Ever wonder how Olympic figure skater Nathan Chen can perform as many as eight quad jumps in a single program and not wobble on the ice like a drunken sailor from all that spinning?
The answer may lay with a contraption that looks like an oversized record player with a human marionette on top. It’s called a vestibular trainer, and figure skaters worldwide use it to help accustom their brains to all that whirling. Firefighters and soldiers have also begun using them to help them keep their sense of direction in smoky buildings, and vestibular trainers have been shown to help people with concussions regain their balance and brain function.
And by the time Chen does his last quad lutz on the ice during the 2022 Beijing Winter Games — midway through the event that runs from Feb. 3-20 — just about every Olympics fan in Utah is going to want some time on one. Keeping up with athletes linked to the state is going to be exactly that dizzying.
Of the 223 athletes representing Team USA in China, more than a third of them have close ties to the state. That means they either grew up here, live here or went to school here. A handful more will compete for other countries.
Not a single day of the Games will go by without a Utah athlete participating in at least one event.
Here’s our guide to keeping you focused, which, if you don’t have access to a vestibular trainer and your record player won’t handle your weight, has been proven as a more low-tech method of avoiding the spins.
How to watch the Winter Olympics
The Beijing Olympics will be broadcast by NBC and its partners.
NBC will feature most of the primetime action, while the USA Network will carry many of the events live, with a little help from CNBC. Everything on USA and most events on NBC will also be shown on NBCUniversal’s free NBC Sports app (you’ll need to verify a cable provider for full access).
To get all the action broadcast by NBCUniversal — from the opening ceremony on Feb. 4 (4:30 a.m., NBC) to the closing one Feb. 20 (6 p.m., NBC) and some on the fringes of those dates — you’ll need a $4.99/month subscription to Peacock. Some events may not be broadcast, though NBCUniversal has said it will have a record 2,800 hours of Winter Games coverage. For a handy day-by-day or sport-by-sport schedule, visit https://www.nbcolympics.com/schedule?chrcontext=WBTS.
Remember that Beijing is 15 hours ahead of Utah and most live events will be shown between 6 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Utahns to watch in the Winter Olympics
Look, this isn’t the end-all-be-all list. With about 100 Utah athletes competing, some won’t appear here who probably deserve to. Plus, it’s the Olympics, which means anything can happen. Already in women’s alpine racing, Breezy Johnson, a Team USA medal favorite and graduate of Salt Lake City’s Rowmark Ski Academy, has dropped out of the Games because of a knee injury she suffered last week while training in Cortina, Italy.
That said, here’s a look at the Utah athletes you can expect to see on the podium (Note: The NBC Sports app will carry all of these events):
Nathan Chen, 22, men’s figure skating: This is Chen’s Olympics. The Salt Lake City native’s return to the ice is perhaps the most anticipated event in these Games. Four years ago, his disastrous short program in Pyeongchang dashed the gold-medal favorite’s chance of bringing back any hardware in the event (won by Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan) despite a spectacular free skate performance. Chen, the world record holder in the free skate and in combined score, has only lost once since and has an extra heaping of pride on the line as he competes in his parents’ home country. WATCH: Team event — Feb. 3, 6:55 p.m., NBC & Feb. 5, 6 p.m., NBC; Men’s short program — Feb. 7, 6:15 p.m., NBC/USA; Men’s free skate — Feb. 9, 8:40 a.m., NBC/USA.
Brittany Bowe, 33, long track speedskating: The world record holder in the 1,000 meters has not been shy about her mission in China. “My ultimate goal this year is gold in Beijing,” she told The Tribune. “I would be lying if I said it was anything other than that.” A Salt Lake City resident who trains at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, she has medal hopes in the 1,500 as well. She competed in the 2014 and 2018 Games, taking fourth in both those events in PyeongChang while bringing home a bronze in team pursuit. WATCH: 1,500m — Feb. 7, 1:30 a.m., USA; Team pursuit — Feb. 14, 11:30 p.m., USA; 1,000 — Feb. 17, 1:40 a.m., USA & 6 p.m., NBC.
