By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The 2018 Winter Olympics are less than a year away and while there’s time to get ready for Pyeongchang, South Korea, Team USA is already preparing. We take a look at four Asian Americans who are ramping up.
Big air for short snowboarder
Snowboard sensation Chloe Kim should be one of the new faces for the United States next year. She’s already being featured in ads for the Olympics and sponsors are getting her name out there. Next year’s Olympics should be very special since Kim will be competing in the birth country of her parents. The Southern California native competes in the snowboard halfpipe event, which is a semi-circular ditch or purpose built ramp, that requires competitors to use speed, momentum, and flexibility to twist and turn in the air while landing correctly … and safely onto the snow.
Kim is known among snowboarders and X-Gamers. She was nicknamed “The Future of Women’s Snowboarding” a few years ago, though can be considered the “now” of women’s snowboarding. The second-generation Korean American first learned to snowboard when she was 4 years old in Mountain High, Calif. She started to compete when she was just 6 years old.
She is now training full-time with the U.S. snowboarding team.
Sixteen-year-old Kim was the first woman to land back-to-back 1080 spins (3 full 360 spins in the air) in competition. At only 5’2” and 115 pounds, her fearlessness and athleticism has led to competition accolades as well as lucrative sponsorship deals with Target, Burton, and Oakley.
In her time away from the halfpipe of the snow, Kim is learning acoustic guitar. She also is fluent in French, English, and Korean.
Kim will be one of the U.S. favorites for the podium.
Figure skating Chens
Figure skater Nathan Chen looks to be a contender for the podium in the men’s figure skating division. In January, he became the youngest U.S. men’s champion in over 50 years. The 17-year-old became the first man to land five quadruple jumps at the National Championships in Kansas City. He also hit the five quadruple jumps in a single performance in an international competition to win what is a preview of the Olympics in Pyeongchang. From Salt Lake City, Chen began skating at the age of 3 after watching his two older brothers play hockey. Notably, his two older sisters participated in figure skating. Competing in figure skating at a young age, Chen is a five-time U.S. national champion.
Chen’s parents are both immigrants from China. His father is a scientist and his mother is a medical translator.
Karen Chen, no relation to Nathan, should be another name to remember on the ice, as she won the U.S. National Championship in January. Chen won the long and short programs in Kansas City. However, Chen has not built on her win in January, as she finished 12th at an international tournament in Gangneung, South Korea in February. Chen, like Nathan, is just 17 years old and has a lot to work on as she prepares for her first senior World Championships in Helsinki in March.
Despite a rough time in South Korea, Chen, a native of Fremont, Calif., gained a big fan in former Olympic Gold Medalist Kristi Yamaguchi. “I was so happy and excited for her,” Yamaguchi said, “She’s a fantastic skater with great work ethic. She has the kind of potential to make a big mark on the world stage.”
Celski ready to return to form
Federal Way native J.R. Celski is looking to rekindle his short-track speed skating career after a series of injury setbacks. Celski won a silver medal at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and won two bronze medals at the 2010 Olympics. In February, the Filipino American won a bronze in the men’s 1000m at the World Cup in Dresden, Germany. Celski suffered a torn hip labrum, which required surgery in 2014. After returning from the hip injury, he returned to training, but a crash into the pads resulted in an MCL injury to his right knee. He was off for four months and missed the U.S. Championships that year, which meant he could not qualify for the 2016 World Championships.
Now injury free, Celski looks to focus in on South Korea next February and pick up where Apolo Ohno left off. At 26 years old, Celski is in his prime and ready to serve as the face for the U.S. short-track speed skating team.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.