After finishing fourth in the medal table at back-to-back Winter Olympics, the United States will look to improve its standing when the 2022 Games get underway from February 4-20.
In this two-part series, we'll give you a look at some of Team USA's top athletes to watch out for this winter. Part 1 covered the snow sports, and Part 2 here features the ice and sliding sports. Other articles will also cover the top international athletes to know and much more.
At PyeongChang 2018, gold medal wins by the men's curling and women's hockey teams provided two of the signature moments for the United States. Those teams will attempt to defend their titles this winter, while American figure skating star Nathan Chen and other athletes listed below will offer strong medal chances in their own events.
Nathan Chen, Figure Skating
After missing out on a podium finish in men’s singles in PyeongChang, American star Nathan Chen bounced back – with a vengeance. The 22-year-old won the next 14 straight contests he entered, including three straight World Championships. The winning streak came to an end at 2021 Skate America when he shockingly finished third. Chen is the first skater to have landed five types of quadruple jumps in competition and eight quadruple jumps across a single competition, which he did at 2018 Worlds. Since the 2018 Games, Chen has also started college at Yale University, but is taking a leave of absence to prepare for the 2022 Olympics.
Alysa Liu, Figure Skating
Bay Area-based teenager Alysa Liu won her first U.S. national titles in 2019 and 2020. The 16-year-old made her senior international debut in 2021 at the Cranberry Cup, where she came in first. Liu was selected by U.S. Figure Skating to compete at the 2021 Nebelhorn Trophy with the goal of qualifying the nation for a third Olympic berth, and she won the competition. Liu is the first junior American ladies’ singles skater to complete a triple Axel in international competition and the first American female skater to complete a quad jump in competition.
Hilary Knight, Hockey
Hilary Knight is pretty much a household name at this point. The 32-year-old Palo Alto native has won three Olympic medals, including a gold from PyeongChang 2018, and has been the backbone of the U.S. women's team for over a decade. And in February, she'll continue to serve as one of USA's key contributors as the women's team looks to defend its title.
Brianna Decker, Hockey
Another key cog on Team USA's women's hockey team over the last decade, Brianna Decker is once again expected to make the trip overseas to shoot for a second consecutive Olympic gold medal. Decker tallied three assists in five games in PyeongChang, including an assist in Hilary Knight's opening goal of the gold medal game against Canada.
Maame Biney, Short Track
An electrifying skater with an infectious smile, Maame Biney is eyeing a breakout Winter Games after gaining fans as a charismatic 18-year-old in PyeongChang when she became the first Black woman to compete on a U.S. Olympic short track team. She’s become versatile over multiple distances in recent years, but remains strongest in the fastest short track event, the 500m. Biney, originally born in Ghana, will look to channel fearsome alter ego “Anna Digger” when she takes the ice in February.
SEE MORE: Meet Maame Biney's race day alter ego
Kaillie Humphries, Bobsled
Kaillie Humphries, a multi-time medalist in the two-woman bobsled event for Canada, switched to representing the United States after the PyeongChang Games because of abuse and harassment she alleges she faced within the Canadian bobsledding team. Her status for the 2022 Winter Games is in limbo, however, as she is still awaiting U.S. citizenship and has asked the International Olympic Committee to let her compete without a U.S. passport. In the interim, she's won three world titles while competing for Team USA: the two-woman bobsled titles in 2020 and 2021, and the inaugural women's monobob title in 2021.
John Shuster, Curling
Four-time Olympian John Shuster is currently the unquestioned king of American curling. The 39-year-old skipped the men's team to its first-ever curling gold medal at PyeongChang 2018 and also earned bronze at Torino 2006. And if that isn't enough, Shuster has also competed in nine World Curling Championships. Most of Shuster's team remains intact from the last Olympics: Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner are back for this cycle, while Christopher Plys is a new addition after Tyler George stepped away from competing. Before they can begin their Olympic title defense, Team Shuster will first have to win at U.S. Olympic Trials in November.
Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, Ice Dance
Ice dance duo Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are laying it all on the line in the 2021-22 season, knowing it will be their last before retirement. The pair first teamed up in 2011; Hubbell previously competed alongside her brother, Kieffer. Hubbell and Donohue won the 2018 U.S. Championships by .19 points over the Shibutani Siblings, then went on to compete in the individual ice dance event at the 2018 Olympic Games, taking fourth by a narrow margin. They won 2019 Nationals and took silver to Madison Chock and Evan Bates in 2020. Heading into the 2020-21 season, Hubbell and Donohue brought on two-time Olympic champion Scott Moir as one of their choreographers, then won their third national title and took silver at the 2021 World Championships. They opened the 2021-22 Grand Prix series with a win at Skate America, their fourth straight at the event, edging Chock and Bates.
Ashley Cain-Gribble & Timothy LeDuc, Pairs Figure Skating
American pairs team Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc are seeking their first Olympic berth. Cain-Gribble is the daughter of Peter Cain, an Australian Olympian in pairs skating, and Canadian Darlene Wendt, a former ice dancer. Cain coaches the duo, which won its first U.S. title in 2019 — making LeDuc the first openly queer skater to win a U.S. pairs title — and was the sole American pairs team at the 2019 World Championships. At 2020 and 2021 Nationals, they took fourth and third, respectively. Cain-Gribble and LeDuc were named alternates for the 2021 World Championships and ended up competing, finishing ninth. Cain-Gribble contracted COVID-19 in the summer of 2021, resulting in a delayed start to the pair’s season, but they opened their Grand Prix season with a third-place finish at Skate Canada.
Auston Matthews, Hockey
After years of Patrick Kane being regarded as the crown jewel of U.S.-born hockey players, Auston Matthews may be close to taking that title, if he hasn't already. The Arizona-raised forward is fresh off a Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy-winning season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, leading the entire NHL with 41 goals during the 2020-21 season. And at 24 years old, it's possible he still hasn't even reached his ceiling.
Adam Fox, Hockey
Adam Fox has quickly become one of the top defensemen in the world. The 23-year-old won the NHL's James Norris Memorial Trophy last season as the league's top blueliner, and the New York native hasn't let up in the 2021-22 season's early going. He's averaging a point per game in the New York Rangers' first 13 games of the season, and he's showing no signs of slowing down.
Kristen Santos, Short Track
The United States has a rising short track star in 27-year-old Kristen Santos. The Fairfield, Connecticut, native has gotten the 2021-22 season off to a red-hot start with a trio of top-three finishes – including her first career win – in just the first two World Cup stops. She is chasing her first Olympic appearance after an injury kept her from qualifying for PyeongChang in 2018, and has a chance to contend in both the 1000m and 1500m events.
Brittany Bowe, Speed Skating
At 33 years old, speed skater Brittany Bowe is facing her best chance to win individual hardware at the Winter Olympics. She already holds a bronze medal from the team pursuit in 2018, impressive considering she nearly missed PyeongChang altogether due to a severe concussion in the lead-up. The former Division I basketball player at Florida Atlantic University expects to contend for podium places in two individual events: the 1000m, for which she's the reigning world champion, and the 1500m.
Chris Mazdzer, Luge
At the 2018 PyeongChang Games, Chris Mazdzer became the first American man ever to win a medal in men’s singles luge. He followed up those Games with a stint on “Dancing with the Stars,” in which he placed fourth. At the 2019 World Championships, Mazdzer dealt with a neck injury and only competed in doubles and the team relay; at 2020 Worlds, he took bronze in the mixed team event. At the 2021 event, he finished 10th in singles, his best finish in the discipline at Worlds since he was fourth in 2016. In September of this year, however, he broke his foot at a USA Luge National Team training camp, putting his status for the 2022 Winter Games in question.