Time 100 includes most Olympians in annual list’s history

Nathan Chen

The Time 100 Most Influential list includes eight Olympians, the most ever in the annual list’s 19-year history. At least one Olympian made each edition dating to the first year in 2004.

Beijing Olympic gold medalists Nathan Chen and Eileen Gu were joined by soccer players Alex MorganMegan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn, tennis players Rafael Nadal and Peng Shuai and basketball player Candace Parker.

Time 100 listees are based on factors including relevance, impact, innovation, leadership, ambition and success.

Chen and Gu were spotlight athletes in February, each earning gold at the Beijing Games. Chen became the first U.S. singles figure skater to take gold since 2010, four years after struggling as a favorite. Figure skaters Adam Rippon (2018) and Yuna Kim (2010) previously made the Time 100.

“That perseverance never wavered, even after his first Olympics didn’t go as he’d hoped,” two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan wrote for Time. “He trained for another four years and showed the world just how fierce a competitor he is.”

Gu earned two golds and a bronze in freestyle skiing as the host nation’s biggest star. She competed while scrutinized for her decision to switch representation in 2019 from the U.S. to China, her mother’s birth nation.

“It’s hard for athletes — particularly Olympic athletes — to transcend their sport. Eileen Gu is an exception to that rule,” fellow Olympic freeskier Gus Kenworthy wrote for Time. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anybody more disciplined, driven, or determined than Eileen. And hard work pays off.”

Morgan, Rapinoe and Sauerbrunn have been longtime leaders for the U.S. women’s soccer team, winning Olympic and World Cup titles. Last week, after a yearslong battle, a historic victory was scored with the announcement of equal pay for the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams.

Nadal made the list for a second time — 13 years after his previous appearance — after winning a men’s record-breaking 21st major singles title at the Australian Open.

Peng, an Olympic tennis player in 2008, 2012 and 2016, made the list in the “Icons” category. Last November, she accused a former high-ranking Chinese government official of sexual assault in a Weibo post that was soon deleted.

Parker, a 36-year-old mom, won her second WNBA title last season and first with her hometown team, the Chicago Sky.

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Olympians and Paralympians on Time 100 lists, counting only athletes who had competed in the Games before being listed:

2022 — Nathan Chen, Eileen Gu, Alex Morgan, Rafael Nadal, Candace Parker, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, Peng Shuai
2021 — Simone Biles, Allyson Felix, Suni Lee, Naomi Osaka
2020 — Allyson Felix, Maya Moore, Megan Rapinoe, Dwyane Wade
2019 — LeBron James, Alex MorganMo Salah, Caster Semenya
2018 — Kevin DurantRoger FedererChloe KimAdam Rippon
2017 — Simone Biles, LeBron James, Neymar
2016 — Usain BoltCaitlyn JennerKatie LedeckySania MirzaRonda Rousey
2015 — Abby Wambach
2014 — Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams
2013 — LeBron James, Li Na, Lindsey Vonn
2012 — Novak DjokovicLionel MessiOscar Pistorius
2011 — Lionel Messi
2010 — Yuna KimSerena Williams
2009 — Rafael Nadal
2008 — Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius
2007 — Roger FedererChien Ming-Wang
2006 — Joey CheekSteve Nash
2005 — LeBron James
2004 — Lance Armstrong, Paula Radcliffe, Yao Ming
2000 (20th Century) — Muhammad Ali

Carly Margulies last competed in 2019, yet she’s skiing at the Olympics

Carly Margulies
Jason Wolle

When Carly Margulies takes her first Olympic ski halfpipe qualifying run on Feb. 17, it will be her first competitive action of any kind since December 2019.

Margulies, who underwent seven knee surgeries since 2013, including three since her last contest, earned the fourth and final spot on the U.S. Olympic women’s ski halfpipe team.

Her story baffles Olympic historians. They can’t think of another recent American in any sport who didn’t compete at all in the two years before an Olympic appearance.

The U.S. is the world’s deepest nation in women’s halfpipe skiing, boasting seven of the world’s top 20 this season.

So how did Margulies make the four-woman Olympic team without competing once during the coronavirus pandemic?

In golf and tennis, sidelined athletes can keep their pre-injury tournament eligibility for a certain amount of time in coming back from an extended absence.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) has a similar rule for the international ranking system that U.S. Ski and Snowboard uses to determine some Olympic spots.

Margulies was ranked 10th in the world when she competed for the last time in December 2019, tearing her right ACL and meniscus for the third time and needing 14 months to recover.

She was granted injury status after that season, with 10 percent of her 450 points deducted. She retained that status this past year.

She was ready to return to competition last month but tore her left medial meniscus the day before the first of five Olympic qualifying events.

Doctors said she needed surgery, and likely a six-to-nine-month recovery.

Margulies figured that not only was her Olympic dream over (four years after just missing the PyeongChang Games), but also her career. At 24, she couldn’t possibly endure another extensive rehab for the 2026 Olympic cycle.

A few days later, Margulies was given a different plan. The meniscus wasn’t repairable. The surgery would instead be “a snip of the damaged area,” she said. That meant a four-to-six-week recovery.

