. Since then, their accomplishments include two wins in 2015 ISU Junior Grand Prix events. Twice they have advanced to the Junior Grand Prix Final. They have medaled at the last three junior national championships, including a pair of silver medals.
Tucker West, Luge
Along with Winter Youth Olympic Games teammates Summer Britcher and Raychel Germaine, Tucker West has emerged as one of the top rising athletes on the USA Luge national team. Two years after winning a gold medal in the team relay in Innsbruck, West made his Olympic debut in 2014 in Sochi at age 19, finishing 22nd. In December 2014, West won the Lake Placid world cup, becoming the first U.S. man to win a world cup since 1997. After winning the USA Luge start championship in fall 2015, he won a silver medal in the Lake Placid world cup and finished sixth in the world championships, capturing a gold medal in the U23 worlds at the same time in men’s singles. The sport began for West in 2002, when he watched luge on TV during the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games and soon his dad built a backyard luge course for him at their home in Connecticut.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1990. He is Olympics editor and Assistant Sports Editor at the Cape Cod Times in Massachusetts. Bowker has written for TeamUSA.org since 2010 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.