Americans have no shining star athletes to follow during this month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing and its surrounding winter competition sites. Over 3,000 Olympic hopefuls from about 90 nations have arrived for the games, which started on Feb. 2 and will last until Feb. 20. But Americans don’t even seem to know the names of their own country’s top athletes.
Even in Alaska, the winter athletes are not household names — Scott Patterson, a cross-country racer who trained at Alaska Pacific University, is relatively unknown, as is fellow cross-country skier Gus Schumacher, who trains in Alaska. Neither of them placed in competition over the weekend. And Keegan Messing, the male figure skater raised in Alaska but skating for Canada, has been sidelined by Covid.
According to Morning Consult, Americans just are not well informed about who is competing. Or are they not paying attention? The share of U.S. adults who said they plan to watch all or some of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics is smaller than the share who said the same ahead of last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, which had the smallest average primetime audience for an Olympics since at least 1988. More from Morning Consult here.
“Despite Team USA entering the Beijing Olympics without a standout women’s skating star, Morning Consult polling data indicates Americans are more interested in watching figure skating than any other sport at this year’s Winter Games. The U.S. delegation’s most well-known athletes, however, can be found on the halfpipe,” Morning Consult wrote.
According to the polling company, the most well-known Olympic name is Shaun White, the snowboarder whose name 54 percent of Americans recognize. After White, the most well-known American athlete is snowboarder Chloe Kim, whose name is recognized by just 32 percent of Americans.
And if Americans are eager for a figure-skating medal for the U.S.A., they might look to Nathan Chen. Yet only 27 percent of Americans know that name associated with U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January.
More from the poll:
- “The American delegation for the Beijing Games is bereft of household names. White, a three-time Olympic gold medalist who made his Olympic snowboarding debut in 2006, was the only athlete whom at least half of U.S. adults (54 percent) recognized by name. One in three respondents said they had a favorable opinion of White. Kim, who in 2018 became the youngest woman to win a gold medal in snowboarding, was the next most-known American athlete, with 32 percent of respondents saying they had heard of her.”
- “USA Bobsled left a fairly well-known candidate for its team, Lolo Jones, off its roster for the Beijing Games, likely bringing an end to the 39-year-old’s chances to win an Olympic medal. Thirty percent of U.S. adults indicated they had heard of Jones, the track star-turned-bobsledder who competed in two Summer (2008, 2012) and one Winter Games (2014). Her story would have presented rich material for NBC.”
The Anchorage Daily News has a reporter in China covering the Olympics. Reporter Nat Herz just moved back to the ADN after working as a public media reporter for several years, and is restarting his ADN career with a coveted beat — the Olympics; he is also writing on behalf of a national cross-country skiing publication.
A poll on Must Read Alaska’s Facebook page asks the question: Are you paying attention to the Olympics? Take the poll here.