Katie Uhlaendar may not be a household name, but she's starred in each Winter Olympics for the past 16 years.
Thursday night, the 37-year-old veteran will slide into her fifth Games. By competing in the women's skeleton competition, Uhlaendar earns a number of superlatives. For one, she ties the record for the U.S. woman with most Olympic appearances. She's also the only U.S. woman in any sliding sport to appear at five Games.
Despite never having won an Olympic medal (she finished sixth in her debut at Torino 2006 and came within 0.04 seconds of a bronze medal during the controversial Sochi 2014 competition), Uhlaender has been a force on the skeleton tour since she turned pro in the early aughts. She's earned six world championship titles, including singles gold, silver, and bronze.
Uhlaender may not lead the pack following Heats 1 and 2; she isn't expected to earn a medal. But she's an example of resilience and tenacity, and definitely worth watching.
The United States has one additional skeleton athlete competing in this event: Kelly Curtis. Uhlaender and the 33-year-old Curtis were world Nos. 13 and 14 at the time of selection for these Games, the two highest-ranked Americans. Curtis, in her second Olympics, is Team USA's first Black skeleton slider.
After dominating luge, Germany now sets its sights on women's skeleton – an event the country has never won. But Tina Hermann hopes to make history. She has topped the competition at the world championships four times, including from 2019 through 2021. Perhaps more indicative of her success on the notoriously difficult course known as "The Dragon," Hermann won the 2021 Olympic test event.
Though Hermann enters as the favorite, she'll have to outpace compatriots Jacqueline Loelling and Hannah Neise. Loelling won silver at PyeongChang 2018 and has been the runner-up at three world championships, including 2021. Meanwhile, the 21-year-old Neise was 0.04 seconds behind Hermann at the Olympic test event, and is the defending world junior champion.
The potential spoiler: the Czech Republic's 25-year-old Anna Fernstadt, who spent a significant amount of her adolescence in Germany and even competed for that country in PyeongChang.
In other words: Even if Hermann, Loelling, or Neise loses to Fernstadt, Germany still (kind of) wins.