Thousands of athletes will compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics, but who are the likely stars on skis or board, and can Asians be in their number? Austrian Marcel Hirschner is the smart-money favourite for the men’s downhill but a lot will depend on how he is able to bounce back from a broken ankle incurred in August 2017. Among the women, Lindsey Vonn of the US is always a threat, having finished second in a World Cup event on the Jeonsong Olympic course in March 2017. In the crosscountry, local boy Magnus Kim already has a medal from the Lillehammer Games and will have the backing of a patriotic crowd. Another fancied local with one Olympics under his belt already is The North Face-sponsored Jae-woo Choi, who goes in the freestyle. Names to watch for in snowboarding’s new Big Air discipline include Anna Gasser, clear favourite among the women and the only rider, male or female, to have scored a perfect 100 in competition. Japan’s Yuki Kadono is tipped for big things too – he’s one of a number of youngsters that are changing the game on the big ramp. In the Freestyle event, Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru
is sure to feature. Coming from a nation devoid of mountains, she has to do much of her training on a trampoline to keep up with her rivals from countries blessed with more radical topography. The Halfpipe event features two of the sport’s biggest draws: the snowboarding legend that is Shaun White, going for his fourth Games a comparatively old man at the age of 30, and Chloe Kim, an American, whose Korean roots may win her some local fans. She may go all the way too as the only woman to land back-to-back 1080s and to score a perfect 100 in competition (only White himself has done it among the men). Time magazine even named Kim on its list of ‘Most Influential Teens 2016’. Hoping to challenge White will be Japan’s Ayumu Hirano who already has a bronze from the 2014 Games in Sochi. Finally, on the ski jump hill, there is Japan’s Noriaki Kasai, still expected to be competitive at this, his eighth Games. Aged 46, he is already a record-holder but has talked of staying in the sport long enough to try for the 2026 Olympics, for which his home city of Sapporo is bidding.