In just three days, the Olympic Winter Games return to Asia. The Opening Ceremony in PyeongChang will mark the first time the continent has hosted the Winter Games in 20 years, and the third time overall.
Here’s a look back at the previous two Winter Games in Asia — in 1972 in Sapporo, Japan, and 1998 in Nagano, Japan — as well as a look ahead to PyeongChang.
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The 11th Olympic Winter Games were the first to be held outside Europe or North America. Thirty-five nations competed in 35 events, and Team USA won eight medals — three golds — to finish sixth in the total medal count.
All three gold medals were won by women.
One of them was alpine skier Barbara Ann Cochran, who became the first U.S. woman since Andrea Mead Lawrence in 1952 to win Olympic gold in skiing.
The other two gold medals belonged to long track speedskaters Anne Henning and Dianne Holum, with Holum also winning a silver medal and Henning a bronze to make them Team USA’s most decorated athletes. In addition, Henning at age 16 became the youngest Olympic speedskating champion ever when she won the 500-meter in Olympic record time.
The Games weren’t without controversy, as the International Olympic Committee banned Austrian skier Karl Schranz for receiving payments from ski companies, and Canada refused to send a men’s hockey team after being denied their request to allow professionals to compete.
Twenty-six years later, the Winter Games returned to Japan. Held this time in Nagano, 72 countries competed in 68 events, and Team USA again finished sixth in the total medal count, this time with 13 medals, six of them gold.
This was a big year for ice hockey, with the NHL taking a mid-season break for the first time to allow its players to compete for their countries and women’s hockey making its Olympic debut. The U.S. women went undefeated en route to their first — and only, thus far — Olympic gold medal.
Snowboarding also debuted in 1998 with two very different events — giant slalom and halfpipe. While the U.S. was shut out in racing, Ross Powers and Shannon Dunn earned Team USA’s first snowboarding medals with their bronzes in the halfpipe.
In figure skating, Tara Lipinski just beat out Michelle Kwan and at 15 years old became the youngest Olympic champion in the history of the sport.
Meanwhile, Picabo Street, competing in her second of three Olympics, won Team USA’s only medal in alpine skiing with a gold in super-G.
Freestyle skiing was a different story, with Eric Bergoust winning men’s aerials, Nikki Stone capturing gold in women’s aerials and Jonny Moseley winning men’s moguls.
The 2018 Winter Games return to Asia for the third time but to South Korea for the first. The country previously held the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul.
The PyeongChang Games bring with them four new medal events — mixed doubles curling, big air snowboarding, mass start speedskating and an alpine skiing team event — and a new generation of U.S. stars.
Among them is halfpipe snowboarding sensation Chloe Kim, a first-generation Korean American who still has family in South Korea and at age 17 is favored to win the gold medal. On the men’s side, teenagers Chris Corning and Red Gerard are among the top snowboarding contenders.
Team USA has plenty of veterans, too.
The U.S. Olympic Team features three five-time Olympians in halfpipe snowboarder Kelly Clark, long track speedskater Shani Davis and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall. Clark will go for her fourth Olympic medal and Davis for his fifth, while Randall is aiming to become the first U.S. woman to medal in her sport.
Meanwhile, five Americans are coming back to try to defend their gold medals from 2014. They are slopestyle snowboarder Jamie Anderson, halfpipe skiers Maddie Bowman and David Wise, and alpine skiers Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin.
The U.S. women’s ice hockey team is coming off a fourth world title in a row this past March and will try to win its first Olympic gold medal since that first one in Nagano.
Also harkening back to a past Winter Games in Asia is alpine skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle, the son of Barbara Cochran who won that historic gold medal in Sapporo.
Figure skating sensation Nathan Chen will aim to challenge the top men for gold in PyeongChang. And long track stars Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe, Davis and Joey Mantia will lead the charge to move beyond Team USA’s medal-less finish in Sochi.
These are but a few of the 243 athletes the U.S. has in PyeongChang, all with a lifetime of hard work and dreams leading up to these next few weeks.
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.