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Chloe Kim, of the United States, runs the course during the women's halfpipe qualifying at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Feb. 12, 2018.
Kin Cheung/AP
Citizenship

These Inspiring Olympic Athletes Are the Heroes We Need Right Now

American athletes are making history at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, winning medals left and right while embodying the values of inclusion, diversity, and determination.

On Sunday, Mirai Nagasu, a California native and daughter of immigrants, and Adam Rippon, the first-ever openly gay American athlete to qualify for the Winter Games, stunned judges and spectators alike with daring team figure skating routines reflective of years and years of hard work.

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Then, on Tuesday afternoon, 17-year-old snowboarding sensation Chloe Kim absolutely crushed her halfpipe run, earning a gold medal with a top score of 98.25. The daughter of Korean immigrants was cheered on by her loving parents, and even her grandmother who traveled from Seoul to see Kim compete.

Take Action: Share Michelle Kwan’s #LoveOverBias Story

Nagasu became the first American female figure skater to land the notorious triple-axel in Olympic competition, soaring through the air while completing a full three-and-a-half rotations before landing smoothly on a single skate. Only three female athletes have ever landed such a difficult move at the Olympics.

For his part, Rippon dazzled the crowd with an ambitious routine set to the music of Coldplay. After his perfectly-timed finish, the sheer emotion of his accomplishment was plain to see as the 28-year-old covered his smiling face while spectators rose to their feet in applause.

Their combined efforts were enough to land them third place, earning them a bronze medal and an affirmation that persistence and determination can overcome almost any challenge.

Kim, Nagasu, and Rippon are inspiring not just for their athletic grace, but also for the stories that led them there. Nagasu’s parents immigrated from Japan and opened a small business in Southern California. In a 2010 interview with legendary skater Kristi Yamaguchi, Nagasu credited her work ethic to the example set by her parents.

“I’ve seen how hard they work every day,” she said of spending long days and late nights in her parents’ restaurant. “I know that I have to work just as hard to achieve my dream.”

Though she didn’t medal, Nagasu made history in Vancouver in 2010 as the youngest competitor on Team USA when she was just 16 years old.

Read More: These Olympic Athletes Are Breaking Barriers and Winning Medals

Kim’s journey to the Olympics mirrors Nagasu’s in many ways. Born in California to parents who immigrated from Korea, Kim qualified for the 2014 Olympics, but was too young to compete. At 17 now, she was not only old enough to travel with the US snowboarding team, but talented enough to complete two back-to-back 1080 twists in her final run, a first for any female snowboarder in the Olympics.

Rippon is a similarly historic figure for his activism as the first openly gay athlete to compete for the US in a Winter Olympics. He became a hero to the LGBTQ community after he questioned the selection of Vice-President Mike Pence as the leader of the US delegation in PyeongChang, citing the former governor’s anti-gay positions.

Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals. Achieving goal number ten of reduced inequalities means celebrating the achievements of all citizens, no matter their sexuality or heritage. You can take action on this issue here.

Even if they hadn’t placed, these three athletes would have likely gone down as some of the most inspiring members of Team USA. However, with their incredible achievement they will be remembered not just as symbols of equality and diversity, but also as champions.