Feb. 6, 2014
Rosemont, Ill. --The Big Ten Conference will boast at least 43 current or former student-athletes, alumni or coaches competing for gold medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, from Feb. 7-23. The group of conference competitors, which includes 18 former Olympians and 16 past medalists, will represent six different countries and seven of the 12 Big Ten institutions in five different sports.
The Big Ten Olympians include 31 members of the United States team, along with athletes representing Austria, Canada, Finland, Japan and Sweden. Overall, Minnesota leads the way with 14 Olympic participants, followed by Wisconsin (12), Michigan (8), Ohio State (4), Illinois (2) and Michigan State (2) and Nebraska (1).
This collection of outstanding performers is highlighted by 18 former Olympians, including 16 past medalists. Michigan State's Duncan Keith and Wisconsin's Meaghan Mikkelson look to repeat as gold medalists for the Canadian men's and women's ice hockey teams, while the Big Ten will feature many familiar faces on the U.S. hockey teams. Michigan State's Ryan Miller, Minnesota's Phil Kessel, Ohio State's Ryan Kesler and Wisconsin's Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Suter and Jessie Vetter won silver medals in the 2010 Vancouver Games. Other past medalists include Illinois' Jonathan Kuck (silver medal - 2010 USA speed skating), Michigan's Meryl Davis and Charlie White (silver medal - 2010 USA ice dancing), Minnesota's Noora Räty (bronze medal - 2010 Finland women's ice hockey), Nebraska's Curtis Tomasevicz (gold medal - 2010 USA bobsled) and Ohio State's Minttu Tuominen (bronze medal - 2010 Finland women's ice hockey). The Wolverines' Evan Bates and Badgers' Erika Brown both return to the Olympics after taking part in 2010, as Evans will compete in ice dancing and Brown will participate in curling.
The Big Ten will also be represented on Team USA coaching staffs by four former conference student-athletes and one current assistant coach. Men's ice hockey assistant coaches Todd Richards and Tony Granato competed collegiately at Minnesota and Wisconsin, respectively. Richards is the Gophers' all-time leading scorer among defensemen and the current head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, while Granato serves as an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins and was inducted into the Badgers' Hall of Fame in 2000. Both competed for Team USA in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. Former Minnesota goaltender Robb Stauber, an assistant coach for the U.S. women's ice hockey team, was the first goalie to win the Hobey Baker Award in 1988. Current Gopher goalie coach Andy Kent will serve in the same role for the Finland women's ice hockey squad, while former Wisconsin women's hockey player will serve as an assistant coach for Japan.
Big Ten student-athletes and coaches have been a part of the Olympic experience on more than 1,370 occasions, including many making multiple trips to the international event. That list of conference standouts has accumulated at least 460 medals, including at least 243 of the gold variety. Some of the medalists include former Ohio State track standout Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Former Indiana swimmer Mark Spitz won four medals, including two golds, in the 1968 Games before claiming an unprecedented seven gold medals during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Former Michigan volunteer coach Michael Phelps surpassed Spitz' performance with eight gold medals in the 2008 Games in Beijing and has won 22 overall medals in his career, including 18 gold, the most by any Olympian. The winter games have also been rewarding, as 12 members of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" United States men's ice hockey team were from Minnesota and Wisconsin, including head coach Herb Brooks. Overall, 77 men's and women's ice hockey players from Big Ten schools have won an Olympic medal, including 24 gold.
The complete list of Big Ten participants in the 2014 Winter Olympics is included above.