Women led the way for Team USA’s strong performance in Rio, and U.S. women could again make a major impact next winter at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
For Women of Team USA Week, let’s take a look at 15 athletes and one team who could take a starring role in PyeongChang.
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Jamie Anderson, Snowboarding
The reigning Olympic slopestyle champion saw her run of three straight Burton U.S. Open slopestyle crowns end this year, but that’s no reason to believe Anderson won’t have plenty in store when she reaches PyeongChang. Competing with an injured elbow, Anderson still finished second, and on top of that added silver medals to her collection at X Games in Aspen, Colorado, and Hafjell, Norway. She should be among the first women to ever compete in big air at the Winter Games as it makes its Olympic debut, and the veteran innovator and will no doubt be among those vying for a spot on the podium in both disciplines in 2018, having finished on the world cup podium four times this season.
Heather Bergsma, Long Track Speedskating
Bergsma was virtually unstoppable at the 1,000- and 1,500-meter this season. She won all six of her 1,000 world cup races, earning world cup titles at both distances earlier this month, as well as the grand world cup title, plus world championship gold at both distances last month at the 2018 Olympic venue. She’s also more than capable of medaling in the 500-meter and mass start, as she did on several occasions this season (she previously won a world title in the 500 and this season won mass start bronze at worlds), and could lead the way as the U.S. team tries to rebound from a disappointing 2014 performance in Sochi.
|Kelly Clark competes in the women's snowboard halfpipe final at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Feb. 12, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.|
Ashley Caldwell, Freestyle Skiing
The aerials skier has long been known for taking risks, and she took a big one at the world championships this month by attempting a trick that had been attempted in competition just twice — once by her — but never landed. It worked, however, and despite a tough season, Caldwell earned the first gold medal by an American woman in 22 years. It was her first world title and came the year after winning the world cup overall title, proving her podium potential in 2018.
Kelly Clark, Snowboarding
The four-time Olympian continued to work her way back from hip surgery this year and scored a big win at the PyeongChang halfpipe test event in late February. Although the younger Kim has gotten the bulk of the attention and the victories in recent years, the competition showed that the three-time Olympic medalist Clark still has what it takes to be a contender for Team USA in 2018.
Jessie Diggins, Cross-Country Skiing
Diggins won silver at the world championships freestyle sprint last month and then added a bronze in the classic team sprint. In addition to her podium performances in those events, she anchored the women’s 4x5K relay to a fourth-place finish and was fifth in the 30K to make it the best U.S. performance ever at the world championships by either a man or woman. The 25-year-old has now medaled in three consecutive world championships and will look to build on her success this season in PyeongChang.
Susan Dunklee, Biathlon
Dunklee has already earned her spot in PyeongChang, having become the first American woman to win am individual world championship medal in biathlon when she took silver in the 12.5K mass start at the world championships last month. The 31-year-old got her first world cup podium earlier in the season and led most of the race at the world championships before falling to second in the final kilometer, proving that 2018 might just be the year that an American stands on the podium at the Winter Games for the first time as well.
|Erin Hamlin celebrates winning bronze in women's luge at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Sliding Center Sanki on Feb. 11, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.|
Erin Hamlin, Luge
Hamlin became the first American singles luger — man or woman — to medal at the Winter Games when she took the bronze medal in Sochi in 2014. The three-time Olympian ended this season ranked fourth in the overall world cup standings for the second season in a row, but it was one of the best years of her career. She earned gold in the sprint and silver in the women’s singles event at the world championships in January, and helped the U.S. earn silver in the team relay. She has said she hopes to make her fourth Olympic team in 2018 and then retire.
Women’s Ice Hockey Team
Team USA has been on a roll the past few years, but Olympic gold has eluded the team ever since winning the inaugural tournament in 1998. Since then they’ve won three silvers and a bronze, including silver at the last two Winter Games, but are hoping that the 20-year anniversary of the sport’s inclusion in the Games will be one to remember.
Lindsey Jacobellis, Snowboarding
At 31 years old, Jacobellis just keeps going strong in snowboardcross. The three-time Olympian won her unprecedented fifth world title in the discipline this year, matching the number of times she’s competed at worlds, and proved that despite the influx of new talent every year she is still the one to beat. Her grand total now sits at 15 gold medals in the world championships and X Games, and in 2018 she’ll try to add the one medal she’s missing: Olympic gold.
Chloe Kim, Snowboarding
No athlete in women’s snowboard halfpipe has garnered more buzz in the past few years than Kim. Building on an eye-popping and history-making season last year, the 16-year-old defended her title at the U.S. Open and won her first-ever world cup crystal globe. She also had an impressive year-long winning streak of eight events come to an end in late January when she won bronze at the X Games, and she’ll head into PyeongChang as the one to watch. For Kim, the Games will be extra special because her parents emigrated from South Korea.
|Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauryn Williams make a run during the women's bobsled heats at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Sliding Center Sanki on Feb. 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.|
Julia Marino, Snowboarding
While Anderson may be the veteran queen of slopestyle, Marino proved she’s on her way up this year with a win at her first X Games. Sitting in last place after her first run, Marino pulled off a trick that had never been done before to vault into first. The 19-year-old also earned a bronze medal in the big air competition, becoming the first woman I 17 years to win two medals at a single X Games. At X Games Norway, she again double medaled, this time taking silver in big air and bronze in slopestyle. Earlier this season, Marino was second at the big air test event in PyeongChang.
Elana Meyers Taylor, Bobsled
Meyers Taylor continues to set the bar high for American women in bobsled. Along with teammate Kehri Jones, she won her second world championship title this season, making it the fifth world championships in a row in which she’s medaled. The two-time Olympian was also third overall in the world cup standings for the season. She’ll be looking to return for her third Olympic Winter Games in 2018 and perhaps add gold to her 2014 silver and 2010 bronze medals.
Maia Shibutani, Figure Skating
As one half of the two-time U.S. champion ice dancing team, Maia Shibutani hopes to give the country its fourth consecutive Olympic medal in the discipline in 2018. The 2016 world silver medalists — Maia partners with her brother, Alex — will look to better that result at the end of the month in what will be the last major world competition before PyeongChang.
|Mikaela Shiffrin competes in women's giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on Feb. 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.|
Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing
Shiffrin cemented her status as the best skier in the world right now when she very recently became just the fifth American to win the overall world cup crystal globe. The 22-year-old has also won four slalom titles in five years and finished second overall in giant slalom this year. At the world championships, she won her third straight slalom world title and first medal in giant slalom, a silver. She’s already said she plans to work on her speed events moving forward, and a trio of medals is hardly out of the question for her next year in PyeongChang.
Lindsey Vonn, Alpine Skiing
It’s been a difficult few years for Vonn, who’s had to come back from multiple injuries, but the most decorated U.S. skier isn’t ready to back down. After winning bronze in the downhill and fifth in combined at the world championships, Vonn vowed to keep going through the 2019 world championships. She scored her 77th world cup win in a downhill in January, and finished second in both downhill and super-G at the Olympic test event.
Ashley Wagner, Figure Skating
The 2016 world silver medalist was upset in the U.S. championships this year by Karen Chen and went home with the silver medal, but later this month Wagner will compete in her seventh world championships. Her medal there last year ended a 10-year drought for the American women at the world championships and Winter Games. The 25-year-old has made no secret of her intentions to skate in 2018 and possibly beyond. She earned a team bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
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.