You may have heard of The Selfie Olympics, an absurd trend sweeping Twitter and Facebook in which teenagers compete to take the most ridiculous and dangerous selfies.
Fortunately for the future of this nation, there are some Millennials with brighter ambitions.
A handful of under-21-year-olds are drawing attention for their outstanding performances in the U.S. Olympic qualifiers. These whippersnappers will be forces to be reckoned with when they take on their older competitors at the Winter Games in February.
Let’s meet the up-and-comers heading to Sochi.
Aaron Blunck, 17
Event: Men’s freeskiing, halfpipe
Why you should watch: Blunck was the only U.S. freestyle skier to win a medal at the first Youth Winter Olympics held in 2012. Now he’s in the big leagues, challenging his top rivals and teammates Lyman Currier and David Wise in Sochi.
Polina Edmunds, 15
Event: Women’s figure skating, singles
Why you should watch: The pint-sized high school sophomore obliterated the competition at the junior level, posting six victories in 2013, including the U.S. junior championship. Her silver medal at nationals helped Edmunds cinch Olympic berth in her first season at the senior level.
Nick Goepper, 19
Event: Men’s freeskiing, slopestyle
Why you should watch: Goepper is ranked No. 1 in the world for the second consecutive year in slopestyle, and secured his ticket to Sochi with a win and a second-place finish in the first two qualifying events. The Olympic first-timer could lead teammates Bobby Brown and Gus Kenworthy in a U.S. sweep in slopestyle.
Gracie Gold, 18
Event: Women’s figure skating, singles
Why you should watch: Besides having the punniest name of all the Olympians, Gold has good reason to believe she will medal at Sochi. She captured her first U.S. Championships in January, earning a personal-best score of 72.12 points for her short program.
Taylor and Arielle Gold, 20 and 17
Events: Snowboarding, halfpipe
Why you should watch: The Gold siblings are the dark-horses of the men’s and women’s halfpipe events. Both had unspectacular résumés, but shattered expectations with breakthrough performances at the five Olympic qualifying events this season. Taylor reached the podium in the first four events, winning at Copper Mountain, where Arielle turned in a second place run. They pair will urge each other on as they prove their worth at the Games.
Sarah Hendrickson, 19
Event: Women’s ski jumping, which makes it’s Olympic debut in Sochi
Why you should watch: Five months after blowing out her right knee in a training crash, Hendrickson returned to the slopes just one week before the U.S. women’s team was named. Despite being out of commission for most of the season, the reigning world champion made the cut based on her reputation for consistently killing it in competition.
Mikaela Shiffrin, 18
Events: Women’s alpine skiing, giant slalom and slalom
Why you should watch: She’s been called the next Lindsey Vonn, but this skiing prodigy is a whole other beast on the slopes — excelling in the technical disciplines whereas Vonn dominates in speed. Shiffrin won her second World Cup slalom in January, becoming the first American to top that podium twice before the age of 18, and consolidating her status as the favourite to take slalom in Sochi.
Maggie Voisin, 15
Event: Women’s freeskiing, slopestyle
Why you should watch: Voisin is the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team, snaring a ticket to Sochi based on the freeskiing coaches’ discretion and not by her placement at qualifiers. The slopestyle phenom earned her stripes by placing in the top three in multiple U.S. Revolution tour competitions, and is ranked number four in the world by the Association of Freeskiing Professionals.
Tucker West, 18
Event: Men’s luge, singles
Why you should watch: Another record-breaking youngster, West became the youngest male to qualify for an American Olympic luge squad. The three-time USA Luge start champion has been called “the Backyard Olympian,” because when he was age six, his dad built him a wooden luge track in the family’s backyard.
Jason Brown, 19
Event: Men’s figure skating, singles
Why you should watch: The 19-year-old wowed the crowed at the U.S. National Championships where he won silver and secured a spot on the Olympic team. Brown’s routine was so entertaining, and he has so much presence, the crowd was on its feet cheering before he even finished.
The Opening Ceremony beings Friday, February 7 on NBC.
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