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

In part I of our two-part guide, we take a look at some of the medal favourites in the Alpine skiing, figure skating, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey, luge, short track and speed skating competitions at Beijing 2022.

By Will Imbo
Picture by 2014 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 II of our guide here.

Mikaela Shiffrin - Alpine Skiing

 Mikaela Shiffrin
Picture by 2018 Getty Images
  • Nationality: USA | DOB: March 13, 1995
  • Olympic discipline/specialities: Slalom, giant slalom, combined

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: Double gold medallist (slalom - Sochi 2014, giant slalom - PyeongChang 2018), silver medallist (combined - PyeongChang 2018)
  • World Championships: Six-time world champion, 11 total medals
  • World Cup: 106 podiums, 69 race wins, eight discipline titles, three overall titles

Mikaela Shiffrin is one of the most dominant athletes in Alpine skiing right now. The two-time Olympic gold medalist won four medals at the 2021 World Championships (including gold in Alpine combined) to add to her already historic career CV in the sport, which includes being the youngest slalom champion in Olympic Alpine skiing history, winning the most world cup slalom races (45) in history, and becoming the first Alpine skier to win the world championship in the same discipline (slalom) at four consecutive championships.

Shiffrin competed in the giant slalom (gold), slalom and combined (silver) events at PyeongChang 2018. Barring any setbacks, the 26-year-old will be the woman to beat in multiple events at Beijing 2022.

“The thing I am most proud of right now is that I know how to win in slalom, [giant slalom], super-G, and downhill, which I never expected would really happen.”

- Mikaela Shiffrin, speaking to NBC after winning her 66th World Cup race.

Hanyū Yuzuru - Figure Skating

Hanyū Yuzuru
Picture by 2018 Getty Images
  • Nationality: Japan | DOB: December 7, 1994
  • Olympic discipline/specialities: Men's singles

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: Double gold medallist (Sochi 2014, PyeongChang 2018)
  • World Championships: Two-time world champion, seven total medals
  • Four Continents Championships: Gold medallist, three-time silver medallist
  • Grand Prix Final: Four-time champion, two-time silver medallist

Hanyū Yuzuru is the reigning Olympic champion in the men's singles competition, and will surely be the man to beat in Beijing as he looks for a third consecutive title in the discipline - a feat not achieved since 1928. The Japanese phenom is no stranger to making history, however. He is the first Asian men's singles skater to win Olympic gold, the youngest male skater to win gold since 1948, and is the first and only male singles skater to achieve a Super Slam - winning all major competitions in his senior and junior career.

Hanyū has broken world records a remarkable 19 times, and is widely regarded as one of, if not the greatest male figure skater in history. Simply put, he is can't-miss television.

“I managed to win twice, but the Olympics are something special. The Olympic Games are what every athlete and figure skater wants to win. Winning them makes you a true champion. I am going to look forward to thinking about who will win at the Beijing Games."

- Hanyū Yuzuru

Suzanne Schulting - Short Track Speed Skating

Suzanne Schulting 
Picture by 2018 Getty Images
  • Nationality: Netherlands | DOB: September 25, 1997
  • Olympic discipline/specialities: 1000m, 1500m, 3000m relay

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: Gold medallist (1000m - PyeongChang 2018), bronze medallist (women's 3000m relay - PyeongChang 2018)
  • World Championships: Seven-time world champion, 10 total medals
  • European Championships: 13-time European champion, 18 total medals

There are plenty of big names in short track speed skating who will be worth watching at Beijing 2022, including Lim Hyo-jun (KOR), Arianna Fontana (ITA), and Hungarian brothers Shaolin Sandor and Shaoang Liu (HUN). However, after what Suzanne Schulting did at the 2021 World Championships, the spotlight will be on the Dutch sensation at the Games.

The 23-year-old won gold in every event at the competition (including the overall event), becoming only the second woman and fourth skater in history to sweep the board at the championships. Schulting may struggle to pull off the same feat in Beijing, but it's worth tuning in just to watch her try.

"The feeling of winning the gold medal is the best thing ever. You train so hard the whole summer just for the feeling of crossing the finish line first. I scream my guts out when I win. That feeling really keeps me motivated. You want more and more and more."

- Suzanne Schulting, speaking to olafhussein.com

Canada - Ice Hockey

Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada scores in the men's ice hockey gold medal match at Sochi 2014
Picture by 2014 Getty Images

Medal Record - Men

  • Olympics: Nine-time Olympic champions (1920, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1948, 1952, 2002, 2010, 2014), four-time silver medallists (1936, 1960, 1992, 1994), three-time bronze medalists (1956, 1968, 2018)
  • World Championships: 26-time world champions, 15-time silver medallists, nine-time bronze medalists

Medal Record - Women

  • Olympics: Four-time Olympic champions (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014), two-time silver medallists (1998, 2018)
  • World Championships: 10-time world champions, eight-time silver medallists, 2019 bronze medallists

The Canadian men's and women's ice hockey teams will be firm favourites for gold at Beijing 2022, though it must be said that neither team are the reigning Olympic champions. The absence of NHL superstars at PyeongChang 2018 contributed heavily to the men's team 'only' winning bronze, while the women's team lost to the United States in the gold medal match, snapping a streak of four straight Olympic titles in the process. Likewise, the men's team were victors at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 before finishing third in PyeongChang.

However, with the likely return of elite NHL talent to Olympic hockey, Canada will be able to call on a host of world-class players (like two-time Winter Olympic gold medalist and three-time Stanley Cup champion Sidney Crosby). On the women's side, barring an upset of infinitesimal proportions, Canada will meet the USA once again in the gold medal match. Regardless of what happens, Canada's quest to reclaim the Olympic crowns will be fun to watch!

