The Olympic Movement clearly touched luge athletes Summer Britcher and Tucker West five years ago in Innsbruck, Austria.
At the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012, Britcher and West won gold medals in the team relay as teens with Olympic dreams. Two years later, they arrived in Sochi for their Olympic debut in the 2014 Winter Games.
“The Youth Olympics really instilled the Olympic spirit into us from a young age,” said West, “which I feel that I’ve carried through the rest of my career so far.”
As the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games draw closer, Britcher and West are among around two dozen Youth Olympians who could make a run for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team, while West, Britcher, biathlete Sean Doherty, snowboarder Arielle Gold and freeskier Aaron Blunck are all Youth Olympians seeking their second Olympic Games.
“In Sochi I was not a medal contender,” Britcher said. “This isn’t modest; it’s just the truth. I was thrilled to compete and proud of my 15th-place finish. Now it is three years later, I’m three years stronger and three years hungrier for an Olympic medal. My goals are to make the 2018 Olympic team, have top-three start times in the Olympic race and have four consistent race runs. My dream is that these goals will culminate in an Olympic medal.”
Here’s a look at some of the other Youth Olympians who competed in 2012 in Innsbruck or 2016 in Lillehammer, Norway, and are now contenders for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team:
Sarah and Taylor Anderson, curling, 2012: Sarah joined her sister, Taylor, for the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, where they finished fifth. They followed that up with a runner-up finish in the 2016 world junior championships. Teaming with Cory Christensen and Jenna Haag, they will now attempt to qualify for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team.
Nik Baden, snowboarding, 2016: Baden narrowly missed making the U.S. Olympic Team in 2014 at age 16, and then strengthened his résumé with a silver medal in halfpipe at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games and a top-10 finish in slopestyle at the 2016 world championships.
Codie Bascue, bobsled, 2012: It took Bascue just two years after his seventh-place finish in the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games to make it to the world cup tour as a driver. His starts this season have included a fourth-place finish in the four-person bobsled in the Lake Placid World Cup, and a 10th-place finish in two-man in Lake Placid.
|Aaron Blunck competes in men's halfpipe skiing at the Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix on Feb. 5, 2016 in Park City, Utah.|
Aaron Blunck, freestyle skiing, 2012: Blunck charged into the international scene by winning a bronze medal in halfpipe at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, and he’s since notched two world cup wins and the 2017 X Games Aspen gold.
Sean Doherty, biathlon, 2012: A bronze medalist in the mixed biathlon relay in the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, Doherty is a promising athlete who also made his Olympic debut in 2014, competing in the relay. His three medals in the 2016 IBU Youth/Junior World Championships increased his career total to a record 10 medals. He finished the 2015-16 world cup season ranked among the top 50.
Korey Dropkin, curling, 2012: A bronze medalist in mixed doubles in the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, Dropkin has moved into position to contend for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. He won a junior U.S. championship in 2016 and then won a silver medal in the world junior championships. His teammates are 2010 Olympian Chris Plys, Heath McCormick and fellow 2012 Youth Olympian Thomas Howell.
Ben Ferguson, snowboarding, 2012: A two-time medalist in the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, Ferguson won his first X Games medal in 2016 when he finished second in the superpipe. He narrowly missed making the U.S. Olympic Team in 2014 and is focused on chasing after making an Olympic debut in 2018.
Raychel Germaine, luge, 2012: Another strong season could put Germaine in line for an Olympic spot. Coming back from shoulder surgery in March 2016, she had three top-10 world cup finishes and won a silver medal in the preseason Lillehammer Cup.
Arielle Gold, snowboarding, 2012: A double silver medalist in the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games and a 2014 Olympian, Gold could give the United States a one-two punch in PyeongChang. Chloe Kim and Gold swept the first two podium spots in the women’s superpipe in the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. Gold has been a rising star since she medaled in both halfpipe and slopestyle in the Winter Youth Olympic Games, then also won a world junior championship in halfpipe in 2012.
Thomas Hong, short track speedskating, 2012: Hong already has a piece of history on the Olympic oval in Gangneung Ice Arena in South Korea. During the short track test event for the PyeongChang Games, Hong combined with teammates J.R. Celski, John-Henry Krueger and Keith Carroll to win a bronze medal in the men’s 5,000-meter relay. Hong finished 11th in the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, where he was the youngest competitor at age 16.
Thomas Howell, curling, 2012: Since finishing fifth in the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, Howell has won two junior national championships, won a silver medal in the 2016 junior world championships and was among the winning curlers in the 2017 Continental Cup. His teammates are 2012 Youth Olympic teammate Korey Dropkin, 2010 Olympian Chris Plys and Heath McCormick.
Birk Irving, freestyle skiing, 2016: Irving was one of the top stories of the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games, returning from a fractured leg injury to win a gold medal in men’s halfpipe. His other international performances include winning a bronze medal in halfpipe at the 2015 junior world championships.
|Chloe Kim competes in the ladies' snowboard halfpipe final at the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games at Oslo Vinterpark Halfpipe on Feb. 14, 2016 in Lillehammer, Norway.|
Chloe Kim, snowboarding, 2016: A double gold medalist in halfpipe and slopestyle at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games, Kim didn’t make her Olympic debut in Sochi only because at age 13 she was too young at the time to qualify for the team. That won’t be an issue in 2018 for Kim, who is likely to be the story of the Games next year. Kim went undefeated for an entire year from 2016-17, winning eight contests in a row.
Hailey Langland, snowboarding, 2016: Langland launched herself into the world of pro snowboarding when she won the women’s slopestyle in her first pro event, the 2015 U.S. Grand Prix in Mammoth Mountain, California. She trains at Mammoth Mountain with two-time Youth Olympic Games gold medalist Chloe Kim and Maddie Mastro. Langland won her first X Games medal (a bronze) in 2016, then won gold in the big air event in 2017. Big air will make its Olympic debut in PyeongChang, and Langland could be a double medal threat.
Casey Larson, ski jumping, 2016: Larson finished sixth in the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games and was the top U.S. qualifier for the 2017 Nordic Junior World Championships hosted by Park City, Utah. He placed eighth in the competition.
Ben Loomis, Nordic combined, 2016: A silver medalist in the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games, Loomis took another step toward the Olympic Games by being named for the U.S. Nordic Combined team in the 2017 Nordic Junior World Ski Championships, where he finished ninth in the normal hill/5K event.
Jake Pates, snowboarding, 2016: Matching U.S. teammate Chloe Kim, Pates won both the snowboarding halfpipe and slopestyle gold medals at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games. The Youth Olympic wins vaulted the career of rising star Pates, who recently finished fifth in halfpipe at a world cup at Mammoth Mountain, California, and 10th at a January world cup in Switzerland.
Will Rhoads, ski jumping, 2012: He has finished as high as 35th in world cup competition this season and as high as 18th in qualification rounds. Rhoads won the national championship in July in Park City, Utah.
April Shin, short track speedskating, 2016: Shin was the national champion at 3,000 meters in 2015-16 and finished 13th in the junior world championships. She made the U.S. world cup team in October 2016, a big step toward the PyeongChang Games.
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.