Erin Jackson, 29, long track speedskating: In November, Jackson became the first Black woman to win a World Cup event. The Salt Lake City resident hasn’t slowed down since. She’s the top-ranked woman in the world in the 500 meters and owns the American record (36.809). Jackson, who placed 24th in 2018, will be keen to make the most of these Games after almost missing out. A slip in the Olympic trials caused her to finish third and off the team, but Bowe, who won, bowed out of the event so Jackson could race in China. WATCH: 500 — Feb. 13, 6:50 a.m., NBCS app; Team pursuit — Feb. 14, 11:30 p.m., USA.
Alex Hall, 23; Nick Goepper, 27; Colby Stevenson, 24; slopestyle skiing: Why go to China to see some of the best park riding in the world when it’s on full display in Park City? Well, to bring back a medal. Hall, who lives in Park City, and Goepper, who lives in SLC, are ranked No. 2 and 3 in the world in slopestyle, respectively. Goepper won bronze and silver, respectively, in the 2014 and 2018 Games and is now trying to complete the trifecta. Hall is making his second appearance. Meanwhile Stevenson, a Park City native who won back-to-back World Cup competitions last March, will be making his debut. WATCH: Feb. 13, 9:30 p.m., NBCS app; Feb. 14, 6:30 p.m., USA.
Alex Hall, 23, big air skiing: One look at the never-before-performed 2160 — spinning six full rotations off the jump — that Hall pulled off to win X Games gold in the last tuneup before the Games and it’s obvious why the Park City kid’s a medal favorite in this new Olympics event in Beijing. WATCH: Feb. 6, 10:30 p.m., NBCS app & 11 p.m., USA; Feb. 8, 8 p.m., NBC.
Marin Hamill, 20; Maggie Voisin, 23; slopestyle skiing/big air: These Park City high flyers can’t let the boys have all the fun. They’re ranked No. 2 and 3 in slopestyle on the world tour. Hamill landed the silver for her first World Cup podium in the last event before the Games. Voisin made her first Olympic team at age 15 but didn’t compete after breaking her ankle in training. In 2018, she placed fourth. WATCH: Big air — Feb. 6, 6:30 p.m., USA; Feb. 7, 7 p.m., NBC; Slopestyle — Feb. 12, 7 p.m., USA; Feb. 13, 6:30 p.m., NBCS app.
Brita Sigourney, 32; Devin Logan, 28; halfpipe skiing: The guys aren’t the only ones going big in Park City. Sigourney, a three-time Olympian who recently bought a house in Salt Lake, claimed bronze in the 2018 Games and snatched X Games silver in Aspen, Colorado, last weekend. Park City’s Logan, meanwhile, is the 2014 silver medalist. Currently ranked No. 11 in the world, she is primed for a podium breakthrough. WATCH: Feb. 16, 6:30 p.m., NBC/USA; Feb. 17, 6:30 p.m., NBC/USA.
Oliva Giaccio, 21; Jaelin Kauf, 25; Hannah Soar, 22; Kai Owens, 17; mogul skiing: The competition is so tight among the American women, all of whom live and train near Park City, that any one of them could end up on the podium in Zhangjiakou, the mountain region where the moguls will be held. Soar, Owens and Kauf finished Nos. 3-5 in the 2021 World Cup standings, respectively. Giacco came on strong this season and is ranked a Team USA-high No. 4. She is also the only athlete to land a cork 1080 in competition, doing so in mid-January. Only Kauf has Olympic experience, taking seventh as the top American in 2018. WATCH: Feb. 3, 3 a.m., USA; Feb. 6, 3 a.m., NBCS app & 4 a.m., USA.
