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Meet the Minnesota Olympians

  • February 1, 2014 - 9:51 PM

Meet the 27 Olympians who’ll figuratively keep Minnesota’s flame burning bright in Sochi.

LEE STECKLEIN

Roseville/Gophers • women’s hockey

Age: 19

Height/weight: 6-0, 170

Position: Defenseman

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @LeeSteck2

Bio: A freshman on last season’s undefeated national championship team, Stecklein chose to take a leave from the Gophers this season to play with the U.S. national team. She was rewarded with a place on the Olympic roster. The youngest player on the team — and a Class 2A champion with Roseville in 2010 — Stecklein is a classic stay-at-home defenseman who combines size and mobility.

DAVID BACKES

Blaine/Minnesota State Mankato • men’s hockey

Age: 29

Height/weight: 6-3, 221

Position: Forward

Olympic experience: Second (2010)

Twitter handle: @dbackes42

Bio: The St. Louis Blues captain could well become the captain of the Olympic team, too, thanks to his leadership skills and stout all-around game. Backes was considered a lock to make the team since last summer, when he was among five players appointed to the leadership group of the American player pool. A star at Spring Lake Park High School, he once aspired to be a patent attorney; he now has a pilot’s license and founded an animal rescue group. Backes has played in four world championships and gives the U.S. team grit, determination and versatility.

ZACH PARISE

Minneapolis/Wild • men’s hockey

Age: 29

Height/weight: 5-11, 190

Position: Forward

Olympic experience: Second (2010)

Twitter handle: none

Bio: Another member of Team USA’s leadership group, Parise will play a major role in the Americans’ drive to improve upon the silver medal they won in 2010. In his Olympic debut at the Vancouver Games, he served as an alternate captain and was the tournament’s third-leading scorer with four goals and four assists. Parise scored a memorable goal in the gold medal game against Canada, tying the score with 24 seconds left to send the game to overtime. He has led the Wild in scoring for much of this season but has missed time recently because of a broken foot.

PAUL MARTIN

Elk River/Gophers • men’s hockey

Age: 32

Height/weight: 6-1, 200

Position: Defenseman

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: none

Bio: It’s been a long, long journey to the Winter Games for Martin, an All-America pick and NCAA champion with the Gophers. He waited in the wings in 2006, when he was tapped as a replacement for any U.S. defensemen injured before the Turin Olympics, but he was not called upon. Martin made the team for the 2010 Vancouver Games, but a broken arm prevented him from playing. He recently was sidelined because of a broken leg but expects to be healthy for the Olympics; in Sochi, he is likely to pair up with Brooks Orpik, his defensive partner in Pittsburgh.

RYAN SUTEr

Wild • men’s hockey

Age: 29

Height/weight: 6-1, 200

Position: Defenseman

Olympic experience: Second (2010)

Twitter handle: @rsuter20

Bio: As he does with the Wild, Suter will likely log loads of minutes during the Olympic tournament. The U.S. team will rely heavily on his offensive ability and his skills as a one-on-one defender. Suter also is in the leadership group and has the most international experience of any player on the U.S. roster, playing 64 games for Team USA at various levels.

JESSICA SCHULTZ

Minneapolis • curling

Age: 29

Position: Second

Olympic experience: Second (2006)

Twitter handle: @Jess_Curls

Bio: Schultz, a physical therapy assistant, moved from her native Alaska to Duluth a decade ago to pursue elite-level curling. She also played second on the 2006 Olympic team skipped by Bemidji’s Cassie Johnson, which finished in eighth place. Brown recruited her to join a powerhouse team that won the 2013 national title and lost to Canada in the bronze medal game at the 2013 world championships.

MEGAN BOZEK

Gophers • women’s hockey

Age: 22

Height/weight: 5-8, 170

Position: Defenseman

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @meganebozek

Bio: A linchpin of the 2012-13 Gophers team that went 41-0 and won a second consecutive NCAA title, Bozek was one of three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the best player in women’s college hockey. She also was named an All-America and the WCHA’s defensive player of the year. Bozek, who has played in the past two world championships, finished the pre-Olympic schedule with three goals and seven assists — tops among American defensemen and tied for second on the team.

JUSTIN FAULK

South St. Paul/Minnesota Duluth • men’s hockey

Age: 21

Height/weight: 6-0, 215

Position: Defenseman

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @JustinFaulk27

Bio: The youngest member of the U.S. team, Faulk already has played in two world championships. He is in his third season with Carolina after helping UMD win the NCAA championship in 2011 and is known as a strong skater and a smart, technically sound player. An offensive defenseman, Faulk has a good shot but is defensively solid as well. He was part of the U.S. team that won a bronze medal at the 2013 world championships.

ANNA RINGSRED

Duluth • speedskating

Age: 29

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @annaringsred

Bio: Ringsred retired from skating after missing the 2010 Olympic team. After finishing her degree in engineering, she decided to resume training in 2012 and take one more shot — and made the team for Sochi with a second-place finish in the 3,000 meters at December’s Olympic trials. A veteran of several U.S. world championships teams, she now lives and trains in Calgary.

