Beijing 2022: A guide to the top athletes and teams to watch at the Winter Olympic Games (part II)

In part II of our two-part guide, we look at some of the favourites for gold in the bobsleigh, skeleton, cross-country,  ski jumping, biathlon, curling and Nordic combined competitions at Beijing 2022.

10 min By Virgilio Neto
Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis of Germany make their final run during the Men's 2-Man Bobsleigh 
(Picture by 2018 Getty Images)

On February 4 2022, the best winter athletes in the world will gather in Beijing for the Olympic Winter Games. With close to 3,000 athletes competing in 109 events, there will be plenty of skiers, skaters and sliders to keep an eye on. To help familiarise yourself with the competitors who will likely challenge for gold medals at the Games, check out our two-part guide on the top prospective athletes and teams for all 15 sports at Beijing 2022 here!

You can find part I of our Beijing 2022 guide here.

Francesco Friedrich - Bobsleigh

Francesco Friedrich (R) and Thorsten Margis of Germany celebrate winning gold in the 4-man Boblseigh at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games
Francesco Friedrich (R) and Thorsten Margis of Germany celebrate winning gold in the 4-man Boblseigh at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games
  • Nationality: Germany | DOB: May 2, 1990
  • Olympic discipline/specialities: Two-man, four-man

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: Double-gold medallist at PyeongChang 2018 (two-man, four-man)
  • World Championships: 13-time world champion, 15 total medals
  • European Championships: Six-time European champion, 12 total medals

The last three Winter Olympic Games have seen three different winners in the four-man bobsleigh, but the recent performance of the German squad (led by driver Francesco Friedrich) at the world championships suggests that they are the team to beat in Beijing. The four-man crew are the defending Olympic champions, and easily won the gold medal at the 2021 World Championships with a blistering time of 3:35.02 - 0.79 seconds faster than runners-up Latvia.

Friedrich also picked up a second gold medal in the two-man event (with brakeman Thorsten Margis), as the German and Canadian sledges finishing with exactly the same times, down to the hundredth of a second. With Germany winning gold in every bobsleigh event at the PyeongChang 2018, it would be a huge upset if the nation was absent from the podium in Beijing. With Friedrich likely piloting two sledges, he's a safe bet to win more medals in 2022.

"My mentality is to pick from all the best. I see them all. I see how they slide. I ask them what they do to be fast. I picked altogether from all the best. I go my own way, but I take some things from that.”

- Francesco Friedrich, speaking to NBC

Tina Hermann - Skeleton

Tina Hermann competing in the women's skeleton at PyeongChang 2018.
Tina Hermann competing in the women's skeleton at PyeongChang 2018. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
  • Nationality: Germany | DOB: March 5, 1992
  • Olympic discipline/specialities: Women's singles

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: N/A
  • World Championships: Seven-time world champion, nine total medals
  • European Championships: Two-time silver medallist, bronze medallist

Tina Hermann may have finished outside the medals in her Olympic debut at PyeongChang 2018 (finishing 5th), but with the retirement of two-time defending Olympic champion Elizabeth Yarnold (GBR) (the most successful Olympic skeleton athlete of all time), the German is a favourite for the gold - and with good reason.

Hermann has won the last three world championships in women's skeleton, and is the first four-time world champion in the event (she also has three golds in the mixed team event). Though she finished second overall in the World Cup standings to Janine Flock (AUT), the 29-year-old's incredible run at the World Championships means she - alongside Flock - is one of the top names in the women's field for Beijing.

The first race was so bad and I can’t believe I’m here now a world champion again…it’s unbelievable, I’m super happy. After last year's World Championships, it was very difficult for me... but now we are looking forward to it and hopefully things are going to get better.

- Tina Hermann, speaking to IBSF Official after winning gold at the 2021 World Championships

Jarl Magnus Riiber - Nordic Combined

Jarl Magnus Riiber displays his 2019 FIS World Championships gold medal.
Jarl Magnus Riiber displays his 2019 FIS World Championships gold medal. (2019 Getty Images)
  • Nationality: Norway | DOB: October 15, 1997
  • Olympic discipline/specialities: Normal hill, large hill, team event

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: Silver medallist (team event - PyeongChang 2018)
  • World Championships: Four-time world champion, seven total medals
  • World Cups: 53 podiums, 36 race wins, three overall titles

Riiber was part of a Norwegian squad that picked up the silver in the team event in PyeongChang, as well as a pair of golds in the team normal hill competitions at the 2019 and 2021 World Championships. At those same championships, the 23-year-old won gold in the individual normal hill, and picked up his third consecutive Crystal Globe at the conclusion of the 2020/21 World Cup season. Needless to say, the Norwegian is in a fine vein of form - whether he can capitalise on it at Beijing 2022 will be fascinating to watch.

"I am very happy to reach the goal of the week and the last goal of the season with the general title of the World Cup. Once again I got it."

- Jarl Magnus Riiber, speaking to FIS Nordic combined after winning the 2020/21 Crystal Globe

Charlotte Kalla - Cross-Country Skiing

Charlotte Kalla
Charlotte Kalla (2018 Getty Images)
  • Nationality: Sweden | DOB: July 22, 1987
  • Olympic discipline/specialities: 10km freestyle, 15km skiathlon, 4 x 5km relay

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: Triple gold medallist (10km freestyle - Vancouver 2010; 4 x 5km relay - Sochi 2014; 15km skiathlon - PyeongChang 2018); six-time silver medallist (team speed in Vancouver 2010; 10km classic and 15km skiathlon in Sochi 2014; team speed, 4 x 5km team relay and 10km freestyle at PyeongChang 2018)
  • World Championships: Three-time world champion, 13 total medals
  • World Cups: 59 individual podiums, 12 race wins

Charlotte Kalla won four medals in PyeongChang (including gold in the 15 km skiathlon), taking her Olympic tally to nine medals - making her Sweden's most successful female cross-country skier of all time. At 33 (Kalla turns 34 in July), the Swede has hinted that Beijing 2022 will be her last Olympic Games, and though her legacy in Olympic and cross-country folklore is already cemented (Kalla has won multiple medals at all of the Olympics she's participated in), don't be surprised if Kalla adds another triumph to her already legendary portfolio of career highlights.

