24 Great International Names from the Winter Olympics
By Linda Rosenkrantz
One perk of following international events for name nerds is the exposure to a whole new world of interesting multi-cultural names, and the current Winter Olympics is no exceptions. Though many of the superstars have such familiar names as Chloe and Kelly and Jamie and Shaun and Sean, we’ve also spotted some outstanding European, Asian, Africa and even Anglo names that piqued our interest.
Aja Evans is an outstanding American bobsledder who first established herself at the 2014 competition in Sochi. Aja is a rhythmic Hindi name meaning goat, associated with the 1977 the Steely Dan song and album. It’s also another name for the Hindu god Shiva.
Carlijn Achtereekte is a Dutch speed skater who specializes in long distances and won a gold medal at the 2018 Games. Carlijn is a Dutch variant of Caroline, a short form of Carolijn.
Ebba Andersson is a Swedish cross-country skier who finished fourth in the 2018 skiathlon. Her appealing name is in the Swedish Top 5 and deserves more crossover love as a cousin of Emma, Etta and Ella.
Ireen Wüst is a Dutch long-track allround speed skater who set a record winning her 10th medal and fifth gold at Pyeongchang. This Dutch spelling of Irene, most popular there in the 1970s, makes an attractive variation.
Ivanie Blondin is a Canadian speed skater. Ivanie is an affectionate variation of Ivana.
Jorien ter Mors is another member of the Dutch speed skating team, Jorien is used for both girls and boys in Holland.
Liu Jiayu is a Chinese snowboarder whose specialty is the half-pipe. Liu means willow tree in Chinese.
18-year-old Maame Birney, who came to the US from Ghana at the age of 5, is a skater known for her remarkable speed. Maame is an African name, said to mean either pearl or mother.
Magnus Kim is a South Korean cross-country skier. Magnus is derived from the Latin meaning great. It was first used as a given name by King Olaf of Norway for his son. It currently ranks at #796 in the US, 64 on Nameberry and 16th in Norway.
Maren Lundby won 7 of 10 events this season, nailing a jump of 110 meters and, capturing Norway’s second gold medal of the games. Maren is a Danish variation of Maria or Marina, now popular in the Netherlands.
Marit Bjorgen is a Norwegian cross-country skier, the most successful sprinter in Cross-Country World Cup history, winning her 11th Olympic medal this year, the most for a female athlete in Winter Olympics history. Marit is a common Scandinavian version of Margaret, currently #122 in the Netherlands..
Mirai Nagasu is an American figure skater, the first American female to land a triple axel at the Olympics and the third woman from any country to do so. Mirai means future in Japanese and has been popular there since the 80s.
Perrine Laffont is a French skier who won the gold medal this year in the Moguls event. Perrine goes back to the French Pierre, meaning a rock, and was popular in France in the 1990s. The Story of Perrine is an anime series.
Queralt Castellet is a Spanish snowboarder, silver medalist at the 2015 World Championships. Queralt comes from the name of a Spanish sanctuary in Catalonia devoted to the Virgin Mary. In Catalonia, it ranks at #52.
Redmond Gerard (shown), known as Red, is one of the stars of the current games, a gold medalist of the 2018 US snowboarding team, the first Winter Olympics medalist born in the 2000s, and first American gold medalist in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Redmond is a handsome Irish surname related to Raymond.
Sven Kramer is a Dutch long-track speed skater who became the first speed skater in history to win 4 consecutive world allround championships. The sleek Scandinavian Sven derives from a Norse root meaning strong youth. A royal name in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, Sven is #40 in the Netherlands.
Ulla Zime, from Latvia, is a women’s singles luge competitor. Pronounced oo-lah, Ulla derives from the Old Norse meaning determination. Ulla was the sexy receptionist in The Producers, played on screen by Uma Thurman.
Yara Van Kerkhof is the Dutch short-track speed skater who won the silver medal in the 500m event at Pyeongchang. Multicultural Yara is a Brazilian goddess and also means small butterfly in Arabic; Yara is now a Top 25 name in the Netherlands.
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on February 16th, 2018 at 2:34 pm
This is a great list! Another name that caught my eye last night was that of Beat Feuz (Swiss alpine skier). His name is pronounced BAY-ott and I assume it is probably related to Beatrice/beatific and means “blessed”.
on February 16th, 2018 at 2:35 pm
Make that “blissful/happy,” not “blessed!” Whoops 🙂
on February 16th, 2018 at 5:40 pm
Great names! However, my husband is Dutch and he assured me that he has never heard about boys being called Jorien. It’s definitely a girls’ name. A boy would be called Juriaan.
on February 16th, 2018 at 10:10 pm
Could y’all add how to pronounce these names, without insight into pronunciation it makes it very difficult to get any idea about these names
on February 17th, 2018 at 7:21 am
I watch the Olympics almost solely for the names 🙂 My favorite to watch is ski cross or snowboard cross. I pick out my favorite name among the competitors in the heat and root for that person, regardless of what country they’re from!
on February 17th, 2018 at 4:33 pm
I was very surprised to see a non-Indian woman named Kavita, since usually Sanskrit names are not used by other ethnicities! It was very cool:)
on February 17th, 2018 at 9:06 pm
My all time favourite name is Ole-Einar Bjorndalen. He retired after the last Olympics but I used to sit and watch alllll of the biathlon events just so I could hear the announcers say his name over and over again.
on February 18th, 2018 at 1:12 pm
On Perrine Laffont, is that a typo? Did autocorrect change “skier” to “skater”? Because Moguls is a skiing event.
on February 18th, 2018 at 1:16 pm
@Orchid_Lover: Thanks, I have corrected it.
on February 19th, 2018 at 10:59 am
After years of checking, my name has finally appeared on Nameberry!! When I read the title of this list I knew I would find it, because the only famous person named Queralt is a snowboarder! But it still doesn’t appear when you use the search engine, could it be added? I know quite a few people with this name in Catalonia!!
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