The Truth About The 2022 U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team

The U.S. Olympic figure skating team is made up of six solo skaters, two pairs, and three Ice Dance couples. The talented group assembled for the 2022 Winter Games contains many firsts for the Olympics, including the first out, non-binary skater and the first man to land five quadruple jumps in a single program (via Team USA).

After an unpredictable past few years laden with disappointments and cancelations, the 2022 Olympics hold a lot of promise for the athletes eager to manifest their comeback stories. In a 2021 interview with Figure Skaters Online, figure skater Jason Brown told reporters, "I'm counting down the days, like I can't wait to be in front of an audience and getting to do what I love, and I hope by doing what I love and doing me, I wind up on my second Olympic team." Luckily for Brown, this dream became a reality, and the figure skater will join the 2022 U.S. team.

The 2022 figure skating team is more than capable of navigating the complexities of the 2022 Winter Olympics, including the complications caused by the Omicron variant and the controversies surrounding free speech in China amidst a time of great political unrest in the country. Each member of the team has demonstrated their worth and dedication to the sport through years of intense training and setbacks they've overcome. Here is the truth about the 2022 U.S. Olympic figure skating team.

The 2022 team includes Ivy League students

Obtaining an Ivy League education is much like obtaining a coveted spot in the U.S. Olympic figure skating team. Both disciplines require dedication, passion, and exceptional ability. While combining both a rigorous education and a non-stop athletic schedule may seem impossible, three members of the 2022 team prove otherwise.

Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, and Karen Chen are three members of the 2022 team who attend Ivy League institutions. Nathan is a current student at Yale University, while Karen is enrolled at Cornell University, according to Team USA, and Vincent is at Brown University (per U.S. Figure Skating Fan Zone). In the midst of a busy training schedule to prepare for the Olympic games, these students often take time off from their studies to dedicate themselves to skating practice.

After her acceptance to Cornell, Karen opted to take a two-year gap from her studies to prepare for her aspiring Olympic career. "I didn't want school to be a distraction. I wanted to make the team and that was my mindset," she told U.S. Figure Skating Fan Zone in 2019. Like Karen, Vincent also opted to take two years off from his studies at Brown to prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Luckily for him, the university worked to establish an academic plan that would best support his athletic career and educational aspirations (per U.S. Figure Skating Fan Zone).

The first out, non-binary U.S. skater is on the 2022 team

Figure skater Timothy LeDuc is the first Winter Olympic athlete to openly identify as non-binary. LeDuc made headlines in 2019 when they were the first openly gay athlete to win a gold medal in the U.S. pairs competition as well. "My hope is that the narrative shifts more to, 'Queer people can be open and successful in sports.' We've always been here, we've always been a part of sports. We just haven't always been able to be open," as LeDuc told NBC Sports.

Figure skating pairs are traditionally centered around male and female dynamics that often tell romantic stories in their program's narrative. "Maybe it will make a path for other non-binary and queer athletes that come into pairs in ice dance," LeDuc said in an interview with Reuters. LeDuc's skating partner, Ashley Cain-Gribble, has had their back from the beginning. "Timothy has always been there for me, they've supported me through every part of my journey in my life. And so I'll always be there to support their journey," she told Reuters. 

Cain-Gribble is challenging figure skating gender stereotypes alongside LeDuc. The figure skater has opted for a full body leotard on some occasions, which is unexpected for female figure skaters. "I feel really powerful in a unitard," she said to Reuters. The pair continues to shake up the ice skating world by making their strength and athleticism the center of their routines, rather than their gender identities and presentation.

The team includes the oldest women's national champion since 1927

The career of a figure skater is often extremely short-lived. Figure skaters with lean and thin bodies have an easier time with aerodynamics and executing aerial spins. Most of the world's leading champions in women's figure skating are still in their teens. At age 25, Mariah Bell became the oldest women's national champion in nearly a century (via CNN). According to NBC Sports, the 2022 National Championship was Bell's ninth year competing and her first year winning the title. "I'm just am really, really grateful to be here and be competing," she told NBC Sports after winning her spot on the Olympic team. When asked how she kept herself motivated after years of vying for the title of National Champion, Bell said, "I've had so much support and my family is so incredible, and they've just really encouraged me to keep chasing my dreams."

Bell is known for her signature creative style. "Wanting to push the envelope in terms of artistry is so important because not all sports have this opportunity to be so creative and artistic, and tell a story," she said in an interview with the official Olympics website. Bell's perseverance and unique storytelling capabilities finally paid off in time for the athlete to make the Olympic team at 25 years old.

The youngest U.S. champion will also compete in Beijing

Figure skater Alysa Liu made history when she won the U.S. National Championship at just age 13. Now, at just 16 years old, Liu will represent the country at the Beijing Olympics.

