There are only a few weeks to go until the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. While all of the star athletes lacing up their ski boots and tirelessly training owe their success largely to themselves and good fortune, many will also – publicly at least – attribute it to the support of their parents. Olympic dads will be a theme of the game because Olympic dads are always thee when it comes time to roll some soft-focus video. Some have pushed their kids from day one while others are just baffled by their progeny’s weird intensity. Either way, these folks get to be celebrities for a few weeks (longer if their kid wins).
Here are the fathers you’re going to hear about during this year’s Winter Games. They seem like nice dudes. They’re probably nervous. They’re kind of in a weird fraternity that you’ll never get to join because your son can not land a double axel.
John Butler, Bobby Butler’s Dad
Hockey player Bobby Butler went viral a weeks ago through a video showing the exact moment of him telling his dad that he made the US Olympic hockey team. Butler plays in the AHL and wasn’t on most people’s Olympic radars, but got a shot because scheduling conflicts forced a lot of NHL players to opt out. The video, complete with a huge father-son hug and Butler’s cheering teammates, definitely deserves a follow-up in Pyeongchang no matter how well Butler does.
Kim Jong-jin, Chloe Kim’s Dad
Seventeen-year-old Chloe Kim might become the youngest female snowboarder to win an Olympic gold medal and she credits a lot of her success to her dad. At the Team USA Media Summit last September, she explained that she thinks her father’s determination is responsible for her making it to the Olympics. Kim says that her father, Kim Jong-jin, was the one to first encourage her to jump on a snowboard when she was only four. He later gave up his job to focus on her budding snowboarding career, which earned her an X Games silver medal at the age of 13.
Kiyoto Nagasu, Mirai Nagasu’s Dad
Figure skater Mirai Nagasu was born in the US, but grew up speaking Japanese at home with her parents, who emigrated about 30 years ago. Nagasu’s father, Kiyoto, usually also texts her in Japanese, but when she finished second at the US figure skating championships, he broke with habit to send her a special text in English. “My parents are really hard on me, which has made me a strong competitor and determined as a person, so I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for them,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “But for my dad to say he was proud of me, in English, is a very big deal.”
Alan Kildow, Lindsey Vonn’s Dad
Despite a knee surgery and countless minor injuries, Lindsey Vonn is still an absolute monster on the slopes, and the ski-racing champion is aiming to earn her third Olympic medal in Pyeongchang. But many do not know that Vonn was first introduced to the sport by her father, Alan Kildow, a former ski racer himself. Though the two have had a strained relationship, Alan is dedicated to supporting his daughter’s career. “Do I regret the time we were not close?” Alan told Sports Illustrated. “Yes, I regret it. There’s a sadness and a hole there. It’s fun to be with her now. My job is to stand at the bottom of the hill and be a rock for her. I’m very good at that. ”
Andrei Bukin, Ivan Bukin’s Dad
Russian ice dancer Ivan Bukin has enormous pressure on him these upcoming Olympics, and for good reason: His father, Andrei Bukin, won the gold medal in 1988. While Andrei says he used to be determined not to let his children follow in his training- intensive footsteps, Ivan embraced his father’s world, starting out as a singles skater before switching to ice dancing with his longtime partner, Alexandra Stepanova.
Tracy Jackson, Erin Jackson’s Dad
Erin Jackson has been making waves as the first African American long-track speed skater to make a US Olympic team. But what might be even more impressive is the fact that she’s only been training on ice for four months. While she’s been training for years as an inline skater, four months is an insanely short amount of time to earn a spot at the Olympics. While Erin’s set to head to South Korea in just a few weeks, she wants to make sure her dad, Tracy Jackson, is able to travel to watch her compete. Erin started a fundraiser selling custom t-shirts to raise money so that Tracy can be in the audience. “Thanks a million to everyone who has supported me along the way toward achieving this dream!” she said in an Instagram post announcing the fundraiser. “I’ll do my best to make you proud this February.”