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The gender gap is closing in the Winter Olympics with a record number of women from around the world set to compete in the 2022 Beijing Games beginning Feb. 4. 

As we look back in history nearly 100 years to the inaugural Winter Olympic Games of 1924, we’ve come a long way. That year, the program included just 11 women total from around the world participating in the only sport women were allowed — figure skating.

Today, the gender representation for many nations is much more balanced, including for Team USA where the line is split nearly in half with 222 total athletes, including 108 women. While this divide is still imperfect, the United State’s 2022 Olympic Team comprises the most women competing for any nation in Winter Olympic history. The progress is undeniable.

Now, as we prepare for Beijing, these are the incredible women to watch and storylines to follow over the next few weeks.

Chloe Kim - Snowboarding

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One of the most recognized names in modern-day sports, Kim made her Winter Olympic debut at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018, becoming the youngest competitor ever to win a gold medal on the halfpipe. Although it may seem as if Kim popped up on America’s radar overnight, the snowboarding star was earning medals long before she became a household name.

In her storied career, the six-time X Games gold medalist became the only athlete in X Games history to earn three gold medals before age 16. Kim also became the first woman to land a 1080 in half-pipe competition in 2016 as a 15-year-old, an achievement which earned her the nomination for the Best Breakthrough Athlete award at the 2016 ESPYS. Currently, Kim is the overwhelming favorite to win gold in the 2022 Winter Games and it’s no wonder that she tops our list as the number one athlete to watch in Beijing.

Leading into the 2022 Olympic Games, the United States holds 31 medals in Snowboarding making it the most successful nation in the sport. Switzerland follows in a distant second place with 13 medals.

Mikaela Shiffrin - Alpine skiing

If you’ve heard of skiing, you’ve heard the name Mikaela Shiffrin. The three-time Olympic medalist — two gold, one silver — is entering her third Winter Olympic Games and is, like Kim, the heavy favorite to medal again in her respective sport.

Shiffrin first gained notoriety on the internal stage in 2014 by becoming the youngest person ever to win an Olympic gold medal in slalom. In 2017, Shiffrin also became the first woman in 78 years to win three consecutive slalom world titles and currently holds the record as the winningest slalom skier of all time.

Men’s and women’s alpine skiing debuted at the 1936 Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Currently, Austria leads with 121 medals, followed by Switzerland with 66 medals, and the United States with 47 medals.

Maame Biney - Short Track Speed Skating

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As the youngest skater and first black woman to make the U.S. Short Track Speed Skating team at age 18 in the PyeongChang Games in 2018, Biney is one of the most exciting athletes to watch in the 2022 Olympic Games. Biney is entering her second Olympic Games and admits that after placing 14th in the 500-meter race and 31st in the 1,500-meter in 2018, she considered quitting the sport altogether. But now, after finishing first last December in the 500-meter race at the Short Track Olympic Trials, Biney is poised for a momentous showing in Beijing.

Short Track Speed Skating was first added to the Olympic program in the 1992 Albertville Olympic Games. South Korea currently holds the most medals with 48 total, including 24 gold. China and Canada are tied for second place with 33 medals. The United States sits in third place with 20 total medals.

Kaillie Humphries - Bobsled

Holding the title as the most decorated woman in bobsled history, Kaillie Humphries is entering her fourth Olympic Games already with three medals — two gold and one bronze. The four-time overall world cup champion in two-woman’s bobsled also holds 13 world championship medals and became the monobob world champion in 2021.

Although the two-man bobsleigh event debuted at the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Games, it wasn’t until 70 years later, at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, that the two-woman event was officially added. Since 2002, American women have medaled at every game. The women’s monobob event will be debuting in Beijing.

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Summer Britcher - Luge

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One could argue that Summer Britcher is the unofficial queen of sledding “really really fast”. As the all-time singles leader in United States luge history, Britcher holds five World Cup victories and has competed in six world championships, winning a bronze medal as part of the team relay in 2020. The Beijing Games will be Britcher’s third Olympic competition.

Luge made its Olympic debut in the 1964 Games in Innsbruck, Austria. As the fastest sport in Winter Olympics, speeds can reach as high as 90m/hr. The United States currently holds six Olympic luge medals.

More notable women to watch:

Susan Dunklee - Biathlon

Susan Dunklee is the most successful female biathlete in U.S. history. Dunkle is the only U.S. female biathlete with an individual world championship medal — silver in 2017 and 2020. This will be Dunklee’s third time competing in the Olympics.

Kendall Coyne Schofield - Ice Hockey

Entering her third Olympic Games with two medals under her belt — gold in 2018 and silver in 2014 — Kendall Coyne Schofield will be serving as team captain for Team USA in Beijing. As one of the most notable women in ice hockey, Coyne Schofield has earned a spot on nine International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship teams, nine Four Nations Cups, and one IIHF Twelve Nations Invitational Tournament Series.

Mariah Bell - Figure Skating, Women’s Singles

As a first-time Olympian, Mariah Bell is recognized as the oldest American woman (25) to compete in the women’s singles event since 1928. Before arriving in Beijing, Bell competed in nine nationals events and received the gold medal in the 2022 National Championships.

Erin Jackson - Speed Skating

Erin Jackson’s journey to the Olympics has been anything but straightforward. Despite being ranked number one in the world in the 500-meter skate, a devastating slip during the qualifying race in Milwaukee, WI earlier this year eliminated Jackson from qualifying for the Olympic team. In an incredible act of kindness, Jackson’s teammate and long-time friend Brittany Bowe pulled her own name from the race so that Jackson was able to qualify.

Jackson is entering Beijing as a second-time Olympian after competing in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games, finishing 24th in the 500-meter race. Jackson is currently the 500-meter National Record Holder and a 12-time Inline World Championship Medalist.

Tabitha Skelly Peterson (Skip), Tara Peterson (Lead), Becca Hamilton (Second) - Curling

Sisters Tabitha and Tara Peterson will be entering Beijing as first-time Olympic competitors.

Hamilton is a two-time national champion in women’s curling and a two-time olympian, who previously competed on both the women’s and mixed doubles teams in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games.

Check out the full schedule of Olympic events and more information on the participating athletes and results here.

**​​For more Olympic favorites and Team USA gold hopefuls, check out this feature here.**

Photo credits: Instagram, Google