Eight Athletes to Watch Ahead of Milan-Cortina 2026

Eight Athletes to Watch Forward of Milan-Cortina 2026

The snowboarder Shaun White received’t be again for one more Winter Video games. Neither will the Dutch speedskating legends Ireen Wüst and Sven Kramer. Kamila Valieva most likely doesn’t need to take into consideration one other Olympics for a very long time. However the countdown for the subsequent version — in Milan and Cortina, Italy, in 2026 — started on Sunday the second the Olympic flame went out in Beijing. Who would be the stars then? New York Occasions reporters who coated the Beijing Video games supply a peek into the long run.

No one had a greater time on the 2022 Olympics than the American determine skater Alysa Liu, who, at 16, was the youngest athlete to compete for the U.S. crew in Beijing.

She shopped within the athletes’ village mall many times, performed cornhole with Canadians (and discovered that it’s an underhand throw, not overhand, that’s best) and frolicked with determine skater pals she hadn’t seen in what felt like eternally due to the pandemic.

“I can’t imagine how enjoyable it’s right here!” Liu mentioned. “I’m so pleased!”

She was pleased on the ice, too. Within the ladies’s particular person occasion, she skated two clear packages, smiling from begin to end. She completed a satisfying seventh place within the ladies’s particular person occasion and was the highest American.

Liu, a two-time nationwide champion from Richmond, Calif., was shocked that this turned out to be such a great Video games for her, she mentioned, after she had set a low bar coming in. She had injured her hip in 2020, and it took some time for her to relearn her triple jumps.

Liu nonetheless doesn’t know if she is going to prepare for a second Olympics. Faculty is on the horizon and she or he has different pursuits, together with talking out for L.G.B.T.Q. rights and towards racial discrimination. However her skating remains to be on the upswing, so sticking round is tempting, she mentioned.

The query is, will her physique maintain up within the grueling sport lengthy sufficient to compete in one other 4 years?

— Juliet Macur

The primary medal occasion for snowboarding on the Beijing Video games was ladies’s slopestyle. Possibly it was too quickly for 17-year-old Kokomo Murase of Japan.

However 2026, when she might be 21, may very well be simply the best time.

Murase is a part of a Japanese wave that’s crashing into snowboarding. She has been a dominant drive within the sport for the previous two years, however couldn’t convert that to an enormous Olympic exhibiting — no less than in slopestyle, the place she completed tenth.

9 days later, in huge air, she quietly received a bronze medal, ending behind solely Austria’s Anna Gasser, the highest trick thrower of the previous few years, and New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, who received the slopestyle gold that Murase may need imagined for herself.

“I need to take this frustration out on the subsequent Olympics for gold medals as an alternative,” she wrote on Instagram.

Her greatest competitors — everybody’s greatest competitors — may very well be from Japan. On the Winter Olympics, Reira Iwabuchi, 20, completed fourth in huge air, fifth in slopestyle. Sena Tomita, 22, received bronze within the halfpipe, and her little sister, Ruki Tomita, 20, was fifth.

The Japanese swell is greater among the many males, the place Ayumu Hirano received gold within the halfpipe. Japan had 4 finalists, although hopes for a podium sweep didn’t coalesce. Add Hiroaki Kunitake’s fourth-place end in huge air, and Takeru Otsuka’s top-10 performances in slopestyle and massive air, and there’s the making of a Japanese medal haul in 2026.

But when there’s one title to notice, make it Kokomo Murase. She is already considering forward.

— John Department

All eyes have been on Mikaela Shiffrin at first of the enormous slalom, however when she crashed, Nina O’Brien shortly rose to turn into the highest American within the race. After the primary run, O’Brien, a 24-year-old Californian, was in sixth place, inside shouting distance of the rostrum.

In her second run, O’Brien shredded her turns, racing like somebody prepared to maneuver up. With roughly 20 meters to go earlier than the end, O’Brien’s ski caught the final gate and she or he flew over the ideas of her skis and tumbled throughout the snow. There was a scream, and a rush of medics. O’Brien’s tibia was sticking by her ski sock. It was fractured. So was her fibula.

“Heartbreaking,” she mentioned of the expertise.

O’Brien is one in all a number of American skiers who attended Dartmouth Faculty. It’s not the everyday path to the Olympics and the World Cup circuit, however she’s been on the best trajectory recently. She ended final season ranked fifteenth in large slalom, her greatest end so far.

Horrific crashes and grotesque accidents are endemic to Alpine snowboarding. The World Cup circuit has no scarcity of skiers who’ve come again from such disasters and ended up with Olympic medals hanging round their necks. Maybe in 4 years, O’Brien might be one in all them.

— Matthew Futterman

Biathletes are inclined to peak of their late 20s and early 30s. The largest stars of 2022, the double-gold medalist Marte Roeiseland and triple-gold medalist Johannes Boe, each of Norway, are 31 and 28.

