US Olympic Figure Skating 2022: Highlighting Top Men, Women Stars to Watch

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIFebruary 3, 2022

US Olympic Figure Skating 2022: Highlighting Top Men, Women Stars to Watch

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Nathan Chen has dominated at the national level, winning the gold medal at each of the past six U.S. Figure Skating Championships. He's also dominated at the world level, having captured gold at each of the past three World Figure Skating Championships.

    However, the 22-year-old has yet to have the same success at Olympic level.

    That could be about to change, though. Chen is the heavy favorite to win the gold in men's figure skating at this year's Winter Games, which have gotten underway this week in Beijing. He'll take the ice for the first time on Friday, which is when the figure skating events begin.

    In addition to the men's short program, the ice dancing rhythm dance and pairs short program are both scheduled for Friday. The women's competition won't get underway until Sunday.

    Before the figure skating action begins in Beijing, here's a closer look at the top U.S. skaters to keep an eye on during the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Nathan Chen

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Chen hasn't won an individual Olympic medal yet, but this year will be only his second Games appearance after making his debut in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

    In 2018, the Salt Lake City native placed fifth in men's figure skating. However, he's gained a lot of experience since then, and he's won at every U.S. national championships and every world championships he's competed in during that time. So it's no surprise he'll be the favorite to win gold in Beijing.

    But if Chen is going to end up atop the medal stand, he'll have to see off the challenge of Yuzuru Hanyu, a 27-year-old from Japan who has won the gold in men's figure skating at each of the previous two Winter Olympics.

    "Yuzuru has definitely pushed me," Chen said, per Dave Skretta of the Associated Press. "Long before I competed against him, he was that benchmark for what an exceptional figure skater should be."

    Now, Chen is an exceptional figure skater himself. And if any American is going to bring a gold medal home from Beijing, it's likely going to be him.

Timothy LeDuc and Ashley Cain-Gribble

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    An American duo hasn't won a medal in pairs figure skating at the Winter Olympics since 1988, when Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard took the bronze in Calgary. And the U.S. has never had a pair win a gold medal in Olympic competition.

    That may not change this year, either, as there are some strong duos in the field for pairs figure skating in Beijing. But if any American pair has a chance to end up on the medal stand, it's likely Timothy LeDuc and Ashley Cain-Gribble, who have excelled at the national level in recent years.

    LeDuc and Cain-Gribble won the gold at the U.S. championships last month, marking the second time in four years they've done so. Now, they're going to be making their Olympic debut.

    Although they've never finished better than ninth at the world championships, LeDuc and Cain-Gribble could end up with a better placement than that in Beijing. And even though they may be unlikely to end up winning a medal, they should be the top American pair to watch.

Alysa Liu

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Team USA has sent the talented trio of Mariah Bell, Karen Chen and Alysa Liu to Beijing to compete in the women's figure skating. And it's possible that any of the three could perform well enough to end up capturing a medal at the Winter Olympics.

    Bell won the gold at the U.S. championships last month, the first of her career. Chen hasn't won a gold at the national tournament since 2017, but she does have Olympic experience after placing 11th in 2018.

    Of the three, Liu may have the best chance to win a medal while making her Olympic debut. She won the gold at the U.S. championships in both 2019 and 2020, but she had to withdraw from this year's competition after testing positive for COVID-19.

    The key to the 16-year-old's success will be whether she can land her triple axel. If so, it wouldn't be surprising to see her at least come away with the bronze.

    However, it will be a challenge for her to capture the gold, as 15-year-old Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee will be difficult to beat.