These 17 Team USA Athletes Impressed In 2017 - And They're Only 17 Years Old!

By Karen Price | Dec. 29, 2017, 11:40 a.m. (ET)

Some are already Olympians, some will be making their Olympic debut in 2018 while some are still hopefuls, but all showed they have what it takes to be the next stars of Team USA.

From Nathan Chen announcing his arrival with figure skating history to snowboarder Chris Corning unleashing wicked moves on the slopes, here are 17 of the top 17-year-old Team USA stars from 2017.

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Hannah Aspden, Para Swimming

The youngest swimmer to medal for the U.S. at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 had another impressive showing on the world stage with a pair of medals this year at the World Para Swimming Championships. She won a silver medal in the S9 100-meter backstroke and swam to a fifth-place finish in the S9 100 freestyle before joining with Jessica Long, Sophia Herzog and Natalie Sims to win the world title in the 4x100 34-point free relay.

 

Maame Biney, Short Track Speedskating

Biney’s incredible year started with a bronze medal in the 500-meter in short track speedskating at the 2017 world junior championships in January, and ended with her becoming the first African-American woman to earn a spot on either the U.S. short or long track Olympic team. With a pair of victories in the 500-meter at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, the native of Ghana defeated Olympians Lana Gehring, Jessica Kooreman and Katherine Reutter-Adamek to cement her place on the team along with Gehring and Kooreman. She will also compete in the 1,500 in PyeongChang.

 

Jade Carey, Gymnastics

Carey was a newcomer on the senior elite gymnastics scene this summer, and she announced her arrival in a very big way with a pair of medals at the world championships. Three months after her first elite competition, and with wins on vault in all three meets at the senior level leading up to the world championships, Carey vaulted her way to a silver medal and then earned the same award on the floor exercise the next night, finishing just .033 points out of first place. 

 

Karen Chen, Figure Skating

Although Chen’s national figure skating title in 2017 came as somewhat of a surprise, her performance left no doubt that the teen deserved the gold medal. Just two years after earning bronze in her senior debut, Chen set a new U.S. record with her short program performance with a score of 72.82 and then landed six triples in her free skate to become the first skater not named Ashley Wagner or Gracie Gold, two Olympians who were both competing as well, to win the national title since 2011. Chen then finished fourth at world championships, helping the U.S. women earn the maximum three Olympics spots.

 

Nathan Chen, Figure Skating

A year ago, Chen — no relation to Karen — became the youngest American male figure skater ever to medal at the Grand Prix Final when he earned the silver medal in December 2016, and a month later he became the first ever to land five quadruple jumps in one performance en route to winning the title at the U.S. championships. Before turning 18 in May, the 2018 Olympic hopeful beat the reigning Olympic champion to win Four Continents and then finished sixth overall at the world championships to lead the U.S. men’s efforts. 

 

Chris Corning, Snowboarding

Corning has come up big in December and he has a spot on the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team to show for his efforts. After coming in second at the big air qualifying event at Copper Mountain in Colorado earlier this month, he put down a run at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge a week later that gave him a second-place finish and a ticket to PyeongChang. With moves including a switch backside 1260 and a backside triple cork 1440, only Canada’s Max Parrot scored better.

 

CJ Cummings, Weightlifting

Cummings didn’t medal at the weightlifting world championships, as many thought he might, but he did set a new senior, junior and youth American record in the 69 kg. category when he went 3-for-3 in snatch and lifted 141 kg. in his third lift of the night. Already a youth and junior world champion, Cummings showed he has what it takes to help lead a new wave of elite competitors in American weightlifting.

 

Julia Gaffney, Para Swimming

Gaffney only started swimming competitively in 2015, but it didn’t take her long to make an impact. This year marked her World Para Swimming Championships debut and she medaled in all six events she entered, proving her ability in a variety of strokes and distances. She came home with silver medals in the S8 50 freestyle, SM8 200 IM, S8 400 freestyle, S8 100 backstroke and SB6 100 breaststroke as well as a bronze medal in the S8 100 freestyle. 

