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100 Days Out: Athletes to Watch This Winter
Get to know these nine athletes looking to represent the USA this winter.
In just a few months, athletes from around the world will gather in China to represent their countries and compete against the best of the best. One hundred days from the opening ceremony marks a major milestone for athletes as the drama of global competition, jubilation that comes with potentially being the best in the world, and the honor of representing their country starts to become more perceptible.
While a few athletes have already punched their ticket, most are still in the middle of qualifying or are about to kick off their journey.
Here are a few athletes to keep your eyes on this winter:
MAAME BINEY – Short Track Speed Skating
At just 21 years old, Maame Biney is poised to make her return to the Winter Games in Beijing after her historic appearance at the 2018 PyeongChang Games, where she became the first African American woman to represent the U.S. short track speed skating team.
Biney’s journey to the global sports stage is as unique as her beaming smile and bubbly laugh. She was born in Ghana and upon immigrating to the Washington, D.C. area at the age of 5, took up figure skating until her coach informed her that she was “too fast” and suggested speed skating instead. After growing up competing in both taekwondo and speed skating, Biney focused on the latter and her young international career quickly took form.
After her historic Olympic Games debut at 17 in PyeongChang, Biney became the first U.S. woman to win a World Junior Championship in the 500, and in 2021, already has earned U.S. National titles in the 500, 1,000, 1,500 meters and claimed the women’s overall championship, building momentum ahead of Beijing qualifying.
Off the ice, Biney juggles her training with studies at the University of Utah, where she began as a chemical engineering major, then switched to information systems and is now studying biology.
HILARY KNIGHT – Ice Hockey
The first player that comes to mind when discussing U.S. Hockey – women’s or men’s – is Hilary Knight. The three-time Olympian has earned gold and two silvers for the red, white and blue but it’s her impact off the ice – for the future of hockey and women athletes everywhere – that has elevated her to legendary status.
Breaking barriers throughout her illustrious career, Knight made history as the first female skater (non-goalie) to practice with an NHL team. Her historic on-ice accolades speak for themselves – eight world championships and all-time record 45 goals, among other major achievements – but her actions to create equal opportunities and compensation for female players worldwide will be her ultimate legacy.
In 2019, Knight led a group of the world’s best players who announced they would not suit up for any professional league until better pay and working conditions were confirmed.
Furthermore, she and other players established the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, to create a single, viable professional women’s hockey league in North America offering sustainable opportunities for future generations of players.
Knight’s on and off-ice impact has garnered recognition from Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list and ESPN the Magazine’s “Body Issue,” becoming the face of women’s hockey worldwide.
As she prepares for her fourth Winter Games in Beijing, Knight continues to write her legacy while creating equal opportunities for the next generation of women’s players.
MADDIE MASTRO – Snowboarding (Half Pipe)
Maddie Mastro has earned multiple nicknames in her young career – “American halfpipe prodigy,” “Mad Dog,” “Maestro,” “Straight-Air Queen,” among others – but “Olympic medalist” could be next as she is positioned to represent the U.S. for a second time in Beijing.
Whatever she is called, Mastro at only 21, has been leading the next generation of women’s snowboarders while racking up World Cup and X Games medals. Mastro has literally grown up on the snow as she began skiing at age two and transitioned to snowboarding after her parents gifted her a pink snowboard when she was six.
A contender at every competition, Mastro continues to redefine the sport with her high-flying ability and is already etched in history as the first woman ever to land the "double crippler" both in and out of halfpipe competition.
Puns aside, the sky is the limit for Mastro as she sets her sights on being on the podium in China.
HAILEY LANGLAND – Snowboarding (Slopestyle, Big Air)
Since signing with Burton at age six, Hailey “Yung Hails” Langland has won titles, medals and made history every step of the way. Now she is looking to make her second Olympics appearance in 2022.
Langland won her first World Cup Grand Prix at 14, earned an X Games Big Air gold medal with her historic Cab Double Cork 1080 at 16 – becoming the first woman ever to land the trick in X Games competition – and qualified for the Olympics at 18.
It is Langland’s diverse style and skillset – from her rail game to air skills – that truly sets her apart as she competes in Slopestyle, Big Air and Superpipe.
