THE ATH­LETES

Action Asia - - OLYMPIC SPIRIT -

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.

Chloe Kim

Ayumu Hi­rano

No­ri­aki Ka­sai

Jae-woo Choi

Mag­nus Kim

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