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Set to Shine: These are the 5 athletes to watch at Beijing 2022 Olympics

The biggest names in winter sports will descend on the Chinese capital next February for the Beijing 2022 Olympics.

Set to run between 4 and 20 February, the Games will follow pandemic rules also imposed at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this year, including a “closed loop” bubble, no contact with the general public and a 21-day quarantine for those that have not been vaccinated.

These are 5 stars to keep on your radar ahead of the Beijing 2022 Olympics

Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan

Hanyu is still only 26, but the “Ice Prince” is already going after a hat-trick of Olympic figure-skating gold medals. He is always followed by screaming fans who shower the ice with plushies after his routines. Although the Beijing Games will be restricted to local spectators, Chinese authorities have vowed to ensure Hanyu still gets plenty of support — the official intervention underlining just how big a star he is.

Eileen Gu, China

Born in California and representing the United States before switching to China, Gu looks destined to be one of the faces of the Games. Just 18, the freeskier is also a model and grade-A student. Known as “Gu Ailing” in China, her father is American and mother Chinese. She has been enthusiastically embraced in China, with the country’s media affectionately dubbing her “Frog Princess” after a green helmet she wore.

Mikaela Shiffrin, USA

The American skiing star is pursuing a third consecutive gold in slalom, but has admitted having some trepidation ahead of Beijing. The 26-year-old won the overall World Cup title for three straight years to 2019, but that streak ended with a horrible season marked by the sudden death of her father in February 2020, the coronavirus pandemic and a back injury as she went winless for the first time since her debut campaign in 2011-2012.

Chloe Kim, USA

Born in the United States to Korean parents, she became one of the faces of the Pyeongchang 2018 Games at just 17. The snowboarder swept to halfpipe gold in South Korea, roared on by locals who adopted her as their own and chanted her name.

Connor McDavid, Canada

NHL players return to the Olympics and Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid will be one to watch. At 24 he is one of the youngest players for Team Canada but still one of the best. There is a good chance that the two-time NHL MVP could be paired on a line with Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon — their speed and explosiveness looks like being one of the most lethal scoring combinations in men’s hockey in Beijing.

…and one who won’t be there

Pita Taufatofua, Tonga

The Tongan raised pulses when he peeled off for the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympics, then appeared shirtless again as temperatures plunged in Pyeongchang, and pulled off the same stunt in Tokyo. But after competing in freestyle cross country last time at the Winter Games — coming 114th but avoiding the wooden spoon — he is not expected to appear in Beijing.

This article was published via AFP Relaxnews
(Header image courtesy of JIJI PRESS / AFP / Japan OUT)

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