Margulies would miss all five of the Olympic qualifying events. She had no chance to earn her place on the team via podium results.

But there was one other possible route. The fourth and final spot on the team was up for grabs. She could file an injury petition for it. Or, just maybe, she could get in objectively via her injury-protected world ranking from two years ago.

When Margulies went under the knife last month, she ranked 13th in the world and fourth among Americans via her points from 2019. Three more Americans were in 16th, 18th and 19th places overall.

So Margulies waited it out. If one of the other U.S. hopefuls fared well in the qualifying events — competitions with skiers from around the world — her chance of getting in via either route would decline. Perhaps vanish.

But none of the Americans ranked behind her made a podium in Olympic qualifying. Last week, the FIS rankings updated one last time. Margulies was still in fourth place among Americans.

Margulies said she was driving her 2012 Volkswagen Touareg from Salt Lake City to her home of Mammoth Lakes, California, on the day that U.S. Ski and Snowboard would fill the last spot. She made it 130 miles before her car broke down.

So Margulies became the first person in history to learn that they qualified for the Olympics while at S&R Auto of Wendover, Utah.

“I started crying, and the mechanics at the auto shop around me were so confused,” she said of receiving the news in a phone call. “So it was a good day and bad day. Mostly good.”

She was later towed back to Salt Lake City, then booked a flight the next day to Mammoth.

Four years earlier in Mammoth, Margulies finished fourth in the last Olympic qualifier for the PyeongChang Games. It was the best World Cup result of her career, but not enough to move up from fifth place to fourth in the U.S. standings. She just missed that four-woman Olympic team.

“Obviously in that moment, I was really, really upset. But looking back at it, I don’t think I would have been ready to go to the Olympics [in 2018],” she said. “There’s a reason behind me not going at that time. And there’s a reason I’m going now.”

Margulies said she returned to skiing from her seventh surgery two weeks ago. Her knees are doing well, and she got all her tricks back.

But that belies the struggle of the past decade. In March 2011, ski halfpipe was added to the Olympic program. Margulies, then 13, gabbed with her friends about becoming an Olympian one day.

In December 2013, she tore her right ACL and meniscus in practice and was out for a year. In an eight-year stretch, she tore her right ACL and meniscus three separate times, her left ACL and meniscus once and, separately, her right and left medial meniscus each once.

“It takes a toll on you, physically and mentally,” Margulies said. “So many people, close to me even, told me that I should give up, that I should try something else, that I need to just move on. That hurt a lot, for sure, but I used those people’s opinions as motivation to prove them wrong.”

Margulies’ take on an unprecedented realization of an Olympic dream?

“Perseverance pays off,” she said. “You can make those dreams a reality, no matter what the setbacks are.”

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Gus Kenworthy combats concussion, COVID before final events of freestyle skiing career

Dew Tour Copper Mountain 2020 - Day 4
Getty Images

Gus Kenworthy‘s run-up to his third and final Olympics has been challenging, and that’s an understatement.

Kenworthy, who in 2019 announced a switch from the U.S. to Great Britain, hopes to complete a competition for the first time in a year at this week’s Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

Kenworthy, 30, said Tuesday that his next two events will be the last two of his career — the X Games, where he hopes to fulfill a dream of winning a gold medal, and the Beijing Olympics. The British federation is expected to name its Olympic roster on Friday.

Kenworthy was part of a U.S. podium sweep in the first Olympic men’s ski slopestyle competition in 2014, taking silver between Joss Christensen and Nick Goepper.

After coming out in 2015, he was one of the most followed athletes going into the PyeongChang Games, where he placed 12th in the 12-man ski slopestyle final coming off injuries. He broke his right thumb three days before the competition and had six vials of blood drained from a hip hematoma two days before it.

In announcing his switch to Great Britain, his birth nation, Kenworthy said he was going to focus on halfpipe going toward Beijing.

In late October, Kenworthy suffered what he called a pretty bad concussion at a training camp in Switzerland, the latest in a string of head injuries in recent years.

Two weeks later, he started feeling very ill and tested positive for the coronavirus (while fully vaccinated). He felt “completely wiped out” while quarantined in a hotel for 10 days before flying home.

He went to compete for the first time this season on Dec. 8, but said he got lost in the air doing his first trick in the halfpipe — “the skiing equivalent to the ‘twisties,'” he posted — and withdrew. Kenworthy hasn’t competed since.

On Dec. 12, Kenworthy posted that he was still experiencing head issues — becoming light-headed, disoriented and nauseous when he got his heart rate up. After consulting with specialists, he believed they were residual effects of the virus rather than the concussion.

“There was a moment where I was nervous that, even having my Olympic spot, I might not be able to do it, because at that moment, I really couldn’t ski,” Kenworthy said.

But medication has helped, and he trained in Copper Mountain, Colorado, over the last two weeks.

“I have done all of the tricks that I need to do in my run now,” said Kenworthy, who owns seven medals among the Olympics, world championships and X Games, but no gold. “I haven’t put it all together, but I’m feeling pretty good. I’m feeling more confident. I don’t know if I feel 100 percent, but I feel like 90 percent, and if there’s ever a time to give it my all, it’s right now because X Games is really the near-and-dear event to my heart.”

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