From Olympic veteran to teenage record-breaker – Five stars to watch in Beijing

Snowboarder Shaun White and 15-year-old Kamila Valieva are among the international superstars to keep an eye out for in China

Mark Staniforth
Friday 28 January 2022 06:01
Snowboarder Shaun White is among the international stars to watch in Beijing (Mike Egerton/PA)
Snowboarder Shaun White is among the international stars to watch in Beijing (Mike Egerton/PA)

From 15-year-old figure skaters to 35-year-old snowboarding superstars, there will be no shortage of big names competing at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Here, we pick out five international athletes to watch:

Kamila Valieva

Fifteen-year-old Kamila Valieva is set to light up the women’s figure skating event Raul Mee/AP)

At the age of just 15, Valieva has emerged as the new figure skating superstar. Having only made her international debut last year, she has already shattered existing world records in the short program and free skate, and won the European Championships in Tallinn this month by a huge 22 points.

Francesco Friedrich

Francesco Friedrich has proved almost unbeaten in two- and four-man bobsleigh (David Davies (PA)

Friedrich, the reigning Olympic two- and four-man champion, reigned unbeaten across both disciplines through the entirety of 2021 and despite his run coming to an end at the start of the Olympic year, the German remains the overwhelming favourite to sweep the board once more in the Chinese capital.

Shaun White

Shaun White is intending to sign off from his Olympic career in style (Mike Egerton/PA)

The 35-year-old American star may not be in shape to successfully defend his snowboard halfpipe title: he has battled Covid, and reached only one podium since his Pyeongchang heroics. But having edged his way back into the US team, the sight of White in Olympic action for the last time will still be one to savour.

Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin is planning to add to her medal collection (Giovanni Maria Pizzato/AP)

Shiffrin warmed up for Beijing by winning a record 47th World Cup slalom title in January. Having under-performed by her own soaring standards in Pyeongchang, the American returns with multiple medal chances, not least in the slalom where she will do battle with the overall World Cup champion in the discipline, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova.

Wu Dajing

Wu Dajing claimed China’s only gold medal of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics (David Davies/PA)

Wu saved the day for his country in Pyeongchang in 2018, popping up on the final day of the short-track competition to claim China’s solitary gold medal of the Games in the men’s 500m. With China qualifying a full quota of short-track athletes, Wu will once again carry the hopes of an expectant host nation on his shoulders.

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