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Movers & Shakers: The Names of the Winter Games

Written by Jeanne Cooper | Illustrations by Olivia Wise

The Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics will be a big story over the next two months, with competitors poised to grab headlines — and medals. Although the White House announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games, press secretary Jen Psaki was steadfast that “we will be behind (U.S. athletes) 100 percent as we cheer them on from home.” Here are five standouts with Bay Area roots to root for.

Joanne Reid

Before her 2018 Winter Games debut in biathlon (Nordic skiing and target shooting), the Gunn High School alumna and collegiate cross-country skiing champion said her family’s history with Apple was perhaps more defining than its Olympic speed-skating heritage — uncle Eric Heiden won five gold medals and mother Beth took a bronze in 1980. The Cupertino company brought dad Russell to Palo Alto in 1999, and her mom, older brother, an uncle and a cousin have all since logged time at Apple. “None of them lives where it snows,” she notes to the Gazette. A self-described “creature of the outdoors,” Reid, 29, now resides in Grand Junction, Colorado. On visits to the Bay Area, she heads to the coast, running “for miles on the edge of the surf, the waves kissing my toes with their icy cold.”

Alysa Liu

Just 4 feet 10 inches tall, the 16-year-old has already had an impact on figure skating as big as her smile. In a recent Olympics Channel video, she spoke about her “childhood dream” of competing at the Winter Games. Raised with four siblings in Richmond by attorney dad Arthur Liu, Alysa took to the ice in Oakland at age 5 and became the youngest-ever senior singles national champion eight years later in 2019. The avid reader and YouTube fan won the title again in 2020, setting records for landing triple axels and quadruple jumps in performances that are “up there with the absolute best in the world,” fellow East Bay skating icon Kristi Yamaguchi told Good Morning America last year. Also repping Bay Area figure skating in Beijing: Karen Chen of Fremont and Vincent Zhou of Palo Alto.

Jen Lee

After immigrating from Taiwan at age 8, Lee quickly adapted to life in the Bay Area, including playing inline hockey in elementary school and competing in track and field at Pacifica’s Oceana High School. While an Army staff sergeant in 2009, Lee was forced to adapt again when a motorcycle accident led to amputation of his left leg. Rehab in San Antonio, Texas, introduced Lee to sled hockey, a seated version of ice hockey. “I had no idea how fast or aggressive the sport was,” he tells the Gazette. Now helping a startup company that addresses phantom limb pain, the 35-year-old goalkeeper hopes to win his third Olympic gold medal with the U.S. Paralympic team, noting, “There’s a Mandarin analogy: To live is to move, to move is to live.”

Hilary Knight

Growing up outside of Chicago, the Palo Alto native had to play on boys’ hockey teams until she went to prep school in Connecticut. After playing on professional women’s teams in Canada and Boston, and the silver-winning U.S. Olympic squads of 2010 and 2014, the 32-year-old resident of Sun Valley, Idaho, led a successful campaign for gender-equity pay among the national teams in 2017. Now the most prolific scorer in women’s hockey World Championships, Knight can also claim a goal in the 2018 Winter Games match that saw the U.S. women capture their first-ever gold medal. “It’s sort of a storybook ending to an incredible series of accomplishments,” she told the Associated Press. Expect a thrilling sequel in Beijing.

Eileen Gu

“The only dream” the 18-year-old freestyle skier says she has held longer than competing in the Olympics is getting into Stanford, a box the University High School graduate ticked in 2020 when she earned early acceptance. “I’ve wanted to go since I was 6 years old,” Gu explains in Everyday Eileen, her Red Bull–sponsored video series. With admission deferred until this fall, the native San Franciscan has since won gold at X Games and World Cup events, while also modeling for the likes of Louis Vuitton and Brunello Cucinelli as well as landing the cover of Vogue Hong Kong. She’ll compete for China in Beijing, her mother Yan’s hometown, in part to inspire others. “If I can just change one young girl’s life and show her one new passion or help break one boundary, then the decision was worth it,” she told NBC Sports.

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