Tomorrow, eyes will be on Beijing as they host the world’s most athletic people as they compete for gold and glory at the 2022 Olympic Games. The professional sporting world exhibits severe gender inequality in opportunity, representation, and pay, but the Olympic Committee has recently been making strides to eliminate that gap in their arena. But, adding more events to the women’s program to create equal opportunity in medal potential is only part of the equation. Highlighting women’s sports in the same frame as men’s is the only way to showcase the (equally) incredible talents and stories behind these amazing women athletes - and sadly, we aren't there yet.
The women competing this year are more than athletes and should be praised for more than their medal tallies. They're mothers and trailblazers; they're on the cover of Vogue, singing on network television, and launching brands. They're women we should be fan-girling over for more than just their incredible athletic prowess.
Korean-American snowboarder Chloe Kim is wise beyond her 21 years. She qualified for her first Olympics when she was only 13 years old but was deemed too young to participate. Kim finally made the trek to Pyeongchang, South Korea (the birthplace of her father) in 2018 where she walked away with a gold medal in the Halfpipe competition.
Since her gold medal performance, Kim has shown us all the importance of balance and taking care of our mental health. Stating she needed to take a break from her tunnel vision, all-about-snowboarding life, Kim took a two year hiatus from competition, focusing on her education at Princeton University. Along with equally decorated fellow women Olympians: Alex Morgan (USA Soccer), Sue Bird (USA Basketball) and Simone Manuel (USA Swimming), the quartet of badass women have launched their very own media and commerce company TOGETHXR, whose goal is to “shatter the often narrow depictions of women in the media with content featuring a diverse and inclusive community of game-changers, culture shapers, thought leaders and barrier breakers.”
If you’re finding yourself asking, “But Chloe, what do you with all your free time?” look no further than her growing IMDB page which boasts appearances in Charlie’s Angels (2019), the music video for Maroon 5 and Cardi B's single “Girls Like You” and a cut-too-short appearance on NBC’s The Voice, where Kim (disguised as The Jellyfish) showed the world that the Halfpipe isn’t the only 'pipes' she’s got in her repertoire.
When to watch Chloe compete in Beijing:
Qualification Runs: Feb 9 @ 9:30 Beijing Time
Final Runs: Feb 10 @ 9:30 Beijing Time
German speed skater Claudia Pechstein won her first Olympic medal in 1992, years before most of her competitors were even born. In a culture dominated by youth, Pechstein is a gleaming example that we all run on our own timeline and that age is truly just a number. Pechstein, who also works as a federal police officer in Berlin when she’s not on the ice, qualified for the Beijing Olympics (in her limited free time, I guess?) When she steps on the ice on February 19th for the women’s mass start event, Claudia will be just three days shy of her 50th birthday - officially making her the oldest woman to ever compete at the Winter Olympics.
In her eight Winter Olympic appearances (also a record), Pechstein has accumulated five Gold, two Silver, and two Bronze medals. Despite being a self-proclaimed 'long-shot' to win a medal in Beijing, Pechstein says, “It’s for me more than the gold - I just like skating.”
When to watch Claudia compete in Beijing
Women’s Mass Start
Semi-final: Feb 19th @ 15:45 Beijing Time
Final: Feb 19th @ 17:00 Beijing Time
Many athletes choose to use their public image as a platform to raise awareness for various causes, promote change, and to inspire a generation. Eileen Gu is doing just that, though at the tender age of 18, the generation she is inspiring is likely her own peers.
Born in the USA, Gu’s mother is a first-generation Chinese immigrant, as well as the person who introduced her to skiing. In 2019, when she anticipated her own participation in the upcoming Beijing Olympics, Gu decided to take the opportunity to represent her mother’s nation of birth at their home Olympics. She wanted to inspire the women of China and bring more notoriety to the traditionally male-dominated sport of free skiing. She has done just that, quickly becoming one of the most prolific and beloved stars of the Chinese Olympic team.
When she’s not shredding the slopes, Gu spends her time modelling under her IMG contract, gracing the covers of Vogue and ELLE CHINA and has partnerships with Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Tiffany & Co., among other international designers. The teenager has no issues garnering extra-curricular activities to jazz up her college applications, being named on the coveted list of Forbes 30 under 30, writing a guest article for The New York Times, and now boasting an impressive acceptance to Stanford University, which she has deferred until after she’s finished taking care of business at the Olympic Games.
