Mengtao XU

With a podium in only her second ever World Cup start - a 3rd on home soil at Beida Lake, CHN - reigning and world champion and Sochi 2014 Olympic silver medallist Xu Mengtao has made it clear from the early going that hers is a special talent.

The leader of the powerhouse Chinese aerials team, Mengtao built quickly on her initial success, working through brief patches of inconsistency to reach a point where, the 2012-13 ladies' Freestyle overall crystal globe winner a threat to reach the podium in nearly every competition she enters.

After a 7th place finish in the 2009-10 season, Mengtao went on an astonishing run that saw her standing on the podium in 18 consecutive World Cup events, with 11 wins, four runner-up, and three 3rd-place finishes claimed during that period. In 50 career events, Mengtao has been on the podium 34 times. It's impressive stuff.

Add to that the above-mentioned Sochi silver medal and world championships gold from Voss in 2013, two world championship silver medals (from Deer Valley in 2011 and Inawshiro in 2009), and the third crystal globe of her career in the 2016/17 season, and you begin to get a portrait of an athlete at the top of her game.

Watch the always-smiling Mengtao take off from an aerials jump in real life, however, and you see poetry in motion - a technique that defines control and power. She is currently one of just a handful of athletes on ladies' circuit that includes triple-flipping maneuvers performed off the largest of the aerials kickers in her repertoire, and when she is on her game she is perhaps the most consistent of them all when it comes to landing those jumps. 

Add it all up and you've got one to watch at the coming PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games this February.