"I have become more nervous nowadays, but the joy of competing and perform at my very best is still the same. The most important is to be curious. There’s always things to do better, and that’s my biggest motivation. It is a really inspiring team to be a part of, a lot of girls that want to do really good, every single day, every session and they have the right mindset. So I just try to enjoy being a part of it. You have to have a higher performance nowadays than it was five years ago if you want to be on the podium. The sport is always pushing forward."

- Charlotte Kalla, speaking to the International Ski Federation channel.

Johannes Thingnes Bø - Biathlon

Johannes Thingnes Bø at PyeongChang 2018
Johannes Thingnes Bø at PyeongChang 2018 (2018 Getty Images)
  • Nationality: Norway | DOB: May 15, 1993
  • Olympic discipline/specialities: 20km individual, 4 x 7.5km team relay and mixed relay

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: Gold medallist (20km individual - PyeongChang 2018), two-time silver medallist (mixed relay & 4 x 7.5km team relay - PyeongChang 2018)
  • World Championships: 12-time world champion, 24 total medals
  • World Cups: 104 podiums, 64 race wins, seven discipline titles, three overall titles

Over the course of the last three World Cup seasons, Thingnes Bø has been the man to beat in biathlon, winning three consecutive Crystal Globes. In fact, during that span, the Norwegian finished on the podium in all disciplines in every season - save the 2019/20 season, when he finished fourth in the pursuit. The 28-year-old has also picked up nine World Championship crowns since the 2018 Winter Olympics, where he won his three Olympic medals to date.

Considering the silverware and accolades Thingnes Bø has amassed over the last four years - not to mention the strength of the Norwegian biathlon relay teams - he has to be among the favourites among all sports to win multiple medals at Beijing 2022.

"It is the best way possible to end the season in the sport, first on overall. I have no words to describe how relieved I am and how happy I am. I’m so happy…This story [season] is a different one from the other, Sturla put up such a great fight for me and he really pushed me to my limits."

- Johannes Thingnes Boe, speaking to the International Biathlon Union channel after winning his third World Cup title

Sara Takanashi - Ski Jumping

 Sara Takanashi competes in the women's Normal Hill Individual Ski Jumping Final at PyeongChang 2018.
 Sara Takanashi competes in the women's Normal Hill Individual Ski Jumping Final at PyeongChang 2018. (2018 Getty Images)
  • Nationality: Japan | DOB: October 8, 1996
  • Olympic discipline/specialities: Normal hill and large hill

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: Bronze medallist (normal hill - PyeongChang 2018)
  • World Championships: 2013 world champion (mixed team normal hill), seven total medals
  • World Cup: 109 individual podiums, 60 wins, four overall titles

Sara Takanashi may only be 24 years old, but the Japanese has already achieved two notable records in ski jumping. Her four overall World Cup titles is a record for a female athlete, and she holds the record among all ski jumpers for most World Cup wins with 60 victories.

A two-time Olympian (she finished fourth at Sochi 2014 in addition to winning bronze in PyeongChang), Takanashi enjoyed a successful 2020/21 World Cup season, finishing second overall. There's no doubt she has the talent to win gold at Beijing 2022, and is considered a favourite to reach the podium at minimum.

"I restructured my jump from scratch, which is finally becoming my own and is starting to turn into results."

- Sara Takanashi, explaining her good results during the 2020/2021 season to guinnessworldrecords.com.

Sweden - Curling

Sofia Mabergs of Sweden delivers a stone during the Women's Gold Medal Game between Sweden and Korea at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. 
Sofia Mabergs of Sweden delivers a stone during the Women's Gold Medal Game between Sweden and Korea at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.  (2018 Getty Images)

Medal Record - Men

  • Olympics: Two-time silver medallists (Chamonix 1924 and PyeongChang 2018), bronze medallists (Sochi 2014)
  • World Championships: 10-time world champions

Medal Record - Women

  • Olympics: Three-time gold medallists (Torino 2006, Vancouver 2010, PyeongChang 2018), silver medallists (Sochi 2014), bronze medallists (Nagano 1998)
  • World Championships: Eight-time world champions

Sweden has grown to be a dominant force in curling in recent years, both at the Olympics and World Championships. Sweden's women's teams have won three gold medals at the Olympics (the most of any nation), including their most recent triumph at PyeongChang 2018. Despite finishing a disappointing fourth at the 2021 World Championships, the women's team is still a force to be reckoned with, and will certainly command respect in Beijing.

The Swedish men's team, led by double Olympic medalist Niklas Edin (SWE), picked up a third successive crown at the 2021 World Championships - with Edin winning his fifth world title. Given Sweden's success at the World Championships, it's surprising that they are yet to win gold at the Olympics. Edin and his team will look to go one better than in 2018, when they won silver in PyeongChang.

"It is always very special, especially in these times in the midst of the pandemic. We are very happy to be able to do that [representing Sweden at the World Cup and at the Olympic Games]. We are very grateful and it is a lot of fun."

- Sara McManus, vice-captain of the Swedish women's team, speaking to World Curling after qualifying for Beijing 2022.

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