Event: 3,000 meters, Feb. 9, 5:30 a.m.

MARIA LAMB

St. Paul • speedskating

Age: 28

Olympic experience: Third (2006, 2010)

Twitter handle: @MariaTLamb

Bio: Two days before the women’s 5,000-meter race at December’s Olympic trials, Lamb spent several hours in an emergency room because of a throat infection and a migraine. She had to win the event to make her third Olympic team, and she did so handily. A multiple national champion with a long international résumé, Lamb was born in St. Paul, grew up in River Falls, Wis., and now lives in Park City, Utah.

Event: 5,000 meters, Feb. 19, 7:30 a.m.

T.J. OSHIE

Warroad • men’s hockey

Age: 27

Height/weight: 5-11, 189

Position: Forward

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @OSH74

Bio: Oshie was hoping to make the Olympic team in 2010, but he knew he needed to round out his game to merit consideration. Still an energetic, tenacious presence on the ice, he has worked hard to become a strong two-way player over his six seasons with St. Louis. Oshie was named an alternate captain for the first time this season and is on pace to eclipse his career high of 54 points. He is expected to play in Sochi with Blues linemate Backes.

JOHN LANDSTEINER

Duluth • curling

Age: 23

Position: Lead

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @jlandsteiner

Bio: Landsteiner was an accomplished junior curler whose potential caught Shuster’s eye. The two youngest members of Team Shuster played with poise and accuracy at the Olympic trials and in December’s Olympic qualifying tournament. Landsteiner, who grew up in Mapleton, Minn., is a civil engineer and a graduate of Minnesota Duluth.

JEFF ISAACSON

Gilbert • curling

Age: 30

Position: Vice skip

Olympic experience: Second (2010)

Twitter handle: @LaZyIkE_14

Bio: A science teacher at Gilbert Junior High School, Isaacson was on John Shuster’s 2010 Olympic team. After the Vancouver Games, he played on other teams before Shuster convinced him to join forces again for another shot at an Olympic berth. The two are longtime friends and teammates and teamed up to win a gold medal at the 2007 World University Games.

PHIL KESSEL

Gophers • men’s hockey

Age: 26

Height/weight: 6-0, 202

Position: Forward

Olympic experience: Second (2010)

Twitter handle: @PKessel81

Bio: A two-time NHL All-Star with a huge shot, Kessel is an elite scorer whose game has grown since he scored a single goal in the 2010 Olympics. After signing an eight-year contract extension with Toronto last October, he is on pace to score 30 goals for the fifth time in the past six seasons. Kessel, whose 37 goals and 45 assists last season led all Americans in the NHL, is likely to play on a line with Maple Leafs linemate James van Riemsdyk as the U.S. hopes to quickly build chemistry in Sochi.

BLAKE WHEELER

Robbinsdale/Gophers • men’s hockey

Age: 27

Height/weight: 6-5, 205

Position: Forward

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @BiggieFunke

Bio: Wheeler, a towering winger with good speed and skating ability, was a bit of a surprise pick. A mainstay in the Winnipeg offense, his game heated up in December, when he had 10 goals and four assists in 14 games. Wheeler played at Breck, three seasons with the Gophers and was a teammate of Kessel as a freshman. He scored two goals and had three assists in his last international tournament, the 2011 world championships.

AMANDA KESSEL

Gophers • women’s hockey

Age: 22

Height/weight:

5-6, 130

Position: Forward

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @AmandaKessel8

Bio: Kessel won the Patty Kazmaier Award in 2013 after leading the nation with 101 points, becoming only the fourth women’s player in NCAA history to break the 100-point mark in a season. Stunningly swift and agile, the All-America also has built a reputation on the international scene. Kessel scored the game-winning goal against Canada in the 2013 gold medal game at the world championships and was the tournament’s second-leading scorer with two goals and six assists. Injuries sidelined her through the pre-Olympic schedule, but she is projected to be ready for the Olympics.

ANNE SCHLEPER

St. Cloud/Gophers • women’s hockey

Age: 24

Height/weight: 5-10, 170

Position: Defenseman

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @_aschlep

Bio: During her Gophers career, Schleper became an All-America and was a three-time all-WCHA first-team pick. She finished college hockey with an NCAA title in 2012 and has been a mainstay of the U.S. defense since then. Schleper has won two gold medals at the world championships, in 2011 and 2013.

JESSIE DIGGINS

Afton • cross-country skiing

Age: 22

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @jessdiggs

Bio: A three-time state champion in Nordic skiing at Stillwater High School, Diggins made history last year in a blockbuster season for the U.S. women’s team. She paired with Kikkan Randall to win the team sprint at the world championships — the first gold medal ever won by American skiers at the worlds — and the duo also won the nation’s first World Cup gold in the team sprint. Diggins anchors the women’s 4x5-kilometer relay as well; that team has a pair of third-place finishes in World Cup events in the past year, the best results in U.S. history.

