60 days to go until Beijing 2022: Competitors that make Olympians #StrongerTogether

Taking part in an Olympic Games is one of the most competitive things a human being can do. But the Olympic spirit - in its most generous moments - can also expand the concept of competitiveness itself. With the clock ticking down to the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on 4 February 2022, it's time to look at who make the strong even stronger.

By Marina Dmukhovskaya
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

In sport, it is an athlete's direct competitors that set the bar high. The strongest motivates others to improve and grow. The bravest encourages the rest to take risks and be bold. And, as repeatedly happened through the history of the Olympic Games, someone who has more power will lend a hand if a competitor falls.

With just 60 days to go until the Winter Olympic Games Beijing 2022, Olympics.com asks a few athletes across hockey, luge, short track, figure skating, snowboard and freestyle skiing about the competitors that make them even stronger, and who provide a powerful source for inspiration.

Luge: Roman Repilov (ROC), inspired by Felix Loch (Germany)

Three-time World Champion and two-time overall World Cup winner Roman Repilov will be looking to win his first Olympic medal in Beijing. The competitor that has made him stronger on his Olympic journey is the legendary German luger Felix Loch, a triple Olympic champion.

"Earlier in my career I considered Felix Loch and anyone who was in the way of me winning medals an obstacle. I wasn’t really trying to copy his style or technique. But during my last two years on the junior team and after making it to the national team, Felix was the one who motivated me. He was so dominating that he would not let anyone get even near the World Cup Overall title. He was out of reach in terms of his technique, physical form, and mentality.

"It’s good that he continued his career: he kept motivating me."

Repilov congratulating Loch at a World Cup event in Koenigssee, Germany 2021
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Figure skating: Loena Hendrickx (Belgium), inspired by Elizaveta Tukhtamysheva (ROC)

Belgian figure skater Loena Hendrickx had a great start of her Olympic season at the ISU Grand Prix in Turin, winning a surprise bronze medal. She admitted that during her teen years she was inspired by Italy’s Carolina Kostner. As she gained more experience, the more mature Hendrickx now draws her inspiration from Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.

"When I did the first Europeans, [my inspiration] was Carolina Kostner, because she skated for a long time at a high level. It's really inspiring if you still can compete at a high level for so many years. For now, it's the same with Elizaveta Tuktamysehva. That's really inspiring because she never gives up and she always tries to work hard. She became a world champion a few years ago, and then she was out for a few years, and then she came back. It's not easy to compete [at the highest level], but also she was at the top and now she made a comeback. It’s really special."

Ice hockey: Kendall Coyne Schofield (USA), inspired by Jenni Hiirikoski (Finland)

Team USA's Kendall Coyne Schofield, the US national team captain and PyeongChang 2018 Olympic champion, looks up to team Finland's Jenni Hiiroski who is considered one of the top defenders in women’s hockey.

"There's a mutual respect among all countries when we come together knowing how hard we've worked and the obstacles that we've had to overcome to be here in this moment. So many that we can't control. So many that are predicated on our gender that we don't deserve, but we overcome them together. I'm so proud of of all the women in hockey and what they've accomplished and what they've overcome to to be as elite as they can in this moment because it's not easy.

"A player that I admire that I play against is Jenni Hiirikoski. I have so much respect for what she’s accomplished. You always have to know when she is on the ice. She’s one the greatest hockey players to play this game."

Kendall Coyne fights for the puck against Jenni Hiirikoski at Olympics in PyeongChang, 2018
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Short track: Semen Elistratov (ROC), inspired by Charles Hamelin (Canada)

Olympic champion Semen Elistratov might not be the only short track skater who is inspired by the unbelievable athletic longevity of Canada’s Charles Hamelin, a five-time Olympic medalist who's been competing at the Olympics since Turin 2006.

"I admire Canadian athlete Charles Hamelin. It’s a mystery for me how one can win a world championships title at 36 years of age. If you check out his bio, you will see that ever since 2006 he has been representing Canada at the world championships. This year our world championships will take place in Montreal. He did mention that Beijing would be his last Games.

"I want to shake his hand. He is an athlete I admire."

Elistratov competes against Hamelin in 1500m event at Olympics in PyeongChang, 2018
Picture by 2014 Getty Images

Snowboard: Ono Mitsuki (Japan), inspired by Chloe Kim (USA)

Expectations for Beijing 2022 are high for Ono Mitsuki, who won a Youth Olympic Games gold medal last year. The Japanese rising star succeeded Chloe Kim as halfpipe champion, who won the title back at Lillehammer 2016.

"Chloe Kim has been long-running at the forefront, winning many gold medals. But she is very friendly. She never behaves as if she stands aloof as a top snowboarder. I want to be like her as a top athlete.

"I'm now practising the routine Chloe did at PyeongChang. But I know it is not enough to do the same thing. I am learning more evolved tricks. Also, I am training on the consecutive tricks: frontside 1080 - cab 1080, that Chloe did at the PyeongChang Olympics for the first time."

Freestyle: Mathilde Gremaud (Switzerland), inspired by Sarah Hofflin (Switzerland)

PyeongChang 2018 silver medalist Mathilde Gremaud shared her admiration of her colleague and Olympic champion Sarah Hofflin. The two teammates won their medals in the Republic of Korea together.

"When I think about it, if anyone had to be in front of me, it was Sarah. It was really cool. It’s super motivating, if you manage to do it once you can do it twice. Not necessarily at the Olympics, but in any case, it’s always better to share your podium with someone so close at the moment. It was really inspiring."

Freestyle: Alex Hall (USA), inspired by Ferdinand Dahl (Norway)

American freestyle skier Alex Hall looks up to Norwegian Ferdinand Dahl and admires his technique.

"A couple of people I compete against in the sport massively inspire me with their attitude and their skiing, or what tricks they do. Ferdinand Dahl is one. He’s one of the most stylish and smooth and creative free skiers I know. He always finds a way to push his skiing at competitions -- and not just with more spinning. He always creates and finds a way to get on the podium too. I’m always really proud of him.

"In my eyes, he perfectly represents my idea of free-skiing. The essence of it."


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