 

Red Gerard, Snowboarding

Slight in stature, Gerard is a monster on the mountain and one of the top athletes in U.S. slopestyle snowboarding. He won the first Olympic qualifying event at Mammoth Mountain in California at the end of last season when he was still 16 and entered this season knowing that one more podium finish would likely get him a spot on his first Olympic team. He just missed the podium at the Dew Tour earlier this month, finishing in fourth place, but still has three more chances in January. On the world cup stage, though, Gerard finished second at a big air contest in Milan, Italy. He is ranked fifth on the world cup leaderboard, second only to Corning among American athletes.

 

Alexa Halko, Para Track and Field

Halko won the silver medal in the women’s T34 400-meter on the last night of the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships with a performance that was not only a personal best but also set a new American record with a time of 59.93 seconds. Halko, a three-time medalist at the 2016 Paralympics, also collected a silver medal in the 800-meter and a bronze medal in the 100-meter at the world championships, helping the U.S. reach a total of 44 medals.

 

Paige Hauschild, Water Polo

Hauschild made her senior national team debut as a high school sophomore in 2015, and this year she contributed three goals to the team’s fifth world championship title a month prior to her 18th birthday. It was Hauschild’s first appearance at the senior world championships. She was also part of the team that won a silver medal at the Intercontinental Tournament in 2017.

 

Chloe Kim, Snowboarding

Kim probably could have medaled at the Olympics in 2014 if she’d been old enough to compete. Instead, she’s spent the past few years building up her status as a favorite to medal — if not win — in women’s halfpipe snowboarding in 2018. She finished atop the 2017 FIS World Cup standings in halfpipe and, since turning 17 in April, has won her first two contests of the season – a Toyota U.S. Grand Prix stop in Copper Mountain, Colorado, and the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colorado. The wins qualified her for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. Among the many highlights in her bag of tricks, Kim is known for her ability to land 1080s, sometimes doing them back to back.

 

Maddie Mastro, Snowboarding

Mastro is just beginning to make her mark on the world of halfpipe snowboarding, and it’s already quite impressive. Shortly after turning 17, Mastro finished third at the U.S. Open in March behind Kim and Elena Hight and then started the current season with a third-place finish at Winter Games NZ, a second-place finish at the Copper Grand Prix — which put her in position to earn a spot on the Olympic team — and a fourth-place finish at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge.

 

Harrison Maurus, Weightlifting

Maurus had already proven himself among the junior ranks as a world champion there when the senior world championships came around in November, and there he proved himself to be a full-fledged weightlifting superstar. Maurus won bronze medals in the men’s 77 kg. total and clean & jerk to give the U.S. its first weightlifting world medal in 12 years. He’s also the first American man to medal at the world championships since two-time Olympian Wes Barnett in 1997.

 

Sydney McLaughlin, Track and Field

Already an Olympian in track and field, McLaughlin finished her high school career with a fourth consecutive 400-meter hurdles title at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor not long after breaking her own national and world junior record with a time of 54.03 seconds in the event. She was the first repeat winner of the Gatorade National Female Athlete of the Year award, had a sixth-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles at the USATF Outdoor Championships and, after turning 18 in August, enrolled at the University of Kentucky.

 

Ragan Smith, Gymnastics

An alternate on the 2016 Olympic team, Smith had her turn to shine this year and shine she did at the national championships. Smith earned her first U.S. all-around title and also added individual event titles in balance beam and floor exercise, taking the pressure of being the biggest name present in a transition year and casting it aside like nothing. Smith’s year wasn’t without disappointment, however, as she injured her ankle warming up for the all-around final at the world championships and had to withdraw after qualifying 0.001 out of first place. 

 

Laura Zeng, Rhythmic Gymnastics


Already one of the best rhythmic gymnasts in U.S. history, Zeng had the highest finish ever for an American competitor at the world rhythmic gymnastics championships this year. She was sixth in the all-around, beating her own previous high of eighth place in 2015. The three-time national champion also became the first American to compete in three world event finals at the same championships, finishing sixth in the ball final, sixth in clubs and fifth in the ribbon final. 

 

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.