Her creativity doesn’t stop on the snow though, as Langland is a self-taught musician playing the ukulele, piano and guitar.
LUKE WINKELMANN – Snowboarding (Slopestyle)
North Carolina isn’t the typical hotbed of snowboarding talent, but Luke Winkelmann has certainly put the Tar Heel State on the map as he’s one of the most promising young champions in the sport.
The U.S. Snowboard Team member had a breakout 2019 – winning Burton US Open Rookie of the Year and MVP at the first annual Red Bull Recharged – and has continued his momentum earning two Nor-Am Cup titles, a 2nd place finish at the Junior World Championships, and competing in five different World Cups.
One of the most stylish and creative riders in the sport, the 20-year-old learned how to snowboard on the Appalachian Mountains and remains true to his North Carolina roots. Winkelmann recently starred in a “Back to School Urban Snowboarding” Rail Report that showcased how he pushes boundaries in the non-traditional snowboarding setting of his hometown.
No matter the terrain, Winkelmann will bring his unique boarding style to China in 2022.
TOBY MILLER – Snowboarding (Slopestyle)
Toby Miller burst on the national scene at the age of 13 when he won the halfpipe contest at the U.S. Snowboard Association’s National Championship in 2013.
Since turning pro, he’s racked up five top-10 finishes at the World Cup, three career top-10 X Games finishes, two Junior World silver medals, and a Junior World Championship.
In his young career, Miller has learned from the best as his training partners and mentors include Shaun White and JJ Thomas, setting him up for a long and successful career on and off the slope.
Miller offers fans a unique behind-the-scenes look at his life via his passions for photography and video, which come to life on his YouTube channel.
NICK GOEPPER – Skiing (Slopestyle)
Two-time Olympian (silver in 2014 and bronze in 2018) and 2021 Winter X Games Slopestyle gold medalist Nick Goepper looks to China to complete his medal set.
Over the last decade, Goepper has set the record for the most Slopestyle gold medals (four) in X Games history along with two silvers, in addition to two World Cup titles, a silver and bronze plus two World Championship bronzes, among other podium finishes around the world.
Goepper’s unique origin story began in Lawrenceburg, Indiana where he grew up skiing off artificial grass-covered jumps in his backyard and selling candy bars to pay for ski passes. After a move out west to train formally, his career took off when he went pro in 2010 and began to put together his historic resume.
Managing through a string of shoulder injuries and a six-year gap between X Games wins, Goepper is back on track ahead of Olympic qualifying.
BIRK IRVING – Skiing (Slopestyle)
Growing up in a family of skiers on the slopes of Colorado, it is no surprise that Birk Irving became a Slopestyle star. With a ski patrol father, an alpine racing coach mom, and a halfpipe and slopestyle skier sister, the Irving family is built to ski.
Naturally, Irving began his slopestyle career at an early age, landing his first 360 at five and earning his first sponsor at seven. He burst on the international scene at age 16 when he won gold at the 2016 Youth Olympics and hasn’t looked back since.
Throughout his young career, Irving has earned podium finishes across the globe in the World Championships and World Cup but after a year away from competition due to COVID-19, he kicked off 2021 with a bang winning his first X Games medal, a bronze, in the ski superpipe.
His momentum this year continues as he earned bronze at the World Championships and was named to the 2021-22 US Freeski Team with hopes to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
MAC FOREHAND – Skiing (Slopestyle)
One of the most exciting freestyle skiers in the sport, Mac Forehand has already made a name for himself internationally at such a young age.
In his first full season competing on the World Cup circuit in 2019, the Connecticut native made history by winning the Overall World Cup Title in Slopestyle at 17.
Forehand’s consistency continued as he qualified for the finals in every World Cup event he entered that season, gaining enough overall points to earn the Crystal Globe on top of the podium at the final World Cup event in Switzerland.
In the first Olympic tryout event for the 2022 Winter Games, Forehand finished 2nd at the U.S. Grand Prix World Cup, continuing his momentum from a fourth-place finish at the World Championships earlier this year.
Outside of skiing, Forehand is an avid mountain biker and volunteers for the Pan Mass challenge, a 200-mile bike ride that is the largest cancer fundraiser in the U.S.