Events: Women’s freestyle sprint, Feb. 11, 4 a.m.; could also race in the 30-kilometer freestyle, Feb. 22, 3:30 a.m.; 4x5k relay, Feb. 15, 4 a.m.; 15k skiathlon, Feb. 8, 4 a.m.

BRIAN GREGG

Minneapolis • cross-country skiing

Age: 29

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @xcSkiLlfeBG

Bio: The Gregg household in north Minneapolis now includes two Olympians: Brian, a long-distance specialist, and his wife, Caitlin (Compton), who competed in the 2010 Winter Games. Gregg grew up in Washington state and was an All-America in cross-country skiing at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He placed second in the 30-kilometer freestyle race at the U.S. Championships in January and has won on the Nor-Am Cup and U.S. Super Tour circuits.

Event: Men’s 30K skiathlon, Feb. 9, 4 a.m.; 50-kilometer mass start freestyle, Feb. 23, 1 a.m.

GIGI MARVIN

Warroad/Gophers • women’s hockey

Age: 26

Height/weight: 5-8, 166

Position: Defenseman

Olympic experience: Second (2010)

Twitter handle: @GigiMarvin

Bio: With the Gophers — and early in her USA Hockey career — Marvin was a forward. She now is among the Americans’ steadiest and most productive defensemen, adapting quickly to her new position through her expansive knowledge of the game and her rink-rat roots. A veteran of six world championships, Marvin has been her team’s top-scoring defenseman in the past two, with a goal and three assists in last spring’s run to the gold medal. Her 95 games in international play is the third-highest total on the Olympic team behind Julie Chu and Hilary Knight.

JARED ZEZEL

Hibbing • curling

Age: 22

Position: Second

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @JaredZezel04

Bio: In 2011, Zezel won his first junior national championship after finishing as the runner-up two years in a row. John Shuster was so impressed with him that he asked him to join his team later that year. Zezel is an exercise science major at Bemidji State and took a leave from his studies this year to pursue a place at the Olympics.

LEIF NORDGREN

Marine on St. Croix • biathlon

Age: 24

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @lcnordgren

Bio: Before moving to Minnesota at age 10, Nordgren already was cross-country skiing — and racing — in his native Colorado. As a senior at Forest Lake High School, he made the U.S. team for biathlon’s junior world championships. He now lives and trains in Lake Placid, N.Y., and competes on biathlon’s World Cup circuit. He has finished in the top 12 in relay events at the past three world championships.

Event: to be determined

JOHN SHUSTER

Duluth • curling

Age: 31

Position: Skip

Olympic experience: Third (2006, 2010)

Twitter handle: @Shoostie2010; @TeamShuster

Bio: Shuster was part of the U.S. team skipped by Bemidji’s Pete Fenson that won Olympic bronze in 2006, the only Winter Games medal the Americans have won in the sport. He returned to the Olympics in 2010 as skip; his team opened with a series of close losses and finished in 10th place. The four-time national champion recruited two new members to his team and rolled to victory in the Olympic trials in November.

KERI HERMAN

Bloomington • freeskiing

Age: 31

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @KeriHerman

Bio: During her days as a highly regarded hockey player, Herman wasn’t allowed to ski. She didn’t even know what freeskiing was until she was 21, when she stumbled into the terrain park on an outing with friends. Herman is now one of the most stylish and seasoned practitioners of this new Olympic sport, with two X Games silver medals and the 2013 World Cup season title to her credit. She predicts an “amazing show” at the Olympics as skiers perform acrobatic jumps and glide down rails.

Event: Women’s slopestyle, Feb. 11, 3 a.m.

RYAN MCDONAGH

St. Paul • men’s hockey

Age: 24

Height/weight: 6-1, 213

Position: Defenseman

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @RMcDonagh27

Bio: In his fourth NHL season, McDonagh has blossomed with the New York Rangers. An outstanding defender, he is on pace for his best offensive season and is asserting himself as a leader as well. McDonagh can play plenty of minutes in all situations and impressed the Olympic selection committee early in the process. He was Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey in 2007 and led Cretin-Derham Hall to a state title as a junior.

ALLISON POTTINGER

Eden Prairie • curling

Age: 40  Position: Alternate

Olympic experience: Second (2010)

Twitter handle: @APottinger

Bio: In 2010, Pottinger was on the U.S. women’s team that finished in 10th place at the Vancouver Games. She formed her own team to chase an Olympic berth in Sochi and made it to the finals of the Olympic trials, where her team was defeated by the Erika Brown rink. A day later, Team Brown asked Pottinger to join it as alternate. Pottinger is a mother of two, works at General Mills and is a 10-time national champion.

DEREK STEPAN

Hastings • men’s hockey

Age: 23

Height/weight: 6-0, 196

Position: Forward

Olympic experience: First

Twitter handle: @DerekStepan21

Bio: After getting off to a slow start this season, Stepan was worried about making the Olympic team. His playmaking abilities and strong two-way play secured his spot. The fourth-year center for the Rangers has improved steadily through his NHL career and is rounding into form after missing training camp and preseason play because of a contract dispute. He also has performed well internationally, leading the U.S. to a gold medal at the 2010 world junior championships.

































































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