Meet the 3 Olympians who hail from Virginia

Three Virginians will represent Team USA in the 2022 Winter Olympics this year.

Each of the remarkable athletes previously competed in the 2018 Winter Olympic games. Now, they’re heading to Beijing with high hopes for big wins.

Hakeem Abdul-Saboor, from Powhatan, was selected as one of eight men in the nation to compete for the United States in the bobsled events.

A former football player at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, Abdul-Saboor, 34, is surprisingly new to bobsledding.

It all started in 2015, when he participated in a series of bodybuilding competitions while working for a performance training company in Knoxville, Tennessee.

That’s when a coworker took a recording of Abdul-Saboor making a stunning 10-foot leap up to the ceiling during a training session. The video went viral, and it just so happened to grab the attention of a bobsledding official, who encouraged him to get involved in the sport.

Since that time, Abdul-Saboor has carved out an impressive career for himself. He began bobsledding competitively within months of starting his training and went on to win three gold medals and two silver medals in the Four-Man North American Cup in 2017-2018.

This year, he’ll be one of only two Team USA bobsledders to return after competing in the 2018 Olympics. The other holdover is Carlo Valdes of California.

Abdul-Saboor is no stranger to representing the U.S: aside from his Olympic aspirations, he also serves the nation as a soldier in the U.S military. A Biomedical Equipment Specialist, he’s one of two members of the U.S Army World Class Athlete Program to be selected for the 2022 U.S Olympic Bobsled team.

“I’m honored to serve in the U.S. Army because it’s given me the opportunity to progress in a career as well as continue the pursuit of Olympic Glory,” he said.

Abdul-Saboor will compete in the two-man bobsled heats on Monday, February 14 and Tuesday, February 15. He’ll also participate in the four-man events taking place Saturday, February 19 and Sunday, February 20.

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Maame Biney, from Reston, quickly made national headlines after she was chosen to represent Team USA in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.

Only 18-years-old at the time, she was the first Black woman – and the youngest skater – to ever compete on the U.S Olympic speedskating team.

Since then, Biney has amassed an impressive list of career highlights. In 2019, she won the 500m gold medal at the World Junior Championships and also took home an individual World Cup bronze medal in the 500m.

She continued the impressive streak last year, earning the women’s overall title after taking gold in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m in the U.S Championships.

Biney, who was born in Accra, Ghana, and moved to Virginia at the age of five, started learning to speed skate when she was just six years old. She was still a high school student in Reston when she qualified for the Olympics in 2018.

In an interview with CNN Sports, Biney said that even though she didn’t return home to Virginia with a medal in 2018, she was honored to be able to participate in the games and inspire other Black athletes.

“It meant a lot because I know that I was able to represent my community in ways that they haven’t felt represented,” she said.

“Especially in sports and especially in a sport that is majority white and Asian. Being able to fulfill that dream and hopefully let other young Black women and men really just say, ‘Oh man, I can overcome these obstacles that are in my life.'”

In spite of her phenomenal skills on the ice, Biney also has aspirations outside of athletics. She’s passionate about chemistry and hopes to become a chemical engineer one day.

Biney will make her 2022 Winter Olympic debut on Saturday, February 5, during the Women’s 500m heats. If she makes it through the rounds of her events, she could compete for up to five of the six days of short track at the Olympics, according to NBC Sports.

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Ashley Caldwell, of Ashburn, is already a three-time Olympian. A freestyle aerial skier, she holds the world record for hardest acrobatic trick ever landed by a female athlete.

In an interview with Northern Virginia magazine, the 28-year-old Caldwell described the trick as “a flip and a twist, then a flip and two twists, and then a flip and a twist, all in one trick.”

Caldwell spent much of her early childhood participating in gymnastics in Leesburg. At the age of 12, she transitioned to the slopes after becoming enthralled by the freestyle skiing competitions in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

By age 14, she was already training full-time in hopes of representing Team USA. Her hard work paid off. Two years later, at just 16, Caldwell qualified for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

In addition to her Olympic record, she participated in the World Championships in 2011, 2015, and 2017, taking gold in the 2017 aerials.

Caldwell openly acknowledges that the tricks she performs on the slopes are dangerous. During the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, she suffered a devastating injury during her last training jump before the competition. In the middle of her signature trick, she was swept up into a gust of wind and crashed hard to the slopes, splitting her collarbone from her shoulder.

Nonetheless, Caldwell rebounded to record five World Cup finishes as well as two finishes in the 2021 World Championships. She says her love of the sport is strong enough to overcome the fear she experiences when gearing up for gravity-defying moves on the slopes.

“This sport just broke my heart and my shoulder at the same time, the same day, and I still want to go do it,” she said on a recent episode of her podcast while discussing the 2018 accident. “So it’s not always about the success or the failure; I just really like doing this.”

Caldwell – who says she doesn’t like the cold – also enjoys participating in warmer-weather sports, like scuba diving, surfing and sailing.

You can watch Caldwell compete in the Women’s Aerials on Sunday, February 13 and Monday, February 14.

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The 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing will stream on Peacock and NBCOlympics.com. The full schedule of events is available here.

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