The 2018 US Winter Olympic Team impressed the world not only with its athletic achievement but also with its diversity. This year’s team included 11 Asian Americans competing in a variety of sports, including snowboarding, speed skating, and — most noticeably — figure skating. In fact, seven out of 14 of Team USA’s figure skaters were Asian American, a significant increase compared to the four on the 15-member figure skating team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Many of these athletes had impressive accomplishments during the games. For instance, Japanese American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple axel, one of the most challenging jumps in figure skating, during her performance at the figure skating team event. She is the third woman to successfully do so at the Olympics, and her jump helped Team USA earn bronze.
Chloe Kim brought home gold in the women’s snowboarding halfpipe event with an impressive performance that included back-to-back 1080s — a difficult move involving three full revolutions in the air. At seventeen years old, Kim is the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding medal.
Additionally, siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani dazzled with their ice dance program, earning bronze medals and contributing to Team USA’s medal count as the first Asian Americans to medal in ice dance. Prior to the games, the brother and sister duo mentored students in South Korea as part of a streaming mentorship program initiated by the US Olympics Committee.
National figure skating champion Nathan Chen also excelled at the men’s single skating event. After a disappointing performance at the short program, the eighteen-year-old came back strong and landed six quadruple jumps, a first in Olympic history.
These groundbreaking achievements showcase how far Asian American athletes have come. Many of these athletes cite Olympians Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan as inspiration, as the two Asian American figure skaters have helped encourage athletes to shine on the ice. Aside from winter sports, 30 Asian Americans also competed at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As representatives of an estimated 20 million Asian Americans in the United States, these remarkable individuals are making their mark.
Karunia "Karin" Silitonga is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of Baylor University.