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Athletes will remain in a bubble at all times. Photo: @Beijing2022.

Beijing 2022: 10 athletes to watch at the Winter Olympics

Amid the historic games, marked again by the pandemic, several Olympic athletes arrive in China with a thirst for triumph and glory.

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With the first competitions already starting by the middle of last week, Friday, Feb. 4 was the day chosen to hold the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. It was an atypical action taken because of a diplomatic boycott and the continued concern surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Beijing also makes history as the first city in the world to host a Summer and Winter Olympic games.

Nearly 3,000 athletes arrived in China with the excitement of participating in the Olympic Games, and also of being able to do so without as many restrictions as had become commonplace amid the pandemic. Given the circumstances, the participants will once again try to make history on the world's biggest sporting stage.

Here are 10 athletes to watch at these Winter Olympics.

Ester Ledecka, Czech Republic

Ester Ledecka, República Checa

In 2018, in PyeongChang, South Korea, Ledecka, now 26, became the first woman to compete in both snowboarding and alpine skiing at the same Olympics, winning gold in both competitions. It took nearly 100 years for someone to win two Olympic golds in two different sports.

Erin Jackson, United States

Erin Jackson, Estados Unidos

At 29, she is the highest ranked speed skater in the world. After a stumble that did not allow her to initially qualify for Beijing 2022, one of her teammates gave up her spot so she could compete. Eventually, more spots opened on the team and both were able to attend.

Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan

Yuzuru Hanyu, Japón

During the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, this figure skater, only 19 years old at the time, became the youngest Olympic champion in his category in over 66 years. In South Korea, he regained the title and in the new Games, he's out to get his third consecutive gold.

Mikaela Shiffrin, United States

She recently got her 47th victory in the Ski World Cup, which makes the North American the skier with the most wins in a single competition. The 26-year-old and two-time Olympic gold medalist is out for glory in skiing, and the combined event.

Arianna Fontana, Italy

Arianna Fontana, Italia

The short track speed skater is the winner of eight Olympic medals, and wants to retain the gold she won four years ago. With a bronze in 2006, when she was only 15 years old, she became the youngest Italian to win a medal at a Winter Olympics.

Wu Dajing, China

Wu Dajing, China

The 500m short track speed skating event gave China its only gold medal at the last Winter Olympics in South Korea. Daijing, 27, who broke the world record for the win, will seek his fifth Olympic medal at Beijing.

Natalie Geisenberger, Germany

Natalie Geisenberger, Alemania

At 34, this German is the winningest luger in Olympic history. Coming to her fourth Olympic games, Geisenberger has won five medals, four gold, in three previous editions, scoring victories in the individual and team events.

Kamila Valieva, Russian Olympic Committee

This Russian teenager, just 15 years old, arrives in Beijing as the favorite to win gold in women's figure skating. With titles of her own in Russia and Europe, Valieva is also part of a select group of only four skaters in history who have achieved a quadruple jump in a competition, as well as the second to achieve a quadruple toe loop. 

Timothy LeDuc, United States

The first openly non-binary athlete, the 31-year-old figure skater arrives to compete in the pairs event alongside Ashley Cain-Gribble.

"I hope it helps move that conversation forward and helps people understand that people can be amazing athletes and exist outside of binary," the athlete recently said in an interview.

Ireen Wüst, The Netherlands

Ireen Wüst, Países Bajos

With 11 Olympic medals, this long track speed skater is the most successful winter athlete in history, obtaining a gold medal every edition since 2006. She arrives in Beijing with the goal of once again defending her title in the 1,500 meters achieved in PyeongChang four years ago.

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