Stars to light up Beijing 2022
Published: Feb 01, 2022 02:45 PM
Shaun White Photo: VCG

Shaun White Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

As the Beijing Winter Olympics kicks off on February 4, the Global Times has picked some of the biggest names to keep an eye on. Meet the athletes that are going to have the world shouting their names.

Five-time Olympian - Shaun White

"We're going to China," wrote US snowboarding superstar Shaun White on Twitter after securing his first podium finish since the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics at the Laax Open in Switzerland in January. 

White cruised to a third-place finish and did so without trying any of his signature moves or the most demanding tricks from his playbook. The podium was enough, ensuring he was the top-ranked American on the night and all but guaranteeing he would be named to the Team USA snowboarding cohort as one of their four top riders.

"What an amazing night. I'm so thankful to be still putting down runs at this point in my career... Thank you to all my fans, friends and family that have supported me for over 20 years!! I love you all!" White added, along with the hashtag "#5timeOlympian". 

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will indeed be White's fifth and as he has said it will be "for sure" his final Games, as he told Rolling Stone recently.

"I feel like I got that storybook ending," White told the US music magazine. "So when these Olympics came around, I was like, 'Well, man, why not?'"

Shaun White Photo: VCG

Shaun White Photo: VCG

White won gold at Pyeongchang in 2018 to add to his two previous Olympic gold medals - his first came on his Olympic debut in Turin in 2006, aged 19, and he won his second when he defended his title in Vancouver four years later. 

Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games was his only disappointment so far with White finishing fourth on the Russian slopes to miss out on the podium completely.

He put that disappointment - and a horrific training injury - aside when he came back with a bang in Pyeongchang 2018, winning gold with his final run to overcome Japan's Ayumu Hirano at the top of the leaderboard.

Since then White has taken three years off from the sport and only just came back to the slopes last year. 

The Laax Open was only his fifth event and the first of them to feature the very best in the world.

Add in to that mix that White also tested positive for COVID-19 in ­December, 2021 and he has not had the easiest of runs, but as we saw in Pyeongchang, he only needs one good run and another halfpipe gold could be his.

That would be some way to bow out.

The Flying Norwegian - Robert Johansson

As nicknames go, few have anything quite as good as the Norwegian ski jumper Robert Johansson, who is also known as "the Flying Moustache" on account of his formidable feats on the slope and equally formidable facial hair.

Johansson was one of the stars at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on account of his signature handlebar moustache and the chances are that the internet will once again rejoice in his facial hair choices.

Unlike another famously monikered Olympic ski jumper Michael "Eddie the Eagle" Edwards, who valiantly competed for Great Britain at the Calgary Games of 1988, Johansson is not a figure of fun.

He won bronze in both the men's normal hill individual and large hill individual events in South Korea four years ago, and also helped Norway to win gold in the large hill event.

Robert Johansson (left) Photo: VCG

Robert Johansson (left) Photo: VCG

The Norwegian is one of the best in the game. A case in point was the 2021 World Championships where Johansson won silver in the individual large hill and mixed normal hill events.

That is not to say that Johansson has not had difficulties to overcome in his build-up to Beijing, with the biggest of them the back injury that required surgery in May, 2021.

"These problems have already affected me negatively in the past two seasons," Johansson told the FIS at the time.

"After an MRI scan and conversations with the doctors, physical therapists and other specialists, we came to the conclusion that surgery was the right thing to do."

Johansson said his aim at the time was to quickly return to training and to get to "100 percent ready for an eventful next winter," with the target being a podium finish in Beijing.

The Norwegian had thrived despite carrying injury, finishing the 2020-21 World Cup season in fifth, the same finish he had managed in his previous best season in 2017-18.

Despite his injuries, Johansson had his joint-best overall finish to a World Cup season in 2020-21, finishing fifth with five podium finishes.

While Johansson is not as fancied as the top-ranked ski jumper Ryoyu Kobayashi of Japan or Germany's Karl Geiger, he is tipped to contest in a wide open field on the slopes of ­Zhangjiakou. 

Perhaps "the Flying Moustache" could fly higher than ever before at these Winter Olympics?