One month to go to Beijing 2022: What do the Games mean to Olympians?

The world is just one month away from watching athletes from around the globe arrive in Beijing for the biggest moment of their lives: the Olympic Winter Games. Today marks one month until the Olympic flame is lit, symbolising the start of something extraordinary. It has been a long and challenging journey for athletes who trained and competed through the pandemic. At Beijing 2022, they will be #StrongerTogether showcasing the true Olympic spirit.

By Chiaki Nishimura, Marina Dmukhovskaya

With the long-anticipated Beijing 2022 around the corner, it is time to reflect on what the showpiece means to athletes worldwide. Olympics.com found out from athletes across different disciplines why the Games occupied a special place in their hearts.

Mikaela Shiffrin (USA), Alpine Skiing

Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom champion winning gold at Sochi 2014 at the age of 18. Since then, she competed at PyeongChang 2018 and added two more medals.

The American Alpine skier acknowledges the importance of winning and that athletes sometimes had bad experiences at the Games. She also sees the Olympics as an opportunity to bring the world together through sports.

“And that's actually not what the Olympics are for, even though it is a competition and we talk about the medals. There is a whole different side of it, which I think is way more important. It's the unity and what we actually bring the world together to feel some sort of camaraderie through sport and how powerful that actually is.”

- Mikaela Shiffrin to Olympics.com

READ MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin: It’s hard to say that everything is better

Mikaela Shiffrin
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

CHA Jun-Hwan (Republic of Korea), Figure Skating

Athletes do not only compete for themselves, but also with hopes of inspiring the next generation in their home countries. CHA Jun-Hwan is only the second figure skater from the Republic of Korea, after KIM Yuna, to make it onto the podium at a Grand Prix. The Brian Orser-trained CHA will be looking to add to his country's medal tally after winning a bronze medal at the 2021 Grand Prix Series, NHK Trophy.

“As I competed at the Olympic Winter Games [in 2018], I do understand how precious the Olympic experience is. I really hope more Korean skaters can gain those experiences at the Olympic like I did, so I tried my best to secure more spots in the men’s singles.”

- CHA Jun-Hwan to a Korean newspaper, after obtaining two quota places for the first time in the men’s singles by finishing 10th at the 2021 world championships.

Lucas Braathen (Norway), Alpine skiing

Olympians have varying ambitions and declare their goals in different ways. Some keep it for themselves while others broadcast it to to the world. Lucas Braathen dares to share his goal, unashamedly aiming for a top-three place.

The 21-year-old Norwegian won his first World Cup race at last year’s season-opening Soelden event but suffered a major knee injury later the season. Overcoming the challenges, he has fully recovered from the injury and has set his sights on an Olympic medal.

"You don't ski Olympics for aiming for top 15 or top 10 or top five. You know, it's top three or nothing. So that's what I'm aiming for."

-Lucas Braathen to Olympics.com

READ MORE: Lucas Braathen: I'm not cocky, I'm just open about my ambitions

Last year Lucas Braathen became the first male skier born in the new millenium to win a World Cup race.
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

Shaun White (USA), Snowboarding

For three-time Olympic champion Shaun White, Beijing 2022 could be his fifth Olympics! The U.S. halfpipe legend considered a shift to skateboarding for Tokyo 2020, but decided to stick to winter sports. If he qualifies, the 35-year old will be the oldest competitor to represent the USA in the halfpipe discipline at the Olympics.

"It's so exciting, I can't believe I am doing this right now. Will this be my last Games? I always say it might, because that's how I feel, but as the time keeps moving on, I feel good, motivated and excited and then boom...I am at the next Games!"

-Shaun White on the Olympic Channel Podcast

Maya Khromykh (ROC), Figure Skating

The competition for places on the ROC women's figure skating team for Beijing 2022 is as fierce as it gets. Silver medallist from the Gran Premio d'Italia Maya Khromykh did not make it to the top three at the Russian Nationals in Saint Petersburg last month with Kamila Valieva, Alexandra Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova dominating the competition. The Russian Skating Federation will wait until after the European Championships to decide the Olympic team.

"I admit, I do have a dream to get to Beijing. Any athlete dreams about it, it is the highest award in sports, how can you NOT dream about it? Of course, there is this realisation [I could go to the Olympics], but when I start thinking about it... I start losing my head, because it's so cool!"

-Maya Khromykh to Olympics.com

Maiia Khromykh during her free skate at the 2021 Rostelecom Cup in Sochi, Russia.
Picture by 2021 Olympic Channel

KODAIRA Nao (Japan), Speed Skating

The Japanese speed skater KODAIRA Nao and the retired LEE Sang-hwa, a two-time Olympic gold medallist from the Republic of Korea, have an endearing friendship. At PyeongChang 2018, KODAIRA comforted LEE by putting her arm around her shoulder after beating her into second place in the 500m, on home ground.

“I believe that sports are communication that does not require words. The way the athletes compete and improve each other beyond nationalities inspires many people. We compete with each other, but it's essential to know each other's culture and language. That makes sports even more enjoyable.”

- KODAIRA Nao said at the press conference after winning her medal in PyeongChang 2018

Nao Kodaira of Japan and Sang-Hwa Lee of Korea, during the Ladies' 500m Individual Speed Skating in PyeongChang 2018
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

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