Bell’s coach, Adam Rippon, was also a late bloomer by most standards. The current media personality was the oldest American figure skater to qualify for his first Olympics when he made the 2018 PyeongChang team at age 28.
5. Elana Meyers Taylor (Bobsled)
Three-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor is slated to compete in her fourth Olympic Games this year, this time in two events: the two-woman bobsled, an event in which she captured the bronze medal in 2010 as well as the silver in 2014 and 2018, and the monobob, a brand-new event in the Olympics this year. The 37-year-old, who gave birth to her first child, Nico, in February of 2020, won the overall women’s monobob world cup title earlier this month and is poised to contend for the elusive gold in Beijing.
Becoming a mom has helped change her perspective on the sport.
“As athletes, sometimes you let a sport define you. But I’m not my results. I’m Nico’s mom. I’m Nic’s wife. I’m all these other things,” she told SELF in her February digital cover story. “I feel a lot more willing to take risks and try different things within my sport because I know I have that security behind me.
While she’s striving for a medal in Beijing, she’s also focused on advocacy in the sport, and is encouraging sport institutions to see their athletes on more than a one-dimensional level.
“We really have to push to make sure athletes come first. If we take care of athletes off the field, they’re going to perform so much better on the field,” she says. “If you take care of athletes, the medals will come after that.”
On January 31, Meyers Taylor shared on Twitter that she tested positive for COVID-19 on January 29, two days after arriving in Beijing, and is asymptomatic. According to COVID-19 guidelines from the Beijing Games, she’ll have to show two negative tests before being able to compete. The bobsledding schedule may work in her favor, though: The monobob competition begins on February 13, and the two-woman bobsled is one of the last events of the games, beginning on February 18, NBC Sports reports.
6. Chloe Kim (Snowboarding)
Chloe Kim was one of the breakout stars of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games, when, at only 17, she became the youngest ever American to medal in snowboarding by memorably landing back-to-back 1080s to win gold in the halfpipe competition.
Despite her athletic success, things haven’t gone completely smoothly since then. Kim, now 21, struggled with her mental health as a result of her newfound fame, and has recently spoken out about being the target of racism on social media and on the slopes. She broke her ankle in early 2019, started classes at Princeton, and took a 22-month break from snowboarding—something nearly unheard of at top levels of the sport.
But the break from elite competition seemed rejuvenating, and Kim will enter Beijing heavily favored to defend her Olympic gold medal in the halfpipe. After all, since coming back from her hiatus, she won both the X Games and World Championships—and hasn’t lost a World Cup halfpipe event since 2018, according to Team USA.