Upper Midwest sends athletes to the Winter Olympics
Several speedskaters, a skier and many curlers hail from the Heartland
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 3:34 PM
Among the 240 Americans competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in late February are many who hail from the upper Midwest.
The strongest U.S. men’s long-track speedskating team in years will include Shani Davis of Chicago, for whom this will be his fourth Olympics, and two-time Olympian Tucker Fredericks of Janesville, Wisconsin.
Joining them in Sochi will be Illinoisians Brian Hansen of Glenview, Jonathan Kuck of Champaign, Patrick Meek of Northbrook and Mitch Whitmore, of Waukesha, Wisconsin but a product of the Northbrook (Illinois) Speedskating Club and U.S. record holder in the 500.
Seventeen-year-old Emery Lehman, a Park-River Forest (Illinois) High School, made the team with a win in the 10,000 meter race at the U.S. Olympic trials in Salt Lake City, Utah. Kuck won the 5,000 at the trials. And in the 1,000, Davis took first and Hansen a close second.
The U.S. long-track women speedskaters include Maria Lamb of River Falls, Wisconsin; Ann Ringsred of Duluth, Minnesota; Jilleanne Rookard of Woodhaven, Michigan; and Sugar Todd of Milwaukee.
On the short-track speedskating side, the Midwest will be represented by Alyson Dudek of Hales Corners in the 500 and 1,000 meters, and Jessica Smith of Melvindale, Michigan, in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters.
The region’s Nordic skiing community will be cheering on Jessie Diggins, of Afton, Minnesota. The three-time Minnesota State Champ and nine-time U.S. Junior champ has a good chance to medal in Sochi with teammate Kikkan Randall of Alaska. Last year the two of them were the first Americans to take gold at both the World Championships in the team sprint and the World Cup team sprint.
Also heading to Sochi is Brian Gregg, a Washington State native but current resident of Minneapolis with his elite skier wife Caitlin Gregg. (Caitlin was not named to the Olympic team despite winning the U.S. National Championship 30K in dominant fashion. Likewise, former American Birkebeiner champion Matt Liebsch of Plymouth, Minnesota, narrowly missed an Olympic team berth.)
Minnesota-born Torin Koos, who competed as a Nordic skier in the 2010 Winter Olympics, will again join the U.S. Ski Team in Russia later this month.
In biathlon, which combines Nordic skiing and target shooting, watch for Leif Nordgren of Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota.
Michiganders Karly Shorr of Milford, Michigan, will compete in the snowboard slopestyle event; Nick Baumgartner of Iron River will race snowboardcross; and Danny Davis of Highland will tackle the halfpipe.
Five Michigan natives will compete in the ice dancing competition: Meryl Davis and Charlie White of West Bloomfield; and from Ann Arbor, Alex and Maia Shibutani and Evan Bates.
Skeleton & bobsled
In the solo skeleton competition will be Matt Antoine of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. And with spots on the women’s bobsled team are Aja Evans of Chicago and former Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones of Des Moines, Iowa.
Although curling is not by this magazine’s definition a silent sport, the men’s and women’s U.S. curling teams are dominated by athletes from the region, where the winter sport is most popular.
On the men’s side, the curlers will include Minnesotans Jeff Isaacson of Lakeland, Jared Zezel of Hibbing, John Landsteiner of Mapleton, John Shuster of Chisolm, and from Madison, Wisconsin, Craig Brown. Their coach, Tim Muler, is also from Hibbing, Minnesota.
Four of the five U.S. women curlers hail from the upper Midwest: Erika Brown and Debbie McCormick of Madison, Wisconsin; Ann Swisshelm of Chicago; and Allison Pottinger of Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
We won’t list them all here but will mention that of all the U.S. hockey players going to Sochi, eight women and 14 men first laced their skates in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan.