OTHER MINNESOTA HOPEFULS
Minnesotans usually are well-represented at the Winter Olympics, and many athletes with state ties -- including these -- are hoping to earn spots on the U.S. teams that will compete in Sochi.
CURLING: The defending U.S. women's champions are skipped by 2010 Olympian Allison Pottinger (Eden Prairie); her team also includes 2010 Olympian Natalie Nicholson (Bemidji) and Tabitha Peterson (Eagan). In the national title game, they defeated a team skipped by 2006 Olympian Cassie Potter (St. Paul), whose teammates include sister Jamie Haskell (White Bear Lake), also a 2006 Olympian. A number of Olympic veterans are in the hunt on the men's side as well, including 2006 bronze medalist Pete Fenson (Bemidji). Fenson, a nine-time U.S. champion, was runner-up at the 2012 nationals with teammates Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm) and Joe Polo (Duluth), who were part of Fenson's Olympic-medal team, and Ryan Brunt (Bemidji). Several teams skipped by Minnesotans will compete in the 2013 nationals that begin Saturday in Green Bay, including 2010 Olympian John Shuster (Duluth) and Tyler George (Duluth).
MEN'S HOCKEY: The NHL has yet to decide whether its players will participate in the Sochi Games. If the Olympics include NHL players for the fifth consecutive time, potential members of the U.S. team include 2010 Olympians Zach Parise (Prior Lake/Wild), David Backes (Blaine/MSU Mankato), Phil Kessel (Gophers), Ryan Suter (Wild) and Erik Johnson (Bloomington/Gophers), as well as Dustin Byfuglien (Roseau), Paul Martin (Elk River/Gophers), T.J. Oshie (Warroad) and Kyle Okposo (St. Paul/Gophers).
WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Eight players with Minnesota ties were members of the U.S. team that lost to Canada in the gold medal game at the 2012 world championships, and they are among the top prospects for the Olympic team. The group is led by four-time Olympian Jenny Potter (Edina/Minnesota Duluth) and 2010 Olympians Gigi Marvin (Warroad/Gophers) and Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux (Shattuck St. Mary's/Gophers). It also includes former Gopher Anne Schleper (St. Cloud) and current Gophers Amanda Kessel, Megan Bozek and Hannah Brandt (Vadnais Heights).
BIATHLON: Leif Nordgren (Marine on St. Croix/Forest Lake High School) is a member of the U.S. A team in biathlon and is among four American men competing in the world championships that began Thursday.
FIGURE SKATING: 2010 Olympian Mark Ladwig (Moorhead) remained one of the country's top pairs skaters after the retirement of skating partner Amanda Evora, but he is again without a partner after splitting with Lindsay Davis on Thursday. Ladwig, who placed 10th with Evora at the Vancouver Olympics, finished fourth with Davis at last month's U.S. championships. Alexander Johnson (Minnetonka), who now trains in Colorado Springs, finished seventh at nationals in the men's competition.
SPEEDSKATING: A number of Minnesotans -- including some who train locally at the John Rose Oval in Roseville -- are expected to contend for spots on the Olympic long track speedskating team. The top men include brothers Mike and Mac Blumel (Woodbury), who are among the highest-ranked skaters in American Cup events at 500 and 1,000 meters, and Paul Dyrud (Plymouth), who is both competing and coaching for the Midway Speedskating Club and is No. 1 in the American Cup rankings at 1,500 meters. Top women include two-time Olympian Maria Lamb (St. Paul/River Falls, Wis.) and 2010 Olympian Rebekah Bradford-Plath (Apple Valley), along with Leah Lambert (Blaine), Rebekah Dyrud (Plymouth), Allie Thunstrom (Maplewood) and Anna Ringsred (Duluth).
ALPINE SKIING: Despite tearing knee ligaments in a crash at the world championships on Tuesday, three-time Olympian Lindsey Vonn (Burnsville) is expected to recover in time to compete at the Sochi Games. Michael Ankeny (Deephaven) is on the U.S. B team and has competed in World Cup slalom races this season.
SKELETON: Brad Stewart (Hastings) is one of six men on the U.S. national team. A regular competitor on the Intercontinental Cup tour, he made his debut on the World Cup circuit -- the highest level of competition -- at an event in Germany last month, leading the Americans with a 19th-place finish.
FREESKIING: Halfpipe and slopestyle freeskiing will make their Olympic debut in Sochi, and the U.S. pro slopestyle team includes Keri Herman (St. Paul) and Grete Eliassen (St. Louis Park). Both have medaled at the X Games, and Herman won the first Olympic slopestyle qualifier in September.