For every new wave of teenage phenoms we saw these past two weeks in Beijing, there’s a group of seasoned veterans for whom these Olympics will be the final curtain call of their careers.
Several athletes announced ahead of the Games that they intended for Beijing to be their swan song. Still, others have yet to confirm their post-Olympic plans despite mounting speculation that this might be their final appearance on the Olympic stage.
Here are some of the athletes who have either confirmed or hinted at their retirement following the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Athletes who have confirmed they are retiring
Shaun White (USA) – Snowboarding
Let’s start with the obvious.
In the months leading up to Beijing, White announced the Olympics would be his final competition. Yet for many, the bigger shock was the fact that he returned to the sport in the first place.
In some ways, White’s retirement has been a long time coming. After missing the podium in 2014 — a first in his Olympic career — many speculated that would be the end for the “Flying Tomato.” That disappointment only fueled his training as he returned to PyeongChang to win gold on his final run, showing the world he still had the clutch gene at 31. He then took a three-year hiatus from competition, which many assumed was his official departure from the Olympic stage, but then Beijing came calling.
About a year before the 2022 Winter Olympics, White returned to competition with his sights set on a fifth Olympic appearance. This time, he made it clear that the Olympic road ended in retirement. It wasn’t an easy road but White qualified for his fifth Olympics at 35.
White finished just outside the medal stand but gave fans plenty of iconic moments down the stretch, including an impressive qualifying run with his back against the wall to advance to the halfpipe finals.
Since returning from Beijing, White has continued to receive a hero’s sendoff, spotted at the Super Bowl and continually receiving admiration from competitors and fans alike. He joked of a comeback on the Today show but quickly retracted saying he feels very “fortunate” to have been able to leave snowboarding on his terms.
Ireen Wust (NED) – Speed Skating
The most decorated speed skater in Olympic history has shown no signs of slowing down despite announcing her plans to retire after the Beijing Games.
Ireen Wust of the Netherlands entered the 2022 Olympics with 11 medals to her name, making her the most decorated speed skater, most decorated Dutch Olympian and the most decorated active Winter Olympian.
But she wasn’t done there. She’s added two more medals to her collection, including a gold and Olympic record in the women’s 1500m. This win also made her the first Olympian – Winter or Summer – to win five medals at five different games, a testament to the longevity of her career.
Wust now ends her career tied with Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjorndalen for the second-most Winter Olympic medals at 13, trailing only Norwegian cross country skier Marit Bjorgen with 15.
Sven Kramer (NED) – Speed Skating
Wust isn’t the only legendary Dutch skier taking their final bow in Beijing. Joining her in retirement is fellow countryman and five-time Olympian Sven Kramer.
With nine Olympic medals to his name, Kramer is tied with Germany’s Claudia Pechstein for the second-most career medals in speed skating. Only Wust has more speed skating hardware. Kramer leaves Beijing without a medal but has plenty to show for his career.
Speaking of Pechstein, the German speed skater is days away from her 50th birthday. What’s to say she won’t return in 2026?
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (USA) – Figure Skating
The American Ice Dance duo announced plans to retire at the end of the 2022 season.
After skating together for more than a decade, Hubbell, 30 and Donohue, 31, are ending their careers with Olympic medals in both the team event and ice dancing.
Athletes who are speculated to retire
Elana Meyers Taylor (USA) – Bobsledding
The 2022 Winter Olympics have been Elana Meyers Taylor’s moment and she’s capitalized with a big exclamation point on her career.
Whether starring in a tear-jerking Comcast commercial or demonstrating her grit and composure in the face of a Covid-19 diagnosis, Meyers Taylor’s third Olympic appearance has served as an inspiration to many beyond the bobsledding community.
After winning silver in the inaugural women’s monobob, Meyers Taylor shifted her focus to the two-women race, winning bronze with brakeman Sylvia Hoffman. This brought Meyers Taylor’s medal count to five, making her the first female bobsledder to win five medals and the most decorated Black Olympian at the Winter Games.
In the days following the monobob, the two-woman race took on a whole new meaning with Meyers Taylor implying Saturday could have been her final bow.
“There’s a good chance that it’s my last one,” the 37-year-old said.
Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) – Figure Skating
Yuzuru Hanyu walked so that Nathan Chen could run..or quad jump.
It’s easy to lose sight of Hanyu’s achievements in light of Chen’s meteoric rise, but the Japanese figure skater is one of the all-time greats.
After winning back-to-back gold medals in 2014 and 2018, Hanyu amassed a massive fanbase following his career even without the Olympic spotlight. He narrowly missed the podium in Beijing, only losing to Chen and his two Japanese teammates. More importantly, he’s proved he has the gift of longevity, a rarity among a sport that does not often see athletes compete beyond their mid-20s.
It’s easy to assume Beijing might be Hanyu’s Olympic farewell at 27 years old, but the man himself might have something to say on that matter.
Speaking to a packed conference room on Monday, Hanyu quickly addressed rumors of an impending retirement, saying while he doesn’t know what the future holds, he has no intention of doing so right now and would love to compete in another Olympics.
Jason Brown (USA) – Figure Skating
Should Jason Brown decide to retire, there’s no denying his career came to a poetic end in Beijing.
Brown burst onto the Olympic stage in Sochi, helping the U.S. win bronze in the inaugural team event. At the time Brown was the ninth-youngest male medalist in figure skating history.
The years following his Olympic debut were not without adversity. Brown struggled with injuries and ultimately fell short at the 2018 U.S. Championship, missing out on the PyeongChang Games.
Brown took what could’ve been a career-ending experience and responded by returning to the Olympic qualifiers four years later. He finished fourth at the U.S. Championships but was selected on a discretionary basis over 17-year-old Ilia Malinin, a controversy that pitted youth versus experience.
While the doping controversy regarding 15-year-old Kamila Valieva has thrust the results of the team event in limbo, Brown has secured a medal, serving as a fitting bookend should his career end in Beijing. He said it remains to be seen what his plans are going forward.
“I don’t have an answer to what is next, so that’s a little bit of a first for me,” Brown said.