Times Square is about to be transformed into a showcase for Olympic and Paralympic sports once again as Team USA prepares to mark 100 days until the 2018 Olympic Opening Ceremony in PyeongChang, South Korea.
More than 50 athletes will gather in the heart of New York City on Wednesday for the United States Olympic Committee’s 100 Day Countdown in what has become a traditional kickoff celebration leading up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. At the first stop of Team USA WinterFest presented by HERSHEY’S, they’ll sign autographs, give interviews and take part in sport demonstrations that give fans a chance to see up close and personal some of the athletes who will be competing for gold in just a few short months. New this year will be an hour-long special featuring highlights from the day, including a concert by country singer and Hootie & the Blowfish front man Darius Rucker, on the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
In terms of the USOC, Vice President of Sport Performance Kelly Skinner said that their preparations are right on track.
“Over the last couple of years we’ve been testing and, in some cases, implementing strategies to most effectively support our athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” he said. “We know Team USA will be ready and our preparation is right on track and where it should be.”
U.S. women’s ice hockey team captain Meghan Duggan is one of the athletes who will be on hand next week to start the countdown. The women’s team recently began its The Time is Now Tour and will soon compete in the Four Nations Cup as the four-time defending world champions prepare to compete for gold in February.
“The athletes, myself and others, are preparing for the Games, training hard and we really appreciate all the hard work from the USOC and everyone who puts in countless hours to prepare us to be the best athletes we can be,” she said. “I can’t believe it’s just over 100 days away from the Opening Ceremony, and I can’t wait to be in New York City next week and help bring the Olympic spirit to life with events like 100 days. They do a great job of inspiring young athletes and fans and getting everyone excited to watch us compete in February.”
Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, who was part of a U.S. podium sweep in slopestyle in Sochi in 2014, is a threat to medal again in slopestyle and also in halfpipe in 2018.
“It’s kind of crazy, it feels like the 2014 Games were just the other day, but it has been four years and a lot of work in those four years for myself and the other athletes trying to secure a spot,” said Kenworthy, who will also be in New York. “A lot of injury, training and sacrifice goes into it, so it makes it very real to be at the 100 days out mark.”
For Paralympians, the 100-day mark will come a little later on, but the excitement is building nonetheless. Three-sport Paralympian Oksana Masters, who last season won four world titles in Nordic skiing and will also take part in the first WinterFest stop, had great success in the world cup test events last year in biathlon and cross-country.
“I’ve been lucky enough to compete in South Korea in two different sports now and both times I’ve been there they’re done an amazing job putting on events,” said Masters, who has competed in three previous Paralympics as a rower, cyclist and Nordic skier.
“I did have an unexpectedly good showing at the test events and I really feel like the course is right up my alley. It’s everything I love — a lot of uphills, downhills and technical areas — and the organizing committee asked the athletes on the course what can be better, what was good and what was bad. That was huge and much appreciated.”
The Olympic Opening Ceremony is Feb. 9, 2018. The Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games will be one month later on March 9, 2018.