Unlike other sports such as basketball and baseball, winter sports aren’t as popular with adults and children. Unless they live in snowy areas, children can’t regularly participate in activities such as skiing, sledding, and snowboarding. Yes, many do participate in sports that can be played in a stadium such as figure skating and hockey. But those are also quite niched sports that not many children play on a regular basis.

But even if winter sports aren’t as popular as other sports, many athletes in this faction have made quite an impact in sports in general. Many athletes came from this world and have shown the possibilities that people can enjoy in the snow. These are four athletes that have been inspiring us to partake in winter sports, too, even if we only do it whenever we take vacations in destination spots like Aspen.

Shaun White

When it comes to snowboarding, there’s one person that quickly comes to mind for many people. And that is Shaun White. Born in 1986, White is among the more contemporary winter sports athletes in this list. He won his first Olympic gold medal as a snowboarder in 2006 in the halfpipe competition. But, much like many athletes, he also partakes in other sports. He also skateboards, surfs, skis, and even plays a bit of soccer.

But what sets White apart from many winter sports athletes is that he’s a survivor of a major heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia. Because of this, he was subjected to two open-heart surgeries just a few months after his birth. Despite this condition, he recovered and persevered to pursue his dream of becoming a professional snowboarder. He proved that no matter the odds, people can still achieve success in sports. White’s story truly inspires many people to explore winter sports,  taking up heli snowboarding, skiing, and other fun activities.

Sonja Henie

Figure skating has seen its fair share of iconic athletes through the years. But one of the first few ones is Sonja Henie. Born in 1912 in Norwegia, she was often called “the Queen of Ice” during her prominence as a figure skater. She paved the path for the next figure skaters that came after her. Because she’s one of the earliest figure skaters, she’s also credited to many “firsts.” But one of her many great achievements is becoming the first woman to win three Olympic gold medals in figure skating.

Not only did she become iconic as an athlete, but she also pioneered many practices in figure skating today. In the late 1920s, she transformed figure skating through wearing short skirts and integrating choreography into her performances. She showed how clothing can make significant changes to figure skaters’ routine.

man skiing

Apolo Anton Ohno

Out of the winter sports athletes, it’s a shame that many people don’t recognize Apolo Anton Ohno for his work. As a speed skater, he’s known as the American athlete who has won the most medals in Winter Olympics history. In three games in 2002, 2006, and 2010, he won two gold medals, two silver, and two bronze. So he won a total of eight Olympic medals.

His father, who originated from Japan, was among the first few people to encourage him to pursue winter sports. Since then, speed skating has become a huge part of his life. Much like White, though, Ohno also pursued other interests. In 2007, together with his dance partner, Julianne Hough, he competed in Dancing with the Stars.

Michelle Kwan

Together with Ohno, Michelle Kwan is among the most decorated athletes in winter sports. Since her start as a professional figure skater, she has won over 40 championships. And she started out young. By the age of five, she’s already figure skating. Two short years later, she’s winning competitions that would eventually land her in the Olympics.

What makes Kwan iconic is how she inspired girls all over the world to pursue sports that they are interested in. She showed that, no matter what her background is, she can succeed as a figure skater or other type of athlete. As an accomplished and well-known Chinese-American athlete, she now uses her influence for diplomatic work at the U.S. State Department.

Knowing a bit about the most iconic athletes in winter sports will help us feel encouraged to try them out, too. Yes, it won’t be as easy as just buying a basketball and playing in the garage. But these athletes show that snowboarding, figure skating, or other sports will always be there for us to try whenever we’re ready.

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