Los Angeles: Alpine ski stars Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin were among a record 242 athletes named on Friday by the United States to compete in Pyeongchang — the largest delegation for any nation in Winter Olympics history.
The team, comprised of 135 men and 107 women, will be represented in 97 of the 102 medal events to be contested in South Korea from February 8-25.
The most diverse American winter squad ever features 11 Asian-Americans, 10 African-Americans and the first two openly gay American men at a Winter Olympics, slopestyle skier Gus Kenworthy and figure skater Adam Rippon.
Ghana-born Maame Biney and Erin Jackson are the first African-American women speedskaters at an Olympics while Jordan Greenway is the first African-American on the US Olympic hockey team.
“We continue to see a spike in excellence from Americans competing in winter sports as the sport program expands to include more opportunities for our athletes,” said Alan Ashley, the US chef de mission and US Olympic Committee chief of sport performance.
“We are primed and ready for another strong showing from our athletes, who have made a long-time commitment to represent us as the best in the US at these Games.”
This squad includes 103 returning Olympians, including three five-time Olympians — snowboarder Kelly Clark and cross country skier Kikkan Randall as the first US women in their fifth Winter Games and Shani Davis as the first US speedskater to compete in a fifth Olympics.
Davis is the most decorated athlete on the US roster, a two-time 1,000-metre champion and two-time 1,500m runner-up.
The Americans offer 37 Olympic medallists, 15 who have won multiple medals and 10 who have taken gold include five defending champions — Jamie Anderson (snowboarding slopestyle), Maddie Bowman (freestyle skiing halfpipe), Ted Ligety (alpine giant slalom), Shiffrin (alpine slalom) and David Wise (freestyle skiing halfpipe).
The Americans will be seeking their 100th gold medal and 300th overall in Winter Olympics competition. They enter with 96 golds and 284 overall medals.
Meanwhile, Korea’s skating union has apologised for souring the mood ahead of February’s Winter Games after a coach was banned for life for striking a short track athlete and a speed skater almost lost her spot at the Olympics due to an administrative error.
Kim Sang-hang, president of the Korea Skating Union (KSU), said in a statement that it would take steps to avoid further problems as South Korea prepare to host next month’s Olympics in Pyeongchang.
The incidents sparked a huge backlash in Korea, with almost 200 online petitions calling for the KSU to be reformed or disbanded were lodged with the presidential Blue House.
The KSU has seen more than its fair share of controversy over the years, with allegations of favouritism and athlete mistreatment prompting the government to order a review of the governing body after the Sochi Olympics in 2014.