fb-pixel Skip to main content
Olympic notes

All US Winter Olympic hopefuls must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 1 if they want to compete in Beijing

Chief medical officer Jonathan Finnoff is behind the USOPC’s policy on COVID-19 vaccination for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing.Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty

Unlike their summer counterparts in Tokyo, all of the hopefuls for the US Olympic winter team will have to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 1 if they want to compete in Beijing in February.

“The vast majority of people that we’ve been talking to are really excited about this and feel that this is the right way to go,” said Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, the USOPC’s chief medical officer.

The policy mirrors Beijing’s own mandate for all athletes except those who receive a medical exemption from Chinese authorities. Even then, exempted athletes must go through a 21-day quarantine upon arrival that effectively would put them out of the Games anyway.

Advertisement



Flakes are flying

Beijing, which usually is flake-free at this time of year, was blanketed in white stuff last weekend amid sub-freezing temperatures, enough to close highways and cancel flights, buses, and trains.

The snow, which covered the Olympic ski slopes and most of northern China, arrived three weeks earlier than usual because of the La Nina weather pattern. Global environmentalists wouldn’t mind a few more blizzards before the Games begin in order to avoid the organizers having to use an estimated 50 million gallons of water to produce artificial snow.

Chen peaking at right time

Nathan Chen is going for his fourth straight Grand Prix title and is one of the favorites in Beijing.GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images

Midway through the Grand Prix figure skating season Nathan Chen already has qualified for next month’s final in Osaka, as have US ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donahue.

It’ll be a tall order, though, for the American women, who have yet to make a podium and have a Russian logjam ahead of them. Chen, the three-time defending world champion, will be going for his fourth straight Grand Prix title and will be favored to unhorse Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu at the Olympics.

Hanyu, who’s bidding to become the first man to win three straight Olympic titles since Sweden’s Gillis Grafstrom in 1928, is dealing with damaged ankle ligaments that forced him to withdraw from this weekend’s NHK Trophy in Tokyo.

Advertisement



Locals curlers represented

Five local curlers, all of whom learned the sport at Broomstones in Wayland, will be competing at the Olympic trials that begin this weekend in Omaha.

US champion Korey Dropkin will be skipping his rink in the men’s competition, while Alex Leichter will be lead for Greg Persinger’s quartet. On the women’s side, Monica Walker will be vice skip and Elizabeth Cousins the lead for Jamie Sinclair’s rink, while junior champion Sydney Mullaney will be second for Delaney Strouse’s group.

John Shuster, who skipped the Americans to their first gold medal in 2018, will be favored, as will Tabitha Peterson, who directed the women to a surprise bronze at this year’s world championships. Both the men’s and women’s teams already have qualified for the Games.

Shiffrin taking her time

Though Mikaela Shiffrin hasn’t been able to practice since injuring her back while winning the season’s giant slalom opener in Austria last month, she expects to be ready for the first two World Cup slalom races next weekend in Levi, the Lapland resort above the Arctic Circle.

“I just need to let it heal,” said Shiffrin, who has won there four times, collecting a reindeer as a bonus prize with each victory. “It doesn’t take that long if I just take the time.”

Experienced teammates

Rosie Brennan and Jessie Diggins will be the grande dames on the US cross-country skiing team, which skews in the mid-20s on the A and B rosters. Brennan turns 33 next month and Diggins is 30.

Advertisement



Waltham native Julia Kern and Katharine Odgen are 24, Hailey Swirbul is 23, and Sydney Palmer-Leger is 19.

“I just hope I can stay hip enough for the young crowd,” joked Brennan.

Diggins was the overall World Cup champion last season with Brennan fourth. Gus Schumacher and JC Schoonmaker, the top two men, are 21, at least seven years younger than their other three teammates.

A long way from home

Due to COVID restrictions that kept out foreign competitors, the North American bob and skeleton sledders and lugers again won’t have any World Cup races on home ice this season except for women’s solo monobob.

Other than next weekend’s luge opener on the Olympic track in Yanqing all of the events will be in Europe. Sochi, home of the 2014 Games, will stage the luge races originally scheduled for Whistler, British Columbia, and Lake Placid, N.Y.

Lake Placid, which was supposed to host last season’s bobsled and skeleton world championships before they were shifted to Germany, instead will stage the next pre-Olympic events in 2025.

Driven to succeed

Kaillie Humphries, once of Canada, will pilot the US bobsled team in Beijing.Jens Meyer/Associated Press

The US bobsled teams will feature three of the five pilots from last season’s lineup in Kaillie Humphries, the reigning world titlist in both two-woman (with Lolo Jones) and monobob, three-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, and Codie Bascue on the men’s side. Previous team members Hunter Church and Brittany Reinbolt are back on the roster. The season starts next weekend in Innsbruck, Austria … Brittany Bowe and Joey Mantia will be the Americans to watch at this weekend’s first World Cup long-track speedskating event in Poland. Bowe, the world champion in the 1,000 meters and silver medalist in the 1,500, and Mantia, the mass start champ, will be the best bets to make the Beijing podium after the US was shut out of the individual medals in 2014 and 2018 …While the World Cup biathlon season doesn’t start until the end of the month in Sweden, Susan Dunklee (Craftsbury, Vt.) and Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) already have been named to the US Olympic team based on previous results. It’ll be the third Games for Dunklee, the second for Egan. Meanwhile, they’ll be vying for the silver bib that they came up with last season. “There’s an overall bib for the World Cup leader and an under-25 leader bib,” said Dunklee, who is 35. “We said, we should have a bib for older athletes. So I knitted a silver bib for the top athlete 33-and-older with the most points.”

Advertisement



John Powers can be reached at john.powers@globe.com. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews and wire services was used in this report.


John Powers can be reached at john.powers@globe.com.