Winter Vinecki, 23; Megan Nick, 25; aerial skiing: Both these Salt Lake City residents have shown they can keep up with the world’s best. Vinecki finished 2021 ranked No. 2 in the World Cup standings and Nick, a University of Utah student, finished 2020 ranked No. 4. The real challenge for them will be beating the Chinese, who usually dominate the precision sport — they currently have the top two women in the world – but who stayed off the scene last year because of COVID. WATCH: Feb. 13, 4 a.m., NBCS app; Feb. 14, 4 a.m., USA & 6 p.m., NBC.
Rosie Brennan, 33; Jesse Diggins, 30; cross country skiing: In 2018, Diggins, a former Westminster College student, teamed up with Salt Lake City’s Kikkan Randall to win the team sprint and become the first American to wear Olympic gold in cross country. Diggins returns to seek a medal in Beijing and this time it might be alongside Park City native Brennan. Brennan finished 2021 ranked No. 4 overall on the World Cup tour, which was won by Diggins. “The last few years on the World Cup, I’ve seen the huge difference of fighting for top 30 or 20 versus playing around in top 10 and having the opportunity to make a move and put up a fight,” Brennan said of her Olympic goals. “That’s where I want to be in any race I start is to be a player in the game.” WATCH: Skiathlon — Feb. 5, 2:45 a.m., USA; Sprints — Feb. 8, 1 a.m. & 3:30 a.m., USA; 10K — Feb. 10, 12:25 a.m., USA; 4x5K relay — Feb. 12, 12:30 a.m., USA; Team sprint — Feb. 16, 2 a.m., NBCS app & 4 a.m., USA.
Faye Gulini, 29; Lindsey Jacobellis, 36; snowboardcross: Gulini, a Salt Lake City native, is going for the podium after finishing fourth in 2018. She hasn’t slipped much since then, taking third in the 2021 World Cup standings. Jacobellis, a former Westminster student, will be competing in her fifth Olympics. While the 2016 silver medalist is chasing a medal in the individual standings, her best bet may be in the new mixed team event. She teamed with Mick Dierdorff to win the world championship last year. WATCH: Women’s — Feb. 8, 8 p.m. & 11 p.m., USA; Mixed team — Feb. 11, 7 p.m., NBC/USA.
Kristen Santos, 27, short track speed skating: Santos, fueled by her near-miss in her attempt to make the 2018 Games, has emerged as the strongest medal hope for the short track team. The Salt Lake City resident is holding onto a No. 2 rank in the world in the 1,000 meters and No. 4 in the 1,500 and overall. WATCH: 1,000m — Feb. 9, 4 a.m., USA & Feb. 11, 4 a.m., USA; 3,000m relay — Feb. 13, 4 a.m., USA; 1,500 — Feb. 16, 4:30 a.m., USA.
Contenders on the cusp
Nick Page, 19, and Brad Wilson, 29, moguls: These two rippers both grew up on the slopes of Deer Valley Resort though they’re on the opposite ends of their careers. Page entered the Freestyle World Cup at Deer Valley in mid-January ranked No. 4 on the FIS tour but dropped down to 10th after sitting out the first day’s finals and all of the second day to settle himself after a crash in training. Wilson, the brother of 2018 bronze medalist Bryon Wilson, competed in 2014 and 2018 and announced his retirement at the Deer Valley event. He enters ranked No. 12 on the world tour. Not far behind them is another Deer Valley racer, Cole McDonald, who is No. 15. WATCH: Feb. 3, 4:45 a.m., USA; Feb. 5, 3 a.m., USA; final — Feb. 5, 4:30 a.m., USA.
Chris Lillis, 23, aerials: Keep an eye out for Lillis, who missed the PyeongChang Olympics after an ACL tear. Last March he broke out a quintuple twisting triple backflip, becoming the first American to do one in competition since his boyhood idol Speedy Peterson threw “The Hurricane” to take silver at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Lillis has threatened to break out “The Hurricane” in these Olympics to honor Peterson, who committed suicide in 2011. He, Eric Loughran and Ashley Caldwell also proved at the 2021 World Championships they can reach the podium in the mixed team event, which is new this year. WATCH: Mixed team final — Feb. 10, 4 a.m., USA; Men’s — Feb. 15, 4 a.m., NBCS app; Feb. 16, 4 a.m., NBCS app & 6 p.m., NBC.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle, 29, Super G skiing: The former Westminster student finished in the top 10 in the World Cup standings last season and is ranked 11th heading into the Olympics. WATCH: Feb. 7, 8 p.m., NBCS app.