According to the official Olympics website, Liu is the oldest of five siblings born to their single, Chinese-born father. Liu was quickly identified as a figure skating prodigy from an early age, and her victory at age 13 was accompanied by another historical moment. At the 2019 U.S. Nationals, Liu became "the first American woman to land three triple axels in a single competition," as reported by the official Olympics website. Prior to Liu's historical performance, only three other American women have successfully landed a triple axel in competition: Tonya Harding, Kimmie Meissner, and Mirai Nagasu.

Liu encountered a series of setbacks for the 2020-2021 season after sustaining a hip injury during training and undergoing a major growth spurt (via NBC Sports). Travel restrictions in 2020 prevented Liu from seeing her usual trainer in Canada, so she instead began to work with three new coaches: Massimo Scali, Jeremy Abbott, and Lorenzo Magri. Liu's coaching team helped her bounce back in her post-injury and post-growth spurt body. "I wasn't used to thinking so much on the ice. The way I use my arms and step into my jumps now, especially the axel, was hard getting used to," she told NBC Sports.

Some of the Ice Dance couples have skated together for a decade

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, who will compete in the Ice Dance category, began their professional partnership in 2011, according to NBC Sports. The couple will make their Olympic debut in Beijing alongside pairs Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Both pairs whom Hawayek and Baker will compete with have already competed at the Olympic level.

Hubbell and Donohue have also competed together for over a decade. Similarly to Hawayek and Baker, Hubbell and Donohue began working professionally together in 2011, after Hubbell's older brother and former partner retired from ice skating (per Team USA).

Both decade-long partnerships find there are a multitude of benefits associated with such a long-term relationship. "We're not easily defeated. We've had triumphs in our career, and disappointment, and continually push pas[t] it. I think that's what makes us one of the strongest teams out here competing," Hawayek told NBC Sports in an interview. Donohue echoed a similar statement regarding his partnership with Hubbell: "I've lucked out. I honestly have. We complement each other very well and she's an incredible woman and I'm very lucky to know her," he told Team USA.

The Beijing Olympics will be Ice Dance skater Evan Bates' fourth Olympic appearance

Competitor Evan Bates is returning to the Olympics' Ice Dance competition for the fourth time in 2022. This year's Games marks his third year competing with partner Madison Chock, whom he teamed up with in 2011 after taking a year off to recover from a skating injury.

Bates began ice skating at age 4 and started performing in competitions when he was just 5 years old, as NBC Olympics noted. Bates recalled his first competition in an interview with NBC: "I remember being in my first ice show, dressed as a leprechaun. I was so nervous that I wet myself, right down my green pants. That certainly was not the moment that propelled me to dedicate my life to skating."

Bates competed in his first Olympic Games in 2010 with then-partner Emily Samuelson. Later that year, Samuelson's blade severed Bates' Achilles tendon during a training session, according to ESPN. Bates described the injury as "just a freak accident during a lift that we've done hundreds of times with no mishaps." He recovered quickly and returned to the ice for the 2011-2012 season with new partner Chock. Together, the pair have competed in the 2014 and 2018 Olympics, placing eighth and ninth, respectively (via Team USA).

The U.S. figure skating team has spoken out against human rights issues in China

The 2022 Olympics are held in Beijing, China, which has stirred up controversy amongst human rights organizations. NPR reports that China has enacted policies towards its Uyghur minority group that have been labeled as "cultural genocide" by the U.S. government. The director of global initiatives for Human Rights Watch, Minky Worden, commented on the controversy in a press conference before the 2022 Games: "Every country commits human rights abuses. But certainly, it is the case that there has not been a host government committing crimes against humanity. This is really a new low."

During a press conference for the Beijing 2022 Team USA Media Summit, five figure skaters were asked to comment on the human rights violations in China. Evan Bates was the first to speak up: "Speaking on behalf of all the athletes, I can say human rights violations are abysmal, and we all believe that it tears the fabric of humanity" (via NBC Sports). Madison Chock, Nathan Chen, and Vincent Zhou, who are all of Chinese descent, also spoke out against the human rights issues taking place in China. "As athletes, we still retain our humanity. We heard what Evan said. We echo his sentiment," said Zhou.

Timothy LeDuc also spoke out against the genocide in China, acknowledging the "horrifying human rights abuses" actively taking place (via USA Today).

Madison Chock and Evan Bates are a couple both on and off the ice

Madison Chock and Evan Bates have competed in three Olympic Games as a pair, having began their partnership in 2011, after Bates already had one Olympic Game under his belt. Ice Dance couples with undeniable chemistry tend to be the most successful storytellers and performers, and Chock and Bates certainly have chemistry.

