Although the 2018 Winter Olympics from PyeongChang, South Korea, is just under six months away, it's never too early to start looking at some of the top medal contenders. Read on about these athletes to watch this winter in South Korea, and just thinking about the snow might help you beat the August heat.
Nathan Chen, Team USA, figure skating
Chen is one of the American athletes who will be in PyeongChang guaranteed to make many of us feel old. The Salt Lake City native and gold medal hopeful is 18 years old, meaning he was just four when the Winter Olympics rolled through SLC in 2002.
On the ice, Chen has one of the most impressive repertoires in the world. At the U.S. Figure Skating Championships back in January, the opening moves of his routine -- a quadruple-lutz-triple-toe-loop combo -- rendered Olympic gold medalist and NBC commentator Tara Lipinski speechless. Over the next five minutes, he nailed dour more quad jumps, making him the first man to ever land five quad jumps in a program. No surprise, he won the U.S. Championship.
To win gold in South Korea, Chen will have to fend off Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, who also landed four quad jumps at the world championships in April on his way to the world title. Chen finished sixth after falling twice while attempting to land a record-setting six quad jumps. Expect these two to be in a showdown for the gold, and expect them to do things you've never seen before.
Heather Bergsma, Team USA, speed skating
Sochi 2014 was not a banner Olympics for American speed skating, as the U.S. was shut out of all medals. It was probably the most disappointing showing by American athletes in any sport at the 2014 Games. But 2018 will not feature a repeat performance if Bergsma has any say.
Bergsman is the current world record holder in the 2x500m and 1,500m events. She also held the coveted 1000m world record for a short spell in 2015 before fellow American and current record holder Brittany Bowe eclipsed her. Since losing that record, though, she's been dominant in the 1000m, and will be favored to win gold in PyeongChang, which would make her the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic speed skating medal since 2002.
Bergsman is also among the favorites in the 1500m and 500m. If she manages to medal in all three, she'll have the most of any American at the 2018 Games. No American won more than two in a single in Sochi.
Chloe Kim, Team USA, snowboarding
Kim could've been a gold medalist at the Sochi Games in 2014, but at just 13 years old, she was too young to compete. With no such age restrictions at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado, she took silver in the superpipe. It's not Olympic gold, but it's a pretty good consolation for a teenager.
Kim's been one of the best snowboarders in the world in the four years since Sochi. She won superpipe gold in the 2015, making her the youngest ever X Games gold medalist at the time, and 2016 Winter X Games. She also won two golds at the 2016 Youth Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, taking home the top prize in halfpipe and slope style. She'll move from the youth ranks to the main event this winter, and will be heavily favored to win gold in halfpipe.
Despite all those gold medals, Kim has even more impressive feats on her resume. At the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix in early 2016, Kim became the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s, for which she received a perfect score of 100. As the daughter of South Korea immigrants, she's also likely to be a fan favorite in PyeongChang.
Patrick Kane, Team USA, hockey
As the first U.S.-born player to win the NHL's Hart Trophy, Kane is unquestionably the best player America has to offer. He's been a fixture in USA Hockey's A-squad for close to a decade now, scoring three goals and two assists as the U.S. won the silver medal at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. The 2014 Games were less memorable for him, as he scored no goals and missed two penalties in the bronze medal game loss to Finland. He also went goalless at the World Cup of Hockey in 2016.
It's not quite as simple as "Kane played bad so the U.S. played bad," but there is something to that line of thinking. As the best American hockey player, the fate of the national team does somewhat hinge on his performance. If Kane makes PyeongChang his third consecutive major international tournament without a goal, the U.S. is unlikely to make the podium.
Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani, Team USA, ice dancing
The American duo of Merly Davis and Charlie White won ice dancing gold in Sochi, but they will not defend their title in PyeongChang. With those two out of the mix, America's best hope for gold in ice dancing falls on the shoulders of the Shibutani siblings.
The Shibutanis competed at Sochi, but fell well short of the podium, finishing ninth in ice dancing. But in the void left by Davis and White, the pair has really come on. They won back-to-back U.S. Championship in 2016 and 2017, and added a silver medal in the World Championships in between.
Martin Fourcade, France, biathlon
Fourcade is one of the most dominant winter sports athletes ever. The Frenchman is an 11-time world champion in the biathlon, two-time Olympic gold-medalist and six-time Biathlon World Cup champion, one of only two men to ever win that event six times, and the only one to ever win it six times consecutively. He dominated the World Cup in 2017, winning 10 of 15 individual events. In PyeongChang, a few more golds will be his to lose.
Fourcade is also known to be outspoken. This year, he threatened to boycott events if officials in his sport don't address the Russian doping scandal, and even walked off the podium at the as the Russian team was receiving its bronze medal at the World Championships. In turn, the Russian team refused to shake his hand.
As the doping scandal and its ramifications are likely to persist in the news during the buildup to the 2018 Games and beyond, it's possible we could see more drama between Fourcade and the Russians in PyeongChang.
Shaun White, Team USA, snowboarding
Although his star is not as bright as it once was, White will still be the most recognizable American athletes at the Olympics. He will be competing in his fourth Olympic Games in PyeongChang, and will be hoping to rebound from a disappointing showing in Sochi. Despite being one of America's biggest stars at the Olympics for the third Games running, White finished fourth in the halfpipe, an event he dominated for close to a decade.
But White, now 30, has rebounded from that showing in Sochi and appears ready to give it all to win another medal in South Korea. He found a new coach and renewed his focus on the halfpipe, dropping slopestyle from his list of events. White has been in our lives for more than a decade, and while many fans believe 2018 will be the last time he competes in the Olympics, White believes he can compete for another cycle.
"It wasn't my time, so to have another bite at that would be great. Personally, I'm looking at the '22 Olympics in China still," White said. "It's those kinds of things that you look forward to and you have goals, and it really fuels everything."
Lindsey Vonn, Team USA, alpine skiing
Vonn is one of the most accomplished women's alpine skiers in history.
Although she's won almost every competition an alpine skier wants to win multiple times over, she only holds one Olympic gold medal, which she won in the downhill at the 2010 Vancouver Games. She was expected to repeat at Sochi in 2014, but pulled out when it became apparent her often-injured right knee needed surgery.
2018 is supposed to be her grand comeback. Although injuries have persisted since 2014 -- she broke her arm in training last November -- Vonn's gotten back to her winning ways, and will be a contender for gold once again this winter.
Glenn Howard, Canada, curling
Of all the athletes mentioned on this list, Howard is perhaps the least likely to qualify for the Olympics, but he's also the most interesting. At 55, the four-time World Curling Champion is 12 years older than any Canadian he will compete against when his team attempts to qualify to represent Canada in PyeonChang. More interestingly, if he makes the squad, he might be coaching one of Canada's opponents.
In June, Howard accepted a position as coach of Great Britain's women's curling team. As Matt Sussman points out at Deadspin, curling coaches don't interact with their team during matches. And considering he's on a men's team and coaching a women's team, he would not have to play the team he's coaching. But it could make for an awkward situation if he qualifies and has to cheer against the Canadian women's teams should they face Britain.
Kelly Sildaru, Estonia, freestyle skiing
Sildaru is only 15, but she's been on the scene for a while. In 2016, she became the youngest Winter X Games gold medalist ever with a win in slopestyle at the age of 13. She repeated as slopestyle champion in 2017 and added an X Games silver medal in big air to her rapidly growing trophy case.
Although slopestyle is her best event and most likely chance to win gold, fans will want to make sure to tune in for her performances in big air. At the 2017 Winter X Games Europe, where she also won silver in big air, she became the first woman to land a Switch 1260 Mute and 1440 in competition.
Ester Ledecka, Czech Republic, snowboarding/skiing
Ledecka has Olympic gold in her blood. Her grandfather, Jan Klapac, was a two-time Olympic medalist with the Czech hockey team, winning bronze in 1964 and silver in 1968. She'll try to become the second Olympic medalist from her family this winter, and she'll try do it on multiple sports.
Known primarily as a snowboarder, Ledecka also skis competitively. In 2016, she became the first elite snowboarder to compete in the Alpine Ski World Cup and finished 24th in her first race. Her most likely bid for a medal will come in the parallel slalom and parallel giant slalom snowboarding events, but she'll also attempt to qualify for some skiing events in PyeongChang, which would make her the first athlete to compete in skiing and snowboarding at the Olympics. She's just got to make sure she remembers which sport she's playing.
"I'm always confused," Ledecka said. "Every time when I switch from one to another my coaches are saying either that I'm skiing like a snowboarder or snowboarding like a skier."
Cy Brown writes about soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.