The 2010 Winter Olympics kicks off tonight. Here’s some of the Asian American athletes to keep a eye out for during the winter games in Vancouver:
Apolo Ohno – Speed Skating
Ohno is one of the most recognizable current American Winter Olympians and perhaps of all time, thanks in part to his trademark soul patch and, more importantly, to his Olympic pedigree. Ohno is expected to add to his stash of medals from the last two Olympic Winter Games (five total) as he leads a strong U.S. Short Track Team. He has won an Olympic medal in every distance and will again be a podium player throughout Vancouver. He is currently tied with Eric Heiden for the most career winter medals by a U.S. man. He needs to win one medal to tie and two medals to surpass Bonnie Blair to become the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian in history.
More Apolo Ohno
Mirai Nagasu – figure skating
Nagasu became the next star teen in American figure skating when she won the 2008 U.S. title at the age of 14. She became the second youngest woman to win the title (Tara Lipinski in 1997 is the youngest) and was too young to compete at the 2008 World Championships. Accommodating a four-inch growth spurt, Nagasu finished fifth at the 2009 U.S. Championships. Now that the U.S. women will only have two spots at the Winter Games for the first time since 1994, it may be even tougher to qualify. Still, at 16, she still has plenty of promise and may not have yet reached her peak.
Julie Chu – Women’s Hockey
Julie is the first player of Asian descent on the U.S. National Team. She’s nicknamed “Saint Chuey” because of her kind nature. On the ice, she a beast. Not only is she a two-time Olympian, but she also helped the Minnesota Whitecaps capture the Western Women’s Hockey League championship and was named the top role model at the Canadian Women’s Hockey Championship in 2008-09
Simon Cho – Speed Skating
Simon Cho, at 18, is the youngest member of the Olympic Team who actually gave up skating in January 2009 after a disappointing speedskating season. After thinking it through, Cho decided to skate at the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, but he had no idea he would make the team. At the trials, Cho won a 500m event, securing a spot on the team in Vancouver.
Cho started skating when he was 3 years old in Seoul, South Korea. After moving to the United States when he was 5, Cho continued skating at several clubs until connecting with Jimmy Jang (USS National Assistant Coach) who has coached Cho for nearly a decade.
Graham Watanabe – Men’s snowboardcross
A member of the U.S. Alpine snowboarding team in 2000, Graham Watanabe has a background in racing, but switched full-on to snowboardcross with the Olympic announcement. At the start of the 2005 season he jumped on the opportunity for a trip to Chile with friend Nate Galpin. The trip proved profitable when he boosted his World Cup career in a big way, winning the opening SBX event in Chile to become the first American man ever to win a World Cup SBX. He turned that into a solid season on the World Cup tour and an eventual ticket to the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
Watanabe had the intimidation factor in 2009 as he pulled in successful results consistently. He had three World Cup top-10 finishes, but capped it off big time with a win in the USA to please the home crowd in Sunday River, Maine. Thanks to his success there as well as a second place at the first stop of the Visa Snowboardcross Championship Series at the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Boreal Resort in Calif. The icing on Watanabe’s season: a silver medal at the winter X Games.
Callan Chythlook-Sifsof – Women’s snowboardcross
Raised in Bristol Bay, way out into what Alaskans call the ‘bush’ – some 400 air miles from Anchorage and accessible only by air or boat, Callan Chythlook-Sifsof is a Yupik/Inupiaq Eskimo, who after earning a spot on the U.S. C Team in ’06, jumped directly to the A Team in ’07 after winning the Visa U.S. Snowboardcross Championships and taking third in the first World Cup of her career.
After a huge progression during the 2008 season, Chythlook-Sifsof had to take a seat during 2009 when she was injured at the first World Cup of the season. But, with a year to build herself back up, Chythlook-Sifsof is looking strong and poised to be one of the tough competitors on the World Cup SBX circuit.
J.R. Celski – Short track speedskating
Many are making Celski out to be the next Apolo Anton Ohno, and the 18-year-old prodigy certainly lived up to even the highest expectations at the 2009 World Championships by winning five medals. Celski has quickly developed into a strong all-around skater as a teenager. Celski could give the U.S. Short Track Team a true medal contender in multiple distances at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
thanks to Kate A. for pointing us to J.R. Celski
Amanda Evora – pairs figure skating
Evora discovered her sister’s ice skates and since they fit, decided to give them a try. When she was 18, she left her family’s home in Texas to further her skating career. She is partners with Mark Ladwig in pairs figure skating. They study Cirque du Soleil and roller skating videos for inspiration. Evora is also studying business administration at the University of South Florida.