In 2017, the pair began a romantic relationship. "We actually went on a date for her 16th birthday nine years ago. And here we are so many years later, skating together, at the Olympics together," Bates told Today. After years of cultivating a winning relationship on ice, the two decided to make things official off the ice, too. "I pretty much told Maddie that I loved her," Bates said, explaining how the two decided to move forward with their relationship.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, Chock and Bates quarantined together in their apartment in Montreal with their two dogs, Henry and Stella (via NBC Sports). Together, the pair maintained a strict home workout routine to keep in shape while in lockdown. "When the worlds were canceled, there was a lot of sadness and uncertainty. This allowed us to channel our emotions and not let all the hard training we had done just stop and go away," Chock told NBC Sports.

The 2022 team includes a skater known for his history-making quad jumps

In 2018, figure skater Nathan Chen made history by executing six full quadruple jumps during the men's free skate program at the Winter Olympics (via Time). According to France 24, Chen's six quadruple jumps brought the skater from 17th place to fifth place overall, ultimately resulting in the U.S. men's singles team taking home the bronze.

To prepare for the 2022 Olympics, Chen focused on consistency in his routines: "I'm just really excited for [it]. [I'm focusing] on every single step from now until Olympics: Do the steps as best as I can and prepare as best as I can," he said in an interview with the official Olympics website.

Chen experienced some difficulties in the 2017-2018 season due to his increased time spent training. According to Chen, increasing his workload cut into his time for rest and recovery, which took its toll. "I think the biggest thing right now is just learning how to balance," he said, reflecting on his personal growth as he prepares for the 2022 Games.

Several members of the U.S. 2022 team missed Nationals due to COVID-19

Brandon Frazier, Alexa Knierim (who's married to fellow figure skater Chris Knierim), and Alysa Liu all missed the U.S. Figure Skating Championship after testing positive for COVID-19. The National Championship is an important competition that can determine an athlete's eligibility for the U.S. Olympic team. Fortunately, all three were able to use a petition process that would still allow them to be eligible for selection.

Protective measures for the National Championship in Nashville, Tennessee, included having athletes take a COVID-19 test prior to arrival. Nearly a day after his first test came back negative, Frazier began developing severe symptoms and discovered that he was, in fact, positive for COVID. Knierim, Frazier's skating partner, reported via Instagram that Frazier had been fully vaccinated and received his booster shot prior to his infection. "Brandon and I have accumulated an extremely strong body of work that positions us at the top of the field nationally and we are not letting go of our Olympic dream," she added.

Liu encountered a similar situation when she withdrew from Nationals due to COVID-19 infection. "I'm fully vaccinated, have been wearing an N-95 mask and got two negative results before leaving to Nashville," she posted to Instagram (via "Things happen unfortunately, but it is what it is ... I'm feeling good physically and mentally and I'm wishing the girls good luck for tonight!" she added.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are one of the tallest Ice Dance couples in the sport

The Ice Dance team consisting of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue might be one of the tallest in the sport. According to NBC Olympics, Hubbell is 5'8," while her partner, Donohue, stands at 6'2".

The couple began working together in 2011, after Hubbell's former partner and older brother, Keiffer Hubbell, retired from ice skating. "Being a tall, curvy, muscular girl, I had trouble not coming across as flirtatious or too sexual to skate with my brother," Hubbell recalled in an interview with Team USA. "When I switched to skating with Zach, it was really freeing that I could stop trying to be something I'm not and just fully embrace who I am and my image."

Before becoming an official pair, however, the two rivals reportedly "loathed each other," according to Donohue. Loathing was quickly replaced with romance, however, as the couple began a two-year relationship just six months into their partnership. Their romantic relationship ended in 2018, when the two decided their "on-ice partnership" was more important than their "off-ice relationship." Hubbell said their mutual breakup led to a stronger partnership in the end. "We realized how serious we both were about our goals and our passion, and I think that our relationship got better and even closer — just in a different way," she said to Team USA.

Jason Brown learned Japanese so he could interact with fans in Japan

Figure skater Jason Brown is best known for his bubbly and upbeat personality. Brown was also beloved by fans for his signature "lucky ponytail," which he eventually cut in 2022. Brown joked about the whereabouts of his luck in an interview with NBC. "I cut it and it went straight to the rink," he said.

Brown has a new method of connecting with fans in a major way. He began studying the Japanese language when he learned that figure skating is a big deal in Japan. He told NBC that he wanted to better connect with fans, and he now uploads videos onto YouTube that are directed to Japanese fans.

In 2014, Brown made the Olympic men's figure skating team for the first time. "It was incredible and so exciting. At that point, I was just in that anything is possible frame of mind," he told Figure Skaters Online. The 2018 Olympics didn't quite go as planned for Brown, however. After placing sixth in the 2018 National Championships, Brown was named as a first alternate for the men's figure skating team. "I lost a lot of my self-worth and my identity on that mission (to make the Olympic team)," Brown said to NBC. After not making the team, however, he quickly bounced back into his training routines, with a healthier, growth-oriented mindset that would eventually land him a spot on the 2022 team.