For me, the Olympic Games and the athletes who compete in them have always held a certain level of mystique. As they perform seemingly inhuman feats and bow their heads to receive medals on the podium, they almost seem like superheros, goddesses, and gods. And while there's no doubt that they are totally amazing, if you look behind the scenes at their lives off the slopes, rinks, and track, you are bound to learn some shocking facts about Olympic athletes.
And while it's easy to consider Olympians as just athletes, they’re actually people, too, with weird hobbies, careers, graduate degrees, and some surprisingly "normal" personal lives. According to the Team USA website, Olympic athletes also do some pretty amazing things, too, like play in rock bands, blaze new trails, and even birth babies, which seems unreal to me. As a mother with a big family, there are days when I can barely manage to put on pants, let alone compete as a world-class athlete while parenting a toddler. While Olympic Committee rules bar athletes younger than 15 from competing, according to the Team USA website, some of the athletes competing started training for the Olympics as soon as they were able to walk, which kind of makes me think my kids are slacking. According to NBC Sports, the youngest competitor this year is 15-year-old Wu Meng, a half-pipe skier from China, and the oldest athlete is 51-year-old curling alternate Cherl Bernard, an insurance broker and step-mom from Canada.
Read on for more surprising, weird, and strange facts about Olympic athletes competing in the 2018 PyeongChang Games.
There's Only One Mom On Team USA
According to the Team USA website, while 20 dads are representing the U.S. in PyeongChang for the 2018 Winter Games, Team USA includes only one mom — cross-country skier Kikkan Randall. Not surprisingly, she is a total badass, winning a world championship medal just a few months after giving birth to her first child.
They Are Super Smart
According to Team USA, 76 percent of the team has attended college at 87 different schools. Two-time Olympic Medalist and pilot of the U.S. Bobsledding team, Elana Meyers, holds a Bachelor's Degree in exercise science from George Washington University and not one, but two Master's degrees — one in Sports Management, also from George Washington, and an MBA from DeVry University.
They Are Making History
As reported by Time magazine, Maame Biney made history this year as first black woman to join Team USA for short track speed skating. Then, Erin Jackson joined her by being the first African American woman to compete in Olympic long track speed skating, making the pair the first African American women speed skaters to a compete at the Winter Games. Rock on.
They Love Junk Food
At 17, snowboarder and Korean-American Chloe Kim is one of the youngest members of Team USA going to the games this year. While she had the honor of being named one of Time's most influential teens in 2017, she's pretty much a typical teen, enjoying fast food like Chipotle and KFC, more than the Korean food her mom prepares at home.
One Of Them Played Lollapalooza
In addition to being an two-time Olympic Gold Medalist in snowboarding, did you know that Shaun White is literally a rock star, too? According to his personal website, he started playing guitar at age 17 and his band, Bad Things, played Lollapalooza in 2013.
Most Members Of Team USA Are First-Time Olympians
The United States is sending the largest team in Winter Games history to PyeongChang. And while 103 members of Team USA are returning competitors, most (140) are new to the Winter Games.
There Are Two Sets of Hockey-Playing Twins Going To PyeongChang
If you watch women's hockey, you will likely see not one, but two sets of twins — Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson — who are joining Team USA Hockey for the third time at the PyeongChang Games, and Laura and Sara Benz, from Switzerland.
They Are Teens As Young As 15
Olympic Committee rules bar athletes younger than 15 from competing in the Winter Games, which is why Chloe Kim wasn't allowed to compete in the 2014 Sochi Games, at age 13. According to NBC Sports, the youngest competitor registered for the games is Wu Meng, a half-pipe skier from China, who only 15.
One Is A 51-Year-Old Step-mom
According to NBC Sports, the oldest person going to the Winter Games is 51-year-old Canadian curling team alternate, insurance broker, and step-mom, Cheryl Bernard.
