Many of the Team USA athletes competing at the Winter Youth Olympics Games are competing on the biggest stages of their careers thus far. They’re passionate about their sport, they’re eager to grow and they’re hopeful for their futures.
So who are these new faces representing Team USA in Switzerland?
Get to know several of the athletes donning the red, white and blue, including figure skaters Cate Fleming, Jedidiah Isbell and Audrey Shin, luge athletes Maya Chan, Sam Day, Sam Eckert, Hunter Harris, McKenna Mazlo and Reannyn Weiler, and skeleton’s Teddy Fitzsimons and James McGuire.
What is the first memory you have of competing in your sport?
Cate Fleming: My first memory was a test day. I was doing a single Lutz and I fell, so I thought that meant I wasn't going to pass. I was so sad that I wasn't going to pass, but I ended up passing, so that was my first memory.
Teddy Fitzsimons: My first memory was in Lake Placid. I remember being absolutely terrified, but I knew that I would eventually like it because I was so drawn to it.
McKenna Mazlo: My first memory was competing in 2017 in my first race at the Empire State Winter Games. It was my first year on the team, I was 14 years old, and I remember being super nervous. I thought it was such a big race. There was an Opening Ceremony and I was super stressed.
Maya Chan: My first memory competing in luge was Empire State Games in 2016. I was 12 years old and at the time this was one of the biggest races of the year besides youth nationals. We thought it was super cool because we got to go to an Opening Ceremony and you got to meet all these people from different sports in Lake Placid. I ended up getting second-to-last in that race, but I still remember it very clearly and I had a really good time competing.
What first drew you to your sport?
Audrey Shin: What first drew me to this sport was when I went skating with my parents and my younger sister. There was a new rink that was built near my church so we went to skate as a family for the first time, and I remember falling in love with the ice and the skates and everything about it.
Sam Day: What drew me to my sport was the intensity and speed.
Jedidiah Isbell: I had a lot of energy as a kid, so my parents were looking for a positive outlet for me to it so I wouldn’t be crazy all the time. We stumbled upon a rink. It was never this big plan for certain things to happen but I liked it and wanted to get better at it…so here I am!
Teddy Fitzsimons: What drew me to the sport is that my mom did it. I felt that I had to try it.
McKenna Mazlo: I watched luge during the Olympics growing up all the time, but I was never actually interested in it until I tried it on ice for the first time. I fell in love with the adrenaline rush and the speed.
Maya Chan: Watching the Winter Olympics in 2014 and seeing Erin Hamlin get a bronze medal. After that, my dad saw an advertisement for their slider search program which is how they get athletes into luge. He asked if I wanted to try it out and I said, ‘Yeah, that looks really fun.’ I went and tried it, got called back, and after that I made the ‘D’ team.
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Who do you look up to in your sport and why?
Sam Day: I look up to [2018 Olympic silver medalist] Chris Mazdzer because he’s a great role model and is very successful in luge.
Cate Fleming: In the U.S., Ashley Cain-Gribble and Tim LeDuc. I just love their energy on the ice and they seem like really nice people.
Sam Eckert: I look up to Chris Mazdzer. He's accomplished a lot in the sport and he's done a lot for our country. I find him as a great role model, too.
James McGuire: In this sport, I look up to athletes such as Olympians Matt Antoine and John Daly who started at a young age and went to the Olympics.
McKenna Mazlo: The person I look up to the most is probably Emily Sweeney. She had a horrible crash in the past Olympics and she was able to come back both physically and mentally stronger and was able to get a world championship medal that next year. I really admire her strength.
Maya Chan: Probably Erin Hamlin. When I first started, I was always inspired by her after seeing her win a medal in the Olympics. At my very first training camp in Lake Placid in 2015, they gave us a poster of her on it. As soon as I got home, I hung it on my wall.
Hunter Harris: I look up to Chris Mazdzer. His performance in the Olympics after having a rough year - he came back and did really well.
What’s your proudest accomplishment in your sport and why?
Audrey Shin: My proudest accomplishment so far is definitely competing at this Youth Olympic Games. It feels like this is the Olympic Games and I’m having so much fun. It’s been a really great experience so far and I can’t wait to make more memories.
Sam Day: My proudest accomplishment is probably my first junior world cup medal last year in Youth A Doubles in Winterberg, Germany.
Sam Eckert: My proudest accomplishment is getting fourth place in the junior world cup with my doubles partner, Sam Day, after sliding only one month together.
James McGuire: My proudest accomplishment is coming in first twice in Lake Placid and making it to Lausanne for the Youth Olympic Games.
McKenna Mazlo: My proudest accomplishment in luge so far would probably be being here in St. Moritz and getting to race in the Youth Olympics Games. I worked really hard to get here, and it’s really rewarding getting to see my improvement on this track from last year’s race.
Reannyn Weiler: My proudest accomplishment is when my doubles partner Maya Chan and I got third in the Youth World Cup here last year in St. Moritz. This was an important accomplishment for us because this was our biggest race we had had so far and we were really able to prove we could be competitive with other teams from other countries.
What is the biggest goal you have for yourself in your sport and why?
Audrey Shin: The biggest goal I have for myself is to keep improving and getting more higher technical jumps and being injury-free, healthy, and setting higher goals for myself this season.
Sam Day: My biggest goal is definitely to make it to the Olympics because it would ensure that all the hard work I put into this sport went somewhere.
Jedidiah Isbell: The Olympic Games. That's everyone's goal in a lot of sports. Figure skating especially is focused on that. This experience in Lausanne is so cool. At the same time, it just makes me more hungry. I want more. I want the Olympics.
James McGuire: My biggest goal right now is finishing top-three at the Youth Olympics.
McKenna Mazlo: My biggest goal for myself in luge is just to keep improving and getting faster and medaling in big races. But more importantly, just having fun and enjoying sliding because I slide my best when I enjoy it, and I hope to continue to feel that way.
Maya Chan: My biggest goal would be to make the senior national team and be racing the world cup circuit, and then be the first U.S. women’s doubles team to compete in an Olympics.