Chris Mazdzer, 33, luge: The 2018 silver medalist from Salt Lake City would normally be among the medal contenders, but it just hasn’t been that kind of season for him. He broke his foot during training in September, just more than a month before World Cup competition began. At that time, he was hoping to become the first to race in three events at the Winter Games: singles, doubles and relay. A crash in the final day of qualifying means he’s down to just singles and relay. He’s a dangerous wildcard in the first. In the latter, he has a real chance of bringing home a medal while teamed up with Summer Britcher and the doubles squad of Zach Di Gregorio, 20, and Sean Hollander, 21 — if he’s selected to compete in it. WATCH: Singles — Feb. 5, 4:10 a.m., NBCS app; Feb. 6, 4:30 a.m., NBCS app; Team relay — Feb. 10, 6:30 a.m., USA.
What sports are new for the 2022 Olympics?
When asked about how Park City produced so many Olympic medal contenders in slopestyle skiing this year, Colby Stevenson chuckles. It’s not, he said, because they grew up thinking they were going to be Olympians.
“The funny part is, when I was getting into this sport, there was only the X Games, not the Word Cup or the Olympics,” said Stevenson, 24, one of three Park City skiers who could bring back the gold in that event. “It more was about me following my passion through freedom and expressing myself in tricks.”
Now Stevenson’s passion could lead him to not one, but two medals.
By qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team in slopestyle, Stevenson and fellow Parkites Alex Hall, Nick Goepper, Marin Hamill and Maggie Voisin also earned the right to slide into the starting gate for freeski big air. The men’s and women’s events make up two of seven events added to the Winter Games program this year (big air snowboarding made its debut in 2018).
Many of the additions to the 109-event program in Beijing are mixed team events, meaning they combine the efforts of both male and female athletes. Introduced to the Summer Games last year in such events as triathlon and swimming, this winter the mixed team format will be introduced in snowboardcross, aerial skiing, short track speed skating and ski jumping.
Those events have given new medal hopes to athletes like four-time Olympic aerialist Ashley Caldwell. Caldwell, who finished 10th in the 2010 and 2014 Games, has found success in mixed team event and could be paired with two other team veterans, albeit Olympic newcomers, Chris Lillis and Justin Schoenefeld. The athletes compete separately, but their scores are combined.
The same can be said for 36-year-old Lindsey Jacobellis in snowboardcross. She won her sixth world championship, and the first ever in mixed snowboardcross, in 2019 by teaming up with Mick Dierdorff, who is also on the Olympic squad. This event is more like a relay, with the woman’s starting gate opening only after their male teammate crosses the finish line.
It will be similar for the 2,000-meter short track mixed team relay, just without the starting gates. One at a time, each woman and then each man will skate 2 1/2 laps. Then, in the same order, they will each skate two laps. If a racers falls, their teammate of the same sex can tag in and race for them. As with most of the mixed team events, racers will typically be determined in the days leading up to the event.
One new event is just for the women: monobob. Just as it sounds, it’s a bobsled race featuring single-person sleds. In addition to that unique aspect, it also is set up to create a more level playing field among athletes. That’s because, unlike most sliding sports, where design and innovation can be the difference between first and 15th, all monobob sleds will be identical.
Team USA will be in the mix for a medal in this event. The American entrants will be Elana Meyers Taylor and Kaillie Humphries, the two accomplished drivers of the women’s two-person bobsled teams. Though they will go solo in the monobob, one of them will be paired with pusher Kaysha Love.
No surprise, Love, is a Utah native born in Herriman.