With the 2022 Olympics wrapping up, it’s time to start looking ahead.
The 2026 Winter Games will be held in the northern Italian cities of Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, and the Olympics will officially be titled Milano Cortina.
While it’s impossible to know exactly who will compete in 2026, we can at least make some educated guesses. There were plenty of young American stars that emerged in Beijing, and many of them will likely return for Milano Cortina.
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Here are five Team USA athletes to watch for the 2026 Olympics:
Chloe Kim, snowboarding
The 21-year-old star is already a veteran after competing in 2018 and 2022. In Italy, she could three-peat on the women’s halfpipe with another gold medal. Kim continues to elevate her game every time she enters the halfpipe.
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It’s just a question of how long she wants to keep competing. As long as she decides to get to the Games, she will likely be the favorite to win halfpipe gold again. Kim will be 25 years old when the Milano Cortina Olympics roll around. If she takes a third gold in 2026, she would hold the distinction as the oldest and youngest women’s halfpipe gold medalist.
Erin Jackson, speed skating
Jackson, 29, became an Olympic star in Beijing after winning the women’s 500m speed skating gold medal. She outperformed expectations and proved she was ready for the moment on the biggest stage.
The first Black American woman to medal in speed skating, Jackson is likely to return in 2026. She didn’t begin speed skating until 2018 before making her Olympic debut in PyeongChang. Now that she has a taste of success, it’s hard to see her walking away before defending her gold in Italy.
“Yeah, I don’t think I can be done yet,” Jackson said on TODAY after returning home. “I’m just starting to figure things out. I’ve only had a year and a half of things feeling good on the ice, so I want at least four more (years).”
Jordan Stolz, speed skating
Just 17, Stolz made his mark in Beijing without winning a medal. He became the third-youngest American man to compete in long track speed skating. The Wisconsin native finished 13th in the 500m and 14th in the 1000m after setting track records in both events at the Olympic trials.
There’s little doubt that Stolz, who will be 21 for the 2026 Games, is going to be the next American speed skating star. No American man has medaled in the 500m or 1000m since 2006 and 2010, respectively. The U.S. is long overdue for a skater of Stolz’s caliber, and he should be around for a long time to come.
Alysa Liu, figure skating
If you didn’t think there would be an athlete younger than Stolz listed, you were sadly mistaken. The 16-year-old Liu is on a similar rise to stardom after a strong Olympic debut in Beijing. She placed seventh overall in the free skate.
Liu will be in the midst of her prime when she is a 20-year-old heading to Italy in 2026. She will obviously face stiff competition from the three Russian women who were ahead of her – all were 17 years old or younger in these Olympics. But with the U.S. putting its singular focus into helping Liu, Milano Cortina could be the Games where America returns to the top of the podium.
Hanna Faulhaber, freestyle skiing
Here’s another U.S. athlete who can’t vote, yet performed in Beijing. Faulhaber, 17, was ninth in the qualification round for the women’s freestyle skiing halfpipe. In the medal runs, she improved to sixth, finishing ahead of all other Americans.
Faulhaber won halfpipe bronze at the Winter Youth Olympics in 2020. By 2026, she could be a 21-year-old battling for medals in Italy. She was fourth in the halfpipe at the 2021 World Championships, so an Olympic medal in 2026 is well within reach.
Bonus: Breezy Johnson, alpine skiing
Johnson, now 26, competed in the 2018 Games and finished seventh and 14th in downhill and super-G, respectively. She hoped to add to her résumé in Beijing, but an injury just before the Olympics forced her to withdraw. But she’s not done chasing her Olympic dreams.
“While I always wanted to win an Olympic gold medal, I have a lot of other goals in ski racing,” Johnson wrote in an Instagram post. “Goals that I can work on for the next four years before I return, hopefully, to the hill that stole this Olympic dream from me, for another shot at that gold medal. 2026 baby.”