UT students find meaning, unity in the 2022 Winter Olympics

Kiernan McCormick, Life and Arts general reporter

When Nghi Nguyen sat down to watch her first ever Olympic event this past summer, she said she fell in love with the multi-week athletic tournament. Only six months later, Nguyen said, for her, the 2022 Winter Olympics act as a window into a new world, especially as a Vietnamese international student. 

“(Watching the Winter Olympics) makes me feel happy because I never had the chance to experience those sports, like skating, because, obviously, in Vietnam, it never snows,” the advertising sophomore said. “I feel like it’s something new and unique.”

This year’s Winter Olympics, held in Beijing, China, began Feb. 4 and will end Feb. 20. During the two week period, athletes compete in 15 types of winter sports, ranging from Alpine skiing to luge, according to the Winter Olympics’ website. While Austin remains, for the most part, warm and toasty, UT students like Nguyen follow and enjoy the Winter Games to learn more about the sports, as well as see examples of incredible sportsmanship and patriotism.

Biochemistry freshman Reenna Delp said she finds inspiration in the strong team spirit among the athletes competing in the Winter Olympics this year. For Delp, the most memorable moment of the Games thus far took place when U.S. speed skater Brittany Bowe gave up her place in the women’s 500m event so teammate Erin Jackson, who went on to win the gold medal for that race, could compete instead. 

“That’s the Olympic spirit, when you give up your spot for your teammates,” Delp said. “It’s just sportsmanship all the way, and I think it’s a beautiful story because they’re also really good friends.”

Delp said she mainly follows figure skating and skiing, her favorite winter sports. She keeps up with these events through NBC videos on YouTube, and other social media platforms, such as Instagram and Reddit.

Civil engineering senior McKenna Sanders said she returns to watch the Winter Olympics each year because of the many fond memories she has of watching the games with her family as a child. She said she views the Winter Olympics as a fun, patriotic event and has come to appreciate their infrequency. Because they only occur once every four years, Sanders said she has ample time to prepare and get excited. 

“I feel like (the Winter Olympics are) a sense of patriotism, especially in America,” Sanders said. “Everyone in the country can kind of get behind this two week period, get behind these athletes and cheer for their home country, no matter if they know who’s actually competing or not.” 

Nguyen said she keeps up with the Winter Olympics mostly through Reddit and Facebook, but does not have the time to follow them regularly due to academic responsibilities. 

Nguyen said Korean-American snowboarder Chloe Kim, Chinese-American figure skater Nathan Chen and Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu are some of her favorite winter Olympians. 

“I’m happy there’s more and more Asian American representatives in the Olympics because, in the past, Asian parents have had a negative view of sports,” Nguyen said. “They won’t like that money-wise. You have to be a lawyer or a doctor. But it’s changing.”

While the Winter Olympics may focus heavily on old rivalries and international competition, Delp said she values how, through that competition, the event facilitates global unity. 

“Part of the message the Olympics always try to send is global competitiveness, but also it’s a community where all the countries can come together and compete,” Delp said.