“As a kid growing up watching the Olympics, dreaming of playing for Team Canada - to be part of that whole experience and just the way it all worked out was really special.”

- Sidney Crosby, discussing his golden goal at the 2010 men's ice hockey Olympic final with NHL.com.

Natalie Geisenberger - Luge

Natalie Geisenberger 
Picture by 2018 Getty Images
  • Nationality: Germany | DOB: February 5, 1988
  • Olympic discipline/specialities: Women's singles, team relay

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: Four-time gold medallist (singles, team relay - PyeongChang 2018, Sochi 2014), bronze medallist (singles - Vancouver 2010)
  • World Championships: Nine-time world champion, 16 total medals
  • European Championships: Six-time European champion, 12 total medals

The luge competition at the Olympics has traditionally been dominated by Germany, who have won 42 medals. And while Felix Loch and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt are certainly worth watching in the men's and double's competitions respectively, their compatriot Natalie Geisenberger is the most successful and decorated female luger in Olympic and world championship history - hence why she is our athlete to watch.

The 33-year-old could make history in Beijing by becoming the first athlete to win three consecutive gold medals in the women's competition. Doing so would put her in a tie with Armin Zöggeler (ITA) for most luge medals at the Games with six. But if Geisenberger and her German teammates can defend their crown in the relay competition as well, she will become the most decorated Olympic luger in history with seven medals.

“I’ve got Olympic gold and I’ve got world titles. Obviously I’ve been dreaming about winning the gold, but I’ve been pretty relaxed about it. Now I’ve got it.”

- Natalie Geisenberger, following her gold-medal win in the women's singles at PyeongChang 2018

Mikaël Kingsbury - Freestyle Skiing

Mikaël Kingsbury
  • Nationality: Canada | DOB: July 24, 1992
  • Olympic discipline/specialities: Moguls

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: Gold medallist (moguls - PyeongChang 2018), silver medallist (moguls - Sochi 2014)
  • World Championships: Six-time world champion, 11 total medals
  • World Cup: 93 podiums, 65 wins, nine discipline titles, nine overall titles

There will be 13 disciplines in the freestyle skiing competition at Beijing 2022, meaning that there are plenty of worthy athletes to follow, including David Wise (halfpipe), Sarah Hoefflin (slopestyle), and Perrine Laffont (moguls). But Mikaël Kingsbury leads the pack, and with good reason.

The Canadian is the most decorated mogul skier of all time, and holds the records for the most men's moguls World Cup titles and career World Cup moguls victories, and has won the most medals at the Freestyle World Championships of any male competitor in history. Oh, and he's also the reigning Olympic and world champion in the moguls - so yes, you don't want to miss Kingsbury in the moguls competition at Beijing 2022.

“I can’t really explain my success. I work hard at the gym and on my skis. Every time I enter a competition, my aim is to win it, and I really do enjoy what I do. I would imagine that it’s a combination of all these factors that enables me to get good results. I’m a perfectionist when I ski… and I’m able to fully focus on what I’m doing for long periods.”

- Mikaël Kingsbury

Chloe Kim - Snowboarding

Chloe Kim

Nationality: USA | DOB: April 23, 2000

  • Olympic discipline/specialities: Halfpipe

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: Gold medallist (halfpipe - PyeongChang 2018)
  • World Championships: Two-time world champion
  • Winter X Games: Six gold medals, one silver, one bronze

Snowboarding, just like freestyle skiing, has many disciplines under the umbrella of the sport - with each discipline having its fair share of star athletes. So it’s a difficult task to narrow the field down to just one competitor ‘to watch’, but keeping up to date on how Chloe Kim performs in the halfpipe is as good a suggestion as any!

Kim made history at PyeongChang 2018, becoming the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold medal when she won gold in the women's snowboard halfpipe at just 17 years old. She's also the reigning world, Olympic and X Games champion in the halfpipe and the first to win the title at all three of those major events, as well as at the Youth Olympic Games. Needless to say, Kim is already one of the biggest names in snowboarding, and could make headlines yet again in Beijing.

"I'm going to go in with the same mindset as the last one, just no pressure. I'm going to do the best I can and we'll see what happens."

- Chloe Kim, on competing at Beijing 2022

Ireen Wüst - Speed Skating

Ireen Wust
Picture by 2018 Getty Images
  • Nationality: Netherlands | DOB: April 1, 1986
  • Olympic discipline/specialities: 1000m, 1500m, 3000m, 5000m, team pursuit

Career Medal Record

  • Olympics: Five-time gold medallist (1500m - PyeongChang 2018 & Vancouver 2010, 3000m - Sochi 2014 & Turin 2006, team pursuit - Sochi 2014), five-time silver medallist (1000m - Sochi 2014, 1500m - Sochi 2014, 3000m - PyeongChang 2018, 5000m - Sochi 2014, team pursuit - PyeongChang 2018), bronze medallist (1500m - Turin 2006)
  • World Allround Championships: Seven-time world champion, 13 total medals
  • European Championships: Seven-time European champion, 13 total medals

The Netherlands has thoroughly dominated speed skating at the Winter Olympics, winning 121 total medals in the sport. To put that into context, Norway, who sit second in the medal table (based on total medals won), have 84. At PyeongChang 2018, Dutch skaters won 16 out of the 42 medals available.

Ireen Wüst is responsible for 11 of those 121 medals, making her the most decorated speed skater in Olympic history (and the most decorated active Winter Olympian). She is the first athlete to have won a gold medal in an individual event at four different Winter Games, and if Wüst wins gold again in Beijing, she will be the first and only person to have won gold at five editions of the Games (including the Summer Olympics).

“The bigger the race, the more important it is, the better able I am to get the most out of my body. I love skating when it really counts. I never feel scared. I love it."

- Ireen Wüst