Sochi Winter Olympics 2014 Female Athletes To Watch: Jamie Anderson, Yuna Kim, and More
The highly-anticipated 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic games start Feb. 6, with the introduction of snowboard slopestyle and team figure skating. During the opening ceremonies the next day, we'll see both familiar and new faces vying for gold and glory. Despite the controversies over the exclusion of gays in Russia and the questionable living conditions in Sochi (remember the double-toilet photo?), the Games are sure to highlight some kick-ass competitors.
Did you know that women weren't able to compete in the ancient Olympics? This was probably because the Games were conducted in the nude and was not considered respectable for Greek ladies. However, they had their own Olympic-type competition to honor the Greek god Hera, and it might have been as old as the traditional Games themselves.
Of course, times have changed. Female athletes have come a long way, as these impressive women prove.
Women were banned from ski jumping for 90 years, because doctors thought a fall during the sport would injure the female reproductive system (makes perfect sense for men to be allowed to compete, though, right?). Now, Japan’s Sara Takanashi is the ski-jumping gold-medal favorite, flying through the air at 65 mph from a 300-foot slope.
Twenty-seven women from 11 countries, including ski-jumpers Sarah Hendrickson, Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome from the United States, will make history at Sochi.
South Korea’s Yuna Kim already won gold for her figure skating performance at Vancouver in 2010 — but she’s favored to clinch another top spot at Sochi. She easily won the 2013 World Championships and has never placed lower than third place at any competition in her career. If she wins the gold medal again, she’ll join the ranks of Sonja Henie and Katarina Witt as one of the only figure skaters to accomplish such a rare feat.
Snowboard slopestyle is a new event at the Sochi Winter Olympics, and snowboarder Jamie Anderson is in line to become its queen. The 23-year-old, who meditates and crochets avidly, spent her time growing up on the mountains of Lake Tahoe, Calif. Her only focus now? To expertly land the tricks and twists of slopestyle in Sochi.
As China’s freestyle skier Xu Mengtao twists and turns through the air during Sochi’s aerials event, she is most likely aiming for some gold-medal redemption. Her hopes for the top spot at Vancouver in 2010 were quickly dashed when she fell and had to settle for sixth place. But at the Sochi test event in February, she finished first, beating her opponent by a wide margin of 24 points.
Out of the 86 Olympic medals that The Netherlands has won since 1928, 82 of those have been with speed skating — so it’s fair to say the Dutch take the sport very seriously. Speed skater Ireen Wust is predicted to nab up to four golds in Sochi for the Dutch, especially because she’s dominated the sport by winning three world titles since the Vancouver Games.
Germany’s women have won every luge gold medal since the 1998 Nagano Olympics, so all eyes will be on German luge competitor Natalie Geisenberger. The 25-year-old has a bronze for Vancouver, but the world and European champion is looking to cement her status on the top of the podium at Sochi.
Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin shrugs off comparisons to Lindsey Vonn, who was forced to sit out of the Sochi Olympics due to a knee injury. With Vonn out of the picture, the U.S. is putting the pressure on Shiffrin, who is only 18 years old, to snag a top spot. While Shiffrin says she’s just basking in the Olympic moment, she certainly has the chops to prove herself — after all, she’s the first American to win two World Cup races before turning 18.
Great Britain’s women are favored to win gold for curling at Sochi, and the country is counting on champion curler Eve Muirhead to help them get there. The curlers have a demanding schedule — eight matches in eight days, and matches can last for more than two hours — but Muirhead says she’s confident despite the pressure.
Nicknamed “The Iron Lady,” cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen is already a legend in her own right. Bjoergen earned the most gold medals in 2010 at the Vancouver Games, and she’s racked up 63 total victories by the end of 2013. In Sochi, she’s facing her Polish rival Justyna Kowalczyk, who has previously accused Bjoergen of cheating.
It’ll be hard to beat Kelly Clark at the Winter Olympics, which will be her fourth Games. The 30-year-old veteran is the winningest snowboarder ever, male or female, with 67 total wins. And she doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon: “I love the sport more than ever. It’s been fun to be on the forefront of that progression and to be taking the sport to new places.”
The Canadian and U.S. women’s hockey teams are guaranteed to go head-to-head during the Olympics. Hockey veteran Hayley Wickenheiser, who has the distinction of being the first female non-goalie to play full-time professional hockey, is focused on getting what be her final gold medal. She will also be Canada’s flag-bearer at the Olympic’s opening ceremonies.
Norwegian cross-country skier Tora Berger became her country’s first Olympic women’s biathlon champion — which was also Norway’s 100th gold medal — in Vancouver. At the 2013 World Championships, she placed no higher than third in every single event she entered. The Sochi Olympics will be her last, so she’s looking to dominate her field.