The Badass Women Who Stole Our Hearts In PyeongChang

Featured image via @chloekimsnow

Though the 2018 Olympic Games of PyeongChang are winding down, I know I’ll be thinking about the women of team USA for months. They’ve flipped, skated, and shot their way up and down the standings. Their stories made our hearts swell and inspired us every night as we watched on. Let’s face it though, we all have our favorite events, so you may have missed some of these athletes kick major booty in their competitions. Here are some of the stand out women of team USA.

Erin Jackson

Event: Long Track Speed Skating

Erin learned to skate on the ice four months before qualifying for the Olympics. Yep, you heard us, four months. She’s only been long track speed skating for a year total. She also happens to be on the U.S. National Roller Derby team, has won nearly 50 inline skating championships (that’s the one on wheels not ice), and keeps having to miss time with one national team to train with the other. It has to be tough to be that talented!

As the first black woman to qualify for the long track speed skating for the United States, Erin had her sights on Beijing 2022, but that timeline got accelerated after a surprise qualification.  Although, after watching Erin skate, it’s a surprise more of her competition didn’t see her coming! She’s still new and didn’t progress to the later rounds of competition in PyeongChang, but talk about room to grow! She’s been outspoken in her opportunity as a role model that people of color take a look at speed skating and she’s “looking forward to being someone that…people of color can look to, and maybe make them say ‘maybe this is a sport I can get in to.’” Well Erin, you caught our attention and we can’t wait to see you in Beijing!

Maame Biney

Event: Short Track Speed Skating

As far as I’m concerned, Maame is the light of the entire 2018 Olympic games; and that’s not just because she’s from the next town over from mine. Her electric smile and energy may not have been enough to get her into later rounds of competition, but watching her is pure bliss. I honestly don’t think anyone is having more fun in PyeongChang. Sometimes lightning really does strike twice, and just as Erin is the first black American woman to qualify for long track speed skating, Maame is the first black woman to qualify for the U.S. in short track.

Short track speed skating is chaotic and dangerous, but her dad recalls asking Maame if she wanted to try skating, to which replied with a simple, emphatic, “yes.”  After emigrating from Ghana when she was five, her father clearly made the right choice in agreeing to sign her up for lessons.  Good call dad!  As an Olympian this young, that’s all we could expect from her: to try.  The message around competing in the Olympics is too often focused only on success and dominating the competition, but Maame has healthier priorities in her Olympic dreams as her skating success is so clearly entwined with her self expression and joy.  What a wonderful role model to have and what wisdom she has beyond her years!

Chloe Kim

Event: Snowboarding Half Pipe

Stepping up at 5ft 2 inches, this Olympic champ is anything but small in the air. Her unbelievable jumps and near perfect score in her final run wowed all of us, but it’s her lighthearted sense of self that sealed the deal on our love for Chloe. No other woman has ever successfully completed two back-to-back 1080s in competition, flipping through the air six times and still landing clean. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of Chloe before this winter, remember that she qualified for the last Olympics but couldn’t go since she didn’t meet the age requirement at just 13 years old.

Plus, the savvy business smarts of the Cali native and her family means that come this spring she’ll be calling her own shots when it comes to her sponsors and endorsements. Plus, since most of her deals are up for grabs immediately after the Olympics, Chloe is ready to bring home the bacon (quite literally, if her foodie treats give us any clues about where she’ll spend her well-earned dough). Chloe is the BFF we all want to have and her dog Reese is just about the cutest thing we’ve ever seen, plus you can follow them both on Insta. Hey Chloe, want to grab some churros with us?

Meghan Duggan

Event: Hockey

We can all learn about asking for what you deserve from the captain of the women’s hockey team, Meghan Duggan. Last March, Meghan lead her 22 teammates in a boycott of the World Championships they were hosting if USA hockey didn’t compensate them equitably to the men’s team. USA hockey clearly didn’t take them seriously and tried to replace the starting members of the team with college women and developmental players, it was a complete failure.

As far as we know, every single replacement player contacted said “NO!” The governing body had no choice but to increase salary, performance bonuses, travel provisions, insurance and maternity coverage, and establish a girls’ development program. Oh and by the way, they crushed the World Championship and came out on top for the forth-consecutive time. Meghan wasn’t done yet. After having lead her team toward equal pay, she’s helped put them on top of the Olympic podium.  The high stress gold medal game against Canada went into overtime and then a six-round shoot out before the American women clinched the final goal. I swear you could hear the screaming in South Korea from my home in Virginia, what a win!

Mirai Nagasu

Event: Figure Skating

Wow, all I have to say is wow. Watching Mirai land a triple axle in the figure skating team competition to win bronze was one of my favorite Olympic moments so far. Together with her roomie Adam Rippon, Mirai is stealing the show for US figure skating. Even though her back and right thigh are covered in supportive athletic tape, she’s landed straight in our hearts after completing one of the most difficult moves in women’s figure skating today. After not making the team in 2014, she’s back with a vengeance and is currently ranked as the number one American woman and ninth overall in the competition. She didn’t land the triple successfully in her individual event, but there has to be something said for her determination and commitment to returning to a sport that had written her off.

In 2016 Mirai was working as an ice girl for the Colorado Avalanche in order to keep financing her training; ice girls shovel snow and debris from hockey rinks typically while dressed in skimpy outfits in sub freezing temperatures. Their role has been controversial, especially when half of NHL teams don’t use ice girls and instead employ warmly dressed skaters to clear the ice and hire a separate team of cheerleaders for morale.  Her final two skates didn’t live up to her performance in the team competitions and finished 10th overall, but the legacy of being the only American woman to land a triple axle at the Olympics is worth the hype.

Sarah Hendrickson

Event: Ski Jumping

The Winter Olympics are a collection of some of the most ridiculously dangerous sports on earth: Sliding head-first down a hill at 80 mph (skeleton), backflips over a snow trench (half pipe), and shooting live ammunition after skiing your guts out (biathlon). But ski jumping? The International Olympic Committee thought that was just a step too far for women, according to the predictably all-male panel. Even though women have been jumping for a century, we finally got to watch the first generation of Olympic women ski jumpers at Sochi 2014. Sarah Hendrickson was just 19 when she competed in Sochi and flew 282 feet through the air to finish 19th this year in PyeongChang.

There’s no doubt jumping is brutal. Sarah has had six knee surgeries, including two ACL reconstructions.  Despite the injury, her name should be a household one after she joined a group of women who sued the 2010 Olympic organizing committee to let them compete in future games. Plus, she jumped first in Sochi, making her the first woman to ski jump in the Olympics. You go Sarah! So what’s next for her? At the end of January she tweeted “how nice would it be to have more than one event at the Olympics?” The Nordic combined competition, cross-country skiing followed by jumping, will open up to women for the first time in 2022. But there’s still no world on the taller ski jumping hill…unless Sarah has her way.

Look out Beijing, you’ll see some of these kick ass women in 2022.

 

Tess Stryk

Tess is a flight risk who could disappear into the Blue Ridge Mountains or on a tram in Berlin at any moment. She can sit still for exactly as long as it takes you to read this bio and is most likely on a run or sending a new climbing route while you're doing so. You can find her meandering Virginia hiking trails, guzzling flat whites, or prowling the new nonfiction section of your local library.

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