5 Underdog Athletes To Watch At The 2018 Winter Olympics
Because who doesn’t love a good upset?
The 2018 Winter Games are right around the corner and all of your favorite household names are gearing up to hit the world stage. But, in the background, thousands of other competitors are hoping to disrupt viewers’ expectations and achieve Olympic glory. Below, take a look at five of these underdogs and keep them on your radar this February.
If there’s one skier that can take down the all-mighty slalom queen, Mikaela Shiffrin, it’s Petro Vlhova. The 22-year-old Slovakian shredder has several World Cup wins under her belt, and boasts an aggressive skiing style that’s not to be underestimated. Last season, she edged out Shiffrin in Aspen, Colorado and, this year, she did the same in Levi, Finland. All signs point to an epic showdown this February and, while Shiffrin has been totally dominant in most races lately, Vlhova certainly has a shot at gold.
Shiffrin and Vlhova go head to head in Courchevel, France.
At the moment, Swiss freeskier Andri Ragettli might be better-known for his off-season regiments rather than his on-snow talent. Back in September, he posted a wild video showcasing a wildly-difficult “parkour” course in which he hops on and over various gym equipment like a circus performer. But you’ve got to see this kid on skis... He’s the first person to ever land a quadruple cork 1800 (AKA four off-axis flips combined with five full rotations) and he’s won multiple World Cup events in recent years. In other words, Ragettli is one of the most impressive underdogs to watch out for in PyeongChang.
Ragettli lands the first-ever quadruple cork 1800 on skis.
Being an Olympic athlete in any capacity is unfathomably impressive. But qualifying for two different sports? That’s just ridiculous. Exhibit A: Ester Ledecka, who’s slated to participate in both ski and snowboard races at the 2018 Games for the Czech Republic. The woman is fast, too… Last winter, at the snowboarding world championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain, she won the parallel giant slalom, showing promise for this year’s Olympics. She’s also seen a ton of success on skis, including a seventh place World Cup downhill finish last season in Lake Louise, Alberta.
Ledecka’s seventh place World Cup finish in Lake Louise, Alberta.
Great Britain isn’t exactly known for producing world-class skiers, but Dave Ryding is challenging that norm as one of the best slalom racers on Earth. The charismatic athlete is currently ranked top 10 in the world for slalom—much thanks to various impressive results on the World Cup tour. Last winter, he earned a silver in Kitzbuehel, Austria, becoming the second British skier to podium at a World Cup ski race in 50 years. Surely, all eyes will be on him come February as he tries to knock the usual suspects off the podium.
Ryding’s second place performance in Kitzbuehel, Austria.
Skiing and snowboarding are increasingly popular sports in China and, with this rising interest, countless Chinese athletes have emerged into the snowsports scene with a serious knack for competition. One of the many impressive snowboarders to keep an eye on is Yiwei Zhang, a mega-talented halfpipe specialist known best for his amplitude. Raised as a gymnast, Zhang dialed his fundamentals at an early age, then hopped on a snowboard when he was 11 and never looked back. At the 2014 Games, he placed sixth and, surely, he’s gunning to stand on the podium this time around.
Zhang wins the snowboarding Grand Prix in Park City, Utah.