When to watch Eileen compete in Beijing
Women’s Freeski Big Air
Qualification Feb 7 @ 9:30 Beijing Time
Finals Feb 8 @ 10:00 Beijing Time
Women’s Freeski Slopestyle
Qualification Feb 13 @ 10:00 Beijing Time
Finals Feb 14 @ 9:30 Beijing Time
Women’s Freeski Halfpipe
Qualification Feb 17 @ 9:30 Beijing Time
Finals Feb 18 @ 9:30 Beijing Time
Erin Jackson first made waves in the athletic community in 2018 when she became the first Black American woman to qualify for the Olympic Games in speed skating after training on ice for a mere four months. Sure, she had a storied career on skates as a US National Team member for both Roller Derby and Inline Speed Skating, but the transition to the winter arena is easier said than done.
Jackson is one smart cookie, having obtained her bachelor’s degree in Materials Science & Engineering from the University of Florida, with honors. Although she skated away from Pyeongchang without a medal, she has timed her progress over the past four years perfectly, entering the Olympic village this year as the #1 ranked skater in the world for the Women’s 500m.
Jackson’s Olympic story is not complete without talking about her USA teammate Brittany Bowe (@brittanybowe), who won the 500m at the Olympic Trials after Erin Jackson suffered an uncharacteristic slip and ultimately finished in 3rd place, just off the Olympic team. Bowe, having also qualified in two other events, elected to give up her Olympic spot in the 500m for Jackson and said of the decision, “She’s earned it and she deserves it." Now both women will skate for their chance at Olympic glory in what we consider a tear inducing example of women supporting women.
When to watch Erin compete in Beijing
Feb 13 @ 21:56 Beijing Time
Feb 17 @16:30 Beijing Time
Elana Meyers Taylor
Elana has the most Olympic medals of any female bobsleigh athlete in history, a title she shares with Kaillie Humphries (formerly of Canada, now a USA teammate). Putting the sheer physical feat of that achievement to one side for a moment, as a Black woman, Meyers Taylor achieved this all while battling against prevalent obstacles of racism and continues to work to make her sport and the athletic world a safer place for other Black athletes. She speaks out about these issues that plague every minority in the Olympics and works to identify racist roots to make sure they have no place in her arena.
A Jill-of-all-trades, Elana was a softball player during her college days at The George Washington University before finding her way to the ice. She also played on team USA during a rugby 7s tournament in China in 2014. In 2018, after a rule change allowing mixed gender teams to compete, Elana (along with Humphries) became the first women to not only compete against men, but she piloted her team down the ice shattering glass ceilings along the way.
Image: WiSP Sports
These Olympics will be different for Meyers. Not only because she has the opportunity to extend her reign as Queen of the Sleigh, but she will be competing for the first time as a mother. Elana gave birth to baby boy Nico in early 2020. She has been very open about the struggles she and her husband Nic have had trying to balance the schedules of training and parenthood. Nico was born with Down’s Syndrome and requires almost daily physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and music therapy. Meyers Taylor is a breastfeeding mother, so husband and son have travelled to Beijing and will be able to watch their heroine matriarch compete. She always knew she wanted to be a mother and this real life Superwoman has embraced the new role without skipping a beat.
When to watch Elana compete in Beijing
Bobsleigh Women’s Monobob
Runs 1 and 2: Feb 13 @ 9:30 Beijing Time
Runs 3 and 4: Feb 14 @ 9:30 Beijing Time
Runs 1 and 2: Feb 18 @ 20:00 Beijing Time
Runs 3 and 4: Feb 19 @ 20:00
"Alex Morgan Partners With Other Olympians To Diversify Sports Media", CNBC, 2021
"Four Years Later Chloe Kim Doesn't Regret Missing Sochi", NBC Sports, 2018
"Chloe Kim", Wikipedia, 2022
"Erin Jackson Is 1st Black American Woman To Win Speedskating World Cup", NBC Sports, 2021
"Erin Jackson", Wikipedia, 2022
Elana Meyers Taylor
"Beijing Winter Olympics: The top storylines in women’s sports", NBC Sports, 2021
"Elana Meyers", Wikipedia, 2022
Note: A previous version of this article mistakenly listed Simone Biles as a Co-Founder of TOGETHXR, rather than Simone Manuel. This has been corrected and reflects in the current version of this article.