2022 U.S. Olympic team could break record for most female competitors

The US women's hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics
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Update: On Monday night, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) revised some figures in its official release. The following story has been updated accordingly. 

With less than two weeks until the Opening Ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics (February 4), the U.S. Olympic team for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games was announced on Monday by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).

Team USA’s 223-athlete roster includes 108 women after ski jumper Anna Hoffman was added on Monday evening. In Beijing, the U.S. could break the record for most women from any nation to compete at a single Winter Games. It’s a record the U.S. has broken at the previous 10 Winter Olympics, according to Olympedia.org. (Note: while 109 women were named to the U.S. Olympic team for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, only 101 ultimately competed, thus solidifying their status as Olympians.)

A few facts about the women on the 2022 U.S. Olympic team:

The U.S. roster includes two women – Lindsey Jacobellis (snowboarding) and Katie Uhlaender (skeleton) – who will compete in a record-tying fifth Olympics. Jacobellis and Uhlaender will join retired snowboarder Kelly Clark and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall as the only American women to compete at five Winter Games.

Team USA also features eight athletes and five women – Hilary Knight (hockey), Ashley Caldwell (freestyle skiing, aerials), Faye Gulini (snowboard cross) and Elana Meyers Taylor and Kaillie Humphries (bobsled) – who will make their fourth Olympic appearance.

MORE ON THE 2022 U.S. OLYMPIC ROSTER: U.S. Olympic team has most female athletes in Winter Games history

Figure skater Alysa Liu – who will be 16 years, 6 months old in Beijing – is the youngest member of the 2022 U.S. Olympic team. That said, Liu is still older than the women’s gold medal favorite: 15-year-old Kamila Valiyeva of Russia.

Uhlaender, 37, will be the oldest woman on the U.S. team, while 40-year-old snowboarder Nick Baumgartner is the oldest American athlete of any gender. Still, neither Uhlaender or Baumgartner come close to German speed skater Claudia Pechstein. In Beijing, the 49-year-old will become the oldest woman to compete at a Winter Olympics and the second athlete — and only woman — to compete in eight Winter Games.

Finally, U.S. aerialist Winter Vinecki will become the first Winter Olympian  from any nation to be named “Winter” when she makes her debut in Beijing (according to Olympedia.org). At least six athletes with the first name of “Summer” have competed at previous Olympic Games, including three American women: retired swimmer Summer Sanders, Tokyo triathlete Summer Rappaport, and luge athlete Summer Britcher (who will make her third Olympic appearance in Beijing).

Why isn’t there greater gender balance at the Winter Olympics?

Team USA’s roster includes fewer women than men, a contrast to recent Summer Games. Last year’s Tokyo Olympics marked the third straight Summer Olympics in which women outnumbered men on the U.S. Olympic team.

Over 45 percent of athletes at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will be women, a record for the Winter Olympic Games. In comparison: women comprised 41 percent of all international competitors four years ago in PyeongChang.

While the gender gap is closing, men still have more events on the Olympic Winter Games program (51), compared to 46 for women.

This is due in part to nordic combined, the only Olympic sport – summer or winter – that does not include women. Women also have fewer quota spots in bobsled, luge, ski jumping, and ice hockey.

Quick reminder: sports may exist on a gender binary, but society does not

While stories about gender equality in sports are often presented with men on one side, women on the other, that binary division isn’t representative of society. But that line is starting to blur thanks to a handful of pioneering athletes.

Case and point: at the upcoming Winter Olympics, figure skater Timothy LeDuc is set to become the first publicly out non-binary athlete to compete at a Winter Games.

“As a person that exists and really thrives outside of the binary, it can be very complicated sometimes navigating a gendered sport,” LeDuc explained on the NBCLX podcast My New Favorite Olympian. “They look at me, they see that I have a beard or they look at maybe my physical characteristics and say, ‘You’re a boy, act like a boy.'”

After winning the 2021 U.S. pairs’ title with partner Ashley Cain-Gribble, LeDuc offered some thoughts on the way they hope their story is told in Beijing.

“My hope is that when people see my story, it isn’t focused on me and saying, ‘Oh, Timothy is the first out non-binary person to achieve this level of success in sport.’ 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,” they said.

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC