Five of the service members headed to Beijing are in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP, a military unit that affords elite athletes in the Army an opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games. Here are the nine who wear the uniform and will be suiting up in red, white and blue.
U.S. Army World Class Athletes
Spc. Jasper Good -- Nordic Combined
Spc. Jasper Good grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and worked his way up through winter sports clubs before moving to Park City, Utah, in 2016 to join the national team for Nordic combined -- the winter sport that involves both ski jumping and cross-country skiing.
Both Good and his teammate Spc. Benjamin Loomis were on Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, while still civilians.
In 2019, Good and Loomis enlisted in the Utah Army National Guard, where they completed basic training together before joining the WCAP.
"Pretty excited to be representing the Army this time around," Good said in an interview.
Spc. Benjamin Loomis -- Nordic Combined
Spc. Benjamin Loomis grew up in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and began cross-country skiing at the age of two, adding ski jumping at the age of five. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, who was previously on the Nordic combined national team and is now a coach for Team USA, Loomis soon paved his own snow-covered path by moving to Park City, Utah, at 15 to join the national team.
In 2016, Loomis won a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Norway and competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, alongside Good.
He and Good were inspired to enlist in the Utah Army National Guard and the WCAP by a former coach from the Nordic combined national team.
"This will be both of our first Olympics representing the U.S. Army and the World Class Athlete Program, so the added level of honor there is truly incredible and it's something we're both very excited for," Loomis told Military.com.
Spc. Frank Del Duca -- Bobsled, 4-person & 2-person
In his first time at the Olympics, Spc. Frank Del Duca from Bethel, Maine, will compete as a bobsled pilot -- the athlete who steers the gravity-powered sled down an iced track.
Del Duca had an extensive athletic career before finding bobsledding and joining the national team in the 2015-16 season.
He joined the Army as an infantryman in 2019 and praised the WCAP for helping him and other athletes afford the typically costly journey to reach the Olympics.
"I think there is a common misconception that Team USA athletes are well-funded, and we have salaries and all these things, and it's just not the case," Del Duca said during a livestream event Jan. 25.
"The military has supported me to do the things I need to do and get the equipment I need to get for success," he said.
Spc. Hakeem Abdul-Saboor -- Bobsled, 4-person & 2-person
Spc. Hakeem Abdul-Saboor, from Powhatan, Virginia, will be competing in his second Olympics, now as a bobsled brakeman -- the athlete at the back of the sled who controls its speed along the course.
Abdul-Saboor's athletic career began with football at the University of Virginia's College at Wise. He went on to pursue bodybuilding and personal training before making his Olympic debut in bobsled at the 2018 games. He joined the Army and WCAP in 2019 as a biomedical equipment specialist.
He joins fellow WCAP member Del Duca in the bobsled competition.
Sgt. Emily Sweeney -- Luge Singles
Sgt. Emily Sweeney, who is from Suffield, Connecticut, followed her older sister, Megan, a former Olympic luger, into the winter sport where athletes speed down an iced track on a sled, feet-first and face-up.
After graduating high school in 2011, Sweeney enlisted in the Army, now serving in the military police.
Sweeney competed at the 2018 games.
The WCAP program was created in 1997 at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
To qualify, athletes must already be nationally or internationally recognized in their sport and be active-duty Army or belong to the Army National Guard or Army Reserve.
"Our goal is to help them be prepared to stand on the podium," retired Sgt. Maj. Willie Wilson, the WCAP director, told Military.com.
Many former WCAP athletes who now serve as coaches also will be in Beijing.
"I'm looking forward to watching all of our soldier athletes compete, but most importantly as a coach, my role is to support and to make sure that they have what they need and there aren't any distractions," Sgt. Justin Olsen, a 2010 gold medalist in four-man bobsled who now coaches the Olympic bobsled and skeleton events, said during the Jan. 25 livestream alongside Del Duca.
Other soldier-athletes outside of the Army WCAP competing in Beijing:
- Airman 1st Class Kelly Curtis -- Skeleton
- Vermont Army National Guard Spc. Sean Doherty -- Biathlon
- Vermont Army National Guard Spc. Deedra Irwin -- Biathlon
- Vermont Army National Guard Spc. Leif Nordgren -- Biathlon
- Vermont Army National Guard Spc. Vaclav Cervenka -- Biathlon (Alternate)
Watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday, Feb. 4, and explore the Olympic schedule to discover when to watch each event.
-- Jonathan Lehrfeld is a reporter for Medill News Service.