Meet the 12 Asian-American Athletes Competing in the Olympics
The 2018 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, is in full swing and we’re just so excited!
Why, you ask? Because we have 12 Asian-American athletes to cheer for!
So, we’ll jump right in! Here are the 12 Asian-American athletes we’re going to be cheering for — and you should, too!
Korean-American Chloe Kim, who hails from Torrance, California, began snowboarding at the tender age of four years old. Although she predominately grew up in Southern California, she spent some of her youth in Geneva, Switzerland; as such, she is trilingual in English, Korean, and French. The only athlete in the history of the X Games to ever win three gold medals before the age of 16, she’s also taken gold at the Youth Olympic Games Experience in Lillehammer back in 2016. She recently released a super touching commercial featuring her father, and their bond moved viewers to tears.
We’re excited to see her tear it up at the games!
Making her official Olympic debut, 17-year-old Hailey Langland will be competing in the women’s snowboarding big air event. One of two Filipino-Americans representing the U.S. this year, Langland has also participated in the Youth Olympics, as well as the X Games in 2016 and 2017. She’s a self-taught musical artist who plays the ukelele, guitar, and piano. In addition to snowboarding, she also enjoys surfing, skateboarding, mountain biking, and drawing.
We support you, Hailey!
Maia and Alex Shibutani
Don’t be sleeping on the Shib Sibs — they’re definitely ones to watch this year! Japanese-American siblings Alex (26) and Maia (23) Shibutani have an impressive history together in the sport. It was Maia who first fell in love with ice skating, quickly convincing her brother to join her on the rink. Since competing in the senior level in 2011, they have won two gold medals, three silvers, and two bronzes. This will be their second Olympic games, their first time competing being in Sochi, where they placed ninth.
We can’t wait to see their performance!
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Nathan Chen began skating with his sister’s white skates at the extremely young age of three. He would also go on to train with the regionally prestigious ballet company, Ballet West, and compete in gymnastics at the state and regional levels for seven years. Perhaps that’s where Chen gets his finesse on the ice, as he’s multi-talented in so many types of sports that require precision, grace, and strength. Chen has already competed in these Olympic games, taking a fall during his routine and placing fourth overall. Still, he’s looking forward to his next two events, and hopes to do better the next time around.
Don’t give up, Nathan!
Skating into her second Olympics is Mirai Nagasu, a veteran on the ice and one of two American women to have ever landed a triple Axel internationally — the other being Tonya Harding. An Arcadia, California native, 24-year-old Nagasu was surprisingly destined for another sport: golf. “My parents used to take me golfing every day because that was the career they wanted me to have,” she writes in her website’s bio. “They took me ice skating one day because we couldn’t go golfing due to the rain, and after that I kept asking to be taken to the skating rink.” The rest, as they say, is history; she finished fourth in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, one spot shy of the podium, but she has hope that this year will be much, much different.
We hope so too, Mirai!
One really quick, impressive thing about Taiwanese-American Karen Chen? This figure skater choreographs her own routines! She’s been on the ice since four years old, but didn’t truly fall in love with it until two years later. Since then, she’s been all about that figure skating life, competing in many international championships since 2014. Her favorite thing about the ice? “As a shy kid growing up, it was always hard for me to express myself,”she says on her website, “but when I am on the ice I feel like a completely different person.”
Good luck out there, Karen!
A Redondo Beach, California girl, 25-year-old Madison Chock‘s father is Chinese-Hawaiian, while her mother is of mixed European descent. Her full name, Madison La’akea Te-Lan Hall Chock, has a beautiful meaning: La’akea means “sacred light from heaven” and Te-Lan (特蘭) means “special or unique orchid”. She began ice skating when she was just five years old, and started ice dancing at the age of 12, even though she’d had no interest in dance up until then. She and her partner, Evan Bates, will be skating together this year — their first Olympics as an official couple since they began dating in 2017.
Go, Chock-Bates, go!
Born in San Jose, California, and raised in nearby Palo Alto, figure skater Vincent Zhou discovered his love for the sport at the age of five at a friend’s birthday party. These Olympics mark his debut into the event, so expect to see a lot more of 17-year-old Zhou in the future! Graduated from high school at the age of 16, Zhou decided to take a gap year to focus on the Olympics and expects to attend college later this year. Aside from figure skating, Zhou loves cats and writing short poems. He also enjoys hiking in Colorado, the state he now calls home.
You got this, Vincent!
John Robert “J.R.” Celski
Does the name J.R. Celski ring a bell for you? It should! The 27-year-old Filipino-American is attending his third Olympics this time around, having made his debut in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He’s already won a silver medal and two bronze medals, so he’s definitely got his eye on taking home the gold this year. An interesting fact about Celski — he almost didn’t compete in the 2010 Olympics, and actually almost died on the ice! Five months before his Olympic debut, he suffered from a sports-related injury where his right skate blade slashed his left thigh, barely missing an important artery. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to skate again; now, he’s back on the rink and ready to win.
Give it your all, J.R.!
Vietnamese-American short track speedskater Aaron Tran will be attending his first-ever Olympics this year, and he’s probably super excited that they’re in South Korea because this guy loves K-pop! Of course, his main focus is on his sport, which he fell in love with after watching it on TV during the 2006 Torino Olympics. When not skating, Tran enjoys spending time with his family and playing video games — mostly League of Legends, Rocket League, and Rainbow Siege. He also really loves donuts and Oreos, but his coaches sadly won’t let him eat them.
Go for gold, Aaron!
This Olympics is a very special event for Thomas Hong — it’s his homecoming, and what a return this is for him! Hong was born in Seoul, South Korea, but moved to the U.S. when he was just four years old. One year later, he took up skating, and the rest, as they say, is history! He isn’t your typical jock, as he played the french horn, piano, and drums growing up. He also loves cooking, and took culinary classes all throughout high school. One thing though — he hates cucumbers! His favorite speed skating moment is skating alongside his idol, J.R. Celski, which is just so pure.