They Are Carrying On Family Traditions
According to Team USA, 36 members of Team USA have family members who have competed in the Games, including Alpine Skier Laurenne Ross, who's grandfather, Allan Purvis, won gold as captain of the Canadian hockey team in 1952. Sofie Caldwell's grandfather, John Caldwell, also competed in the 1952 Games in the same sport as his granddaughter — cross country skiing.
For The First Time, They Are Openly Gay
It's pretty amazing that 2018 marks the first year that openly gay athletes have competed in a Winter Games. According to NBC Chicago, Team USA includes two openly-gay male athletes this year — skier Gus Kenworthy and figure skater Adam Rippon.
Team USA Is The Most Diverse Team Ever
Team USA is actually the most diverse U.S. team to attend the Winter Games, with 10 African-Americans, 11 Asian-Americans, and 106 women qualifying.
One Is A Poet
According to NBC News, in addition to being the youngest member of Team USA, 17-year-old figure skater Vincent Zhou is also a poet. You can read his poetry on a separate Instagram account he set up to share his work.
They Are Blazing New Trails
According to Olympics.org, two-time medalist Elana Meyers Taylor was one of the first women, along with friend Canadian Kaillie Humphries, to pilot 4-person bobsleds, which prior to the 2014 games was a position reserved for male athletes.
They Have Badass Hobbies
As if hurling your body down a mountain for fun wasn't badass enough, 25-year-old Alpine Skier Jacqueline Wiles also lists riding motorcycles as one of her hobbies on her bio for Team USA.
Men's Hockey Will Look Different This Year
According to Sports Illustrated, this year the National Hockey League (NHL) is not allowing their current players to go to the games, which means that several Men's Hockey teams— including the American and Canadian teams — will have a different line-up than expected.
Some Started Young
According to Team USA, many Olympic athletes started training when they were still in diapers, like 2014 gold medalist in Alpine skiing, Mikaela Shiffrin, who started skiing at age 2.
Others Didn't Start Until Later
Frst-time Olympian and 29-year-old skier Rosie Brennan didn't start skiing until she was 14. And accomplished inline and roller skater, Erin Jackson, remarkably didn't start ice skating until last year, at age 25, qualifying for the Olympics Games within a year of ice skating for the very first time.
They Are Breaking Records
Two women athletes, cross-country skier Kikkan Randall and snowboarder Kelly Clark, will break records this year by attending their fifth Olympic games.
They Play Weird Musical Instruments
In addition to training for and competing in Biathlon, Lowell Bailey is a musician, playing guitar and mandolin in two local bands.
They Are Cake Bosses
Emily Dreissigacker, who is competing in biathlon at her first Winter Olympics, loves to bake and decorate cakes in her spare time. If she wasn't a world-class athlete, she says in her Team USA bio that she would definitely open her own bakery.
They Are Multilingual
According to Biathalon World, biathalon competitor Clare Egan speaks six languages, including Korean. She likes learning new languages so much, she got her Master's in Linguistics from University of New Hampshire.
They Apparently Have Lots Of Sex
CNN reports that the Olympic Village plans to distribute 110,000 condoms to athletes at the games this year.
One Was Born Deaf
Figure skater Adam Rippon was born deaf and underwent surgery as a young child to restore his hearing.
They Are Entrepreneurs
Lindsay Vonn made Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2017. In addition to being a two-time Olympic medalist, Vonn started the Lindsay Vonn Foundation to support girls with scholarships and athletics. She also wrote a book, Strong Is The New Beautiful, which encourages women to focus on being strong and healthy over losing weight.
They Are Night Owls
According to her Team USA bio, Biathlete Joanne Reid likes building/breaking things, which makes sense because she has a graduate degree in engineering. She also enjoys craft beer and brewery tours. Perhaps the most shocking thing about her, though, is that she prefers to sleep from 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. until noon, which totally doesn't seem like a normal schedule for an elite athlete.
They Are Derby Girls
Long Track Speedskater Erin Jackson is actually new to the sport. She is also a member of Team USA for Roller Derby and has won 11 medals at world championship competitions for roller sports. So badass.
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