So what are we to make of Elvira Oeberg? In Beijing, she received a silver within the dash and pursuit behind the incomparable Roeiseland and teamed to win a relay gold with Sweden. Just a few taking pictures misses helped price her an opportunity at yet one more medal within the particular person occasion.

A reasonably good Video games, proper? Properly, there are many biathlon followers who see even larger issues to return in 2026. As a result of Oeberg is barely 22.

She received her first World Cup occasion simply in December. If she retains getting higher, who is aware of? Although biathlon is an occasion the place catastrophe could strike at any time with some poor taking pictures, Oeberg seems like a reasonably certain wager for a number of golds.

Oeberg and her older sister, Hanna, have reinvigorated Swedish ladies’s biathlon. When Hanna received a gold in 2018 it was the primary for the nation’s ladies in 12 years.

Whereas Hanna, now 26, is way from carried out, Elvira appears able to peak at 26 in 2026. (And why not at 32 in 2030, too?)

— Victor Mather

Italy just isn’t precisely often known as a curling powerhouse, however Stefania Constantini helps her nation transfer in that route.

Win after win after win, Constantini dazzled curling followers world wide — however particularly in Italy — through the combined doubles competitors. She and her associate, Amos Mosaner, stood out: For one, at 6 toes 6 inches, Mosaner was by far the tallest on the ice. They’re younger (she’s 22, he’s 26). And they’re actually, actually good.

In some methods, their success appeared inconceivable: Constantini is captain of the Italian ladies’s nationwide crew, which did not qualify for the Olympics. Earlier than the Video games, she nonetheless labored as a clerk at a North Face retailer.

Constantini was praised for being unflappable and lethal correct. She and Mosaner defeated opponent after opponent: america, Britain, China, Sweden, Norway. After every victory, she talked about wanting to boost the profile of curling in Italy, properly conscious that in 4 years the Winter Olympics might be in Milan and her hometown, Cortina d’Ampezzo.

It appears to have labored: She was greeted upon her return like a hero, huge bouquets of flowers laid in her arms as crowds cheered. She and Mosaner had been undefeated, attaining a primary for his or her nation: Italy now had an Olympic medal in curling and it was gold.

— Rick Rojas

River Radamus, who turned 24 through the Beijing Olympics, was the youngest member of america males’s Alpine crew competing on the Video games. He was not cowed by his first Olympic look, nor did he need to mix in. As an alternative, he dyed his blond hair in a snow leopard’s sample and did so with a function.

“I can’t take myself too significantly,” Radamus mentioned. “It type of makes a press release.”

It’s a recurring perspective that Radamus has adopted for greater than Olympic appearances, and it has served him properly. The son of two national-level, longtime ski-racing coaches, he has one of many brightest futures on the U.S. Alpine crew, and he proved it when he narrowly missed profitable a bronze medal within the males’s large slalom in Beijing.

Racing in a blinding snowstorm, Radamus appeared to be emboldened by the situations that have been distracting a lot of the sector. Although ninth within the World Cup large slalom rankings this season, Radamus completed fourth in Beijing, solely .26 of a second behind bronze medal winner Mathieu Faivre of France. His second run included two small miscues in the midst of the racecourse. They didn’t irk Radamus.

“They have been errors of aggression fairly than terror,” he mentioned.

Raised in Colorado, Radamus was the primary three-time gold medalist on the Youth Olympic Video games in 2016 and has developed a popularity as an enormous occasion racer. He has been in comparison with two-time Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety, a mentor and former teammate who additionally had a brash model in his 20s. At this season’s opening World Cup race in Sölden, Austria, which is a notable celebration of the game’s return in Europe, Radamus, who had struggled to realize high large slalom ends in many World Cup races, charged into a surprising sixth-place end.

Within the end space, one of many first issues he did was take away his helmet to disclose his snow leopard coiffure.

— Invoice Pennington

As her toe jutted throughout the end line and her time flashed on the board, Femke Kok knew her Olympics have been completed. She was fourth within the ladies’s 500-meter speedskating race, with among the quickest skaters on the planet nonetheless to return. Her palms shortly coated her face; “I don’t really feel like I used to be capable of present what I used to be value,” she later wrote on Instagram.

Her ultimate placement was sixth, two-tenths of a second from a medal. In speedskating the margins are that effective, and that tough to beat. Seen from a unique angle, nonetheless, Kok’s Video games have been vastly profitable. She made her Olympic debut at simply 21, and she or he was attempting to do one thing just one different Dutch lady has ever carried out regardless of the Netherlands’ domination of speedskating: win a 500-meter medal.

Dutch skaters received no less than one medal in all however three races on the Olympics. However whereas they’ve quite a few contenders on the center and lengthy distances, the quick distances are managed by skaters from Japan, america, China and different international locations. Specializing in the sprints, Kok is not going to have alternatives to pile up Olympic medals like her compatriots Ireen Wüst and Sven Kramer.

However she may have one other likelihood, and maybe a number of possibilities, to blaze a brand new path. Her rivals ought to fear.

— Kevin Draper



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