Trine prof: Team USA’s firsts are shining moments of Beijing Games

February 16, 2022

PodgorskiThough much of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing has been shrouded in controversy, there were still many groundbreaking moments to celebrate in the Games, according to Brandon Podgorski, director of Trine University’s Center for Sports Studies.

“I think Team USA has been a big winner, simply because of the many firsts that occurred this year,” said Podgorski, who also serves as associate professor in Trine’s Ketner School of Business. “Chloe Kim was the first woman to win back-to-back golds in the snowboard halfpipe. Abby Roque became the first Indigenous woman to compete in Olympic ice hockey for Team USA. Jessie Diggins became the first U.S. woman to win an individual medal in cross-country skiing. Erin Jackson was the first Black woman to win a speed skating medal — gold — at the Winter Olympics. I love these stories because it speaks to the opportunities that athletes have in the United States that otherwise may not be possible in other countries.”

In addition to Kim and Jackson, Podgorski said gold-medal-winning figure skater Nathan Chen could become a household name after Beijing. And though some in the United States may question her decision to compete for China, Podgorski said skier and social media influencer Eileen Gu enhanced her brand by winning gold in women’s freeski big air and silver in slopestyle at the Games.

“She was already sponsored by over 20 brands including Louis Vuitton, Victoria’s Secret and Tiffany & Company,” he said. “Now, with her medal-winning performances, I expect her endorsement opportunities to continue to grow, especially in China. Competing for China may turn out to be a rather shrewd marketing decision.”

While host countries normally gain positive exposure during the Olympics, Podgorski said that has not been true for China, with the spotlight on the human rights violations, particularly on the Uyghur population, generating a fair share of criticism.

“One of the benefits of hosting the Olympics is to leverage the coverage to highlight the best parts of your city,” he said. “I’m not sure that is the case this year.”

Along with China, Podgorski said Russia is taking a hit with 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva’s positive test for trimetazidine, a drug that helps increase endurance for angina patients.

“Athletes are currently not allowed to compete under the Russian flag due to their state-sponsored doping scheme in the 2014 Winter Olympics, but here we are again,” he said.

Podgorski said the International Olympic Committee also may come out of Beijing a loser due to its handling of Valieva’s case. He called the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to allow the skater to compete “puzzling.”

“Accordingly, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will still allow her to win the gold medal, but simply not recognize her with a medal ceremony,” he said. “Although the legal process needs to play itself out, it gives the impression that the IOC is leading from behind on the issue and casts another dark cloud over the Games.”

The Trine Center for Sports Studies is a multidisciplinary teaching and experiential learning collaborative at Trine University focusing on the study of sports and the international sports industry. The Center draws from well-respected Trine University programs and courses in business, health sciences and communication to provide the broadest range of sports-related academic majors, minors and internships to prepare Trine students for this fast-growing, dynamic international marketplace.

Last Updated: 02/16/2022

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