The most empowering Olympics

The Asian American Athletes at Pyeongchang give me life.

(This was originally posted on the editorial blog of the East Coast Asian American Student Union, read it here.)

I live for the Olympic games every two to four years, ever since the 2008 Beijing opening ceremony changed my life. The pomp and circumstance of the ceremonies, athlete profiles, and feats of human strength always draw me in and rule my life for the next two and a half weeks. This year’s winter games in PyeongChang are no different. In fact my obsession has only been heightened by the amazing Asian American athletes competing this year.

I followed the ice dancing Shibutani Siblings (aka, the Shib Sibs) since the Sochi games in 2014, and the lead-up to 2018 has been intense on Asian American Twitter ever since Nathan Chen, Mirai Nagasu, and Chloe Kim came into the mainstream Olympics discussion. I love all athletes because I know every athlete fights and works hard to earn a spot on their respective Olympic team. For Team USA — and what I’ve dubbed Team Asian USA — no one has time for some nonsense from a New York Times editor with ill-used Hamilton quotes. Jenn Fang of Reappropriate explains the problems of Weiss’s tweet in her post, but Chrissy Teigen ended the matter the best:

For a full reference, Angry Asian Man highlighted all thirteen athletes competing for Team USA. But here are highlights from my personal favorites:

Chloe Kim’s gold medal-winning run:

Mirai Nagasu making Olympic history:

Vincent Zhou making Olympic history:

Nathan Chen hype:

This important Twitter thread from Alex Shibutani on his Team USA bronze medal win:

The origin story of the legendary J.R. Celski:

Following these athletes has been one of the most empowering things to witness as an Olympics fan. They’re making appearances on the Today Show and big-name celebrities are becoming their biggest fans. ESPN wrote two lengthy features on Chloe Kim and Nathan Chen, the New York Times interviewed Mirai Nagasu after her history-making skate, and The Ringer profiled the Shib Sibs and their journey here.

None of this is uncommon for Olympic athletes during their two weeks in the spotlight. What makes it so powerful is what it means to see these specific all-American athletes getting highlighted as the ones to watch along with Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn, and Adam Rippon. They’re getting embraced by the mainstream when the narrative we hear most is one built to “other” our community as perpetual foreigners. At a time when xenophobia and outright bigotry is palpable in the air, it’s watching these thirteen athletes doing what they do best that makes me feel like I can finally embrace what it means to be Asian American.

“I have this different opportunity because I’m Korean-American, but I’m riding for the States,” Chloe Kim said in ESPN. “At first I was confused on how that would be accepted. But now I’m starting to understand that I can represent both countries.”

Representation matters in all fields and getting hyped about these athletes is just as important as supporting Asian Americans in other mediums. It’s validating to see the Olympic, nationalistic fervor include these Asian American athletes. For me, supporting and following Team Asian USA goes beyond the story of the “good immigrant” that some people and organizations, like Think Progress, try to push. It’s true a lot of these athletes are children of immigrants who are fulfilling their parents’ American Dream, but more importantly they’re fulfilling their own dreams and ambitions.

As the 2018 games enter their final week, I can’t wait to see Team Asian USA when they get home. I want to see the Shib Sibs interviewed by Stephen Colbert. I want to see Nathan Chen playing silly games with Jimmy Fallon. I want Chloe Kim on Ellen. I want Mirai Nagasu on Brooklyn 99. Everywhere they send Shaun White and Mikaela Shiffrin, I want to see these Asian American athletes. They are worth all the hype the Olympics bring them, and represent the #BestofUS.

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