Alex Deibold‘s snowboarding career has been quite the ride.
The New England native says he was on skis by age two, snowboarding by age 4 and in competitions by age 8, all without much prodding from his parents. After seeing success early on in his athletic career, Deibold was recruited to attend the storied Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, which he graduated from in 2004.
“I’m still here, fighting, 14 years later,” he says of the longevity of his career.
Upon his graduation, Deibold was named to the inaugural United States snowboard team for boardcross. It was an impressive feat, but his sights were set much higher.
Pyeongchang, South Korea, is closer to Pyongyang — the North Korean capital city with a similar-sounding name — than New York City is to Boston. This close proximity has caused quite a bit of worry, especially stateside, as Pyeongchang prepares to host the 2018 Winter Olympics beginning in February.
Political tensions have been on the rise around the globe concerning North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, and his arsenal of ballistic and nuclear weapons. The two Koreas are technically still at war after a conflict in the 1950s ended only with a truce, and United States President Donald Trump seems to consistently be in a battle of words with the secretive Kim.
As recently as December, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned that American athletes may not even attend the 2018 Games due to threats from North Korea.
This rising global tension is certainly not lost on athletes who will soon head to the region to compete for the gold.
Hockey veteran Brian Gionta has some unfinished business at the Winter Olympics.
The 38 year old, whose career in the NHL spanned from 2001 to 2017, is eager to return to the world stage and have a shot at winning an Olympic medal with Team USA.
“Every kid, as a hockey player, dreams of playing in the NHL,” he told AOL.com. “The other thing you dream of is playing in the Olympics.”
“I don’t care what kid you are, you watch the Summer or Winter Games, you sit down for those two or three weeks and you watch it nonstop.”
Stanley Cup champion Brian Gionta is back on track to play in the Olympics in South Korea this winter — but many of his NHL comrades are forbidden from joining him thanks to a new and highly controversial league rule.
“As a player, you want that opportunity to represent your country on a stage like the Olympics,” the right winger told AOL.com. “It’s the biggest thing you can do.”
The NHL announced in April that it would not allow its active players to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics, spurring backlash from athletes and fans alike. The decision came after complaints from team owners who said that stopping the NHL season every four years to allow players to participate in the Games was not worth it.
Growing up is hard, and having Olympic aspirations can make it even harder — but balancing school, sports and a social life was no problem for figure skater Nathan Chen.
“[My mom] loved to keep us all super busy,” the Olympic hopeful said of his childhood alongside his four siblings in Utah and California. “I did gymnastics, I played hockey, I played piano … I did a whole bunch of different things outside of skating. It was awesome to be able to have almost a normal kid’s life.”
Chen, who turned 18 in May, attended public school up until ninth grade and managed to balance his studies with his many hobbies, which also included guitar and ballet. When he and his family moved closer to Los Angeles, however, the time came for the budding athlete to make a choice.
Snowboarder Kelly Clark knows a thing or two about how world events can effect the Olympic Games.
Clark’s very first Olympic appearance was in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2002, just months after the attacks on 9/11. Emotions were high heading into the Games — and surveillance was even higher.
“The security five months after 9/11 was pretty tight,” she told AOL.com during an interview at a Team Kellogg’s event.
You’ve heard it a thousand times before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so don’t you dare skip it.
For Olympic athletes, who are up early each day practicing and whose careers depend on the health and well-being of their bodies, that saying resonates even deeper.
“At the start of my day I always picture what I have to do that day, what my goals are, how I’m going to accomplish them,” Olympic figure skating hopeful Nathan Chen told AOL.com. “To have that over food and around my family is awesome.”