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Article posted: 2/7/2014 5:30 AM

Illinois can cheer on some local Olympians

Brian Hansen

Brian Hansen

 
Jonathan Kuck

Jonathan Kuck

 
Emery Lehman

Emery Lehman

 
Megan Bozek

Megan Bozek

 
Jason Brown

Jason Brown

 
Gracie Gold

Gracie Gold

 
Shani Davis

Shani Davis

 
Kendall Coyne

Kendall Coyne

 
Ann Swisshelm

Ann Swisshelm

 
Patrick Meek

Patrick Meek

 
Aja Evans

Aja Evans

 
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By Daily Herald Report

Minus the 10 Blackhawks players on Olympic rosters, here's a look at the other Olympians on Team USA with Illinois connections. :

Aja Evans

Bobsled

Age: 25

The track and field star at the University of Illinois who was named after the Steely Dan son "Aja" has been quite the success in her conversion to bobsledding. In her first season, she collected a pair of World Cup medals (a silver and a bronze) and placed eighth at the 2013 World Championships. Evans, whose brother Fred plays for the Vikings and whose cousin is Gary Matthews Jr., won the U.S. national push championships in July.

Twitter: AjaLEvans

Ann Swisshelm

Curling

Age: 45

The Chicagoan will be making her second Olympics appearance after being part of a U.S. team that finished fourth in Salt Lake City. The diehard Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and Cubs fan plays the position of "lead" on the women's curling rink that will represent the U.S. in Sochi, qualifying for the Games by winning the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials in Fargo, N.D. in mid-November.

Twitter: curlannie

Jason Brown

Figure Skating

Age: 19

The Highland Park High School graduate is the first American teenage man on Team USA since 1976 (David Santee and Terry Kubicka). In his first two senior Grand Prix events, Brown surprised with fifth- and third-place finishes, respectively, earning the highest overall score of any American man in the 2013 season at the Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris. He finished second at the U.S. Championships in January, booking his place on the two-member men's singles team for the U.S. in Sochi with his "Riverdance" free skate that went viral.

Twitter: jasonbskates

Gracie Gold

Figure Skating

Age: 18

The American teenager, who for a time lived in Elk Grove and trained in Glen Ellyn and Vernon Hills, had a strong debut at the U.S. Championships in 2013, taking second place behind 2012 champion Ashley Wagner. A year later she skated away the winner, heading into the Olympics as the reigning U.S. champion. Gold switched coaches in September 2013 to begin working with longtime coach Frank Carroll, who had helped Michelle Kwan and another local favorite, Evan Lysacek, to Olympic medals. The Sochi games will mark her Olympics debut.

Twitter: GraceEGold

Megan Bozek

Hockey

Age: 22

The native of Buffalo Grove is a relative newcomer to the U.S. women's national team. The defenseman has climbed the ladder by being a top performer on back-to-back NCAA national championship teams at the University of Minnesota in 2012 and 2013, when she also played for the U.S. at the International Ice Hockey Federation's World Championships. Bozek played junior hockey in the Midwest Elite Hockey League for the Chicago Mission, the same junior program to produce former Blackhawk defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.

Twitter: meganebozek

Kendall Coyne

Hockey

Age: 21

Born and raised in Palos Heights, Coyne, at 5-foot-2, is the shortest member of the U.S. team and is one of its youngest members. To play on the 2014 U.S. women's national team, she is taking a break from playing at Northeastern University, where she's currently a junior and was a CCM Hockey All-American Second Team selection as a sophomore in 2012-13. In that same season she became only the third women's player in school history to reach 100 career points in before completing her second season.

Twitter: KendallCoyne

Shani Davis

Speed Skating

Age: 31

Davis, a native of Chicago, has become one of the faces of the U.S. team in the last two Olympics. He became the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal at a Winter Olympics, has led the U.S. speed skating team through two Olympics and has four Olympic medals. In Sochi, he'll have the chance to become the first American male to win three gold medals in the same event (1000m)at consecutive Winter Games. Davis holds world records in the 1000m and 1500m and has finished in either first or second in the overall World Cup standings for either the 1000m or 1500m the last seven years.

Twitter: ShaniDavis

Brian Hansen

Speed Skating

Age: 23

Profile: The native of Evanston was the youngest member of the U.S. speed skating team in Vancouver, where he won a silver medal in the team pursuit. Now, Hansen, who is coached by four-time Olympian Nancy Swider-Peltz, has emerged as one of the best individual medal contenders for the U.S. Hansen assured himself a chance to continue his momentum when he finished third in the 500m and second in the 1000m and 1500m at U.S. Olympic Trials.

Twitter: BrianTHansen

Jonathan Kuck

Speed Skating

Age: 23

Profile: The native of Urbana is part of an American speed skating team that won silver in the team pursuit in Vancouver. Kuck helped win the medal at the 2010 Games and did the same in the 2011-2012 season at the World Single Distances Championships, where the United States finished second in the team pursuit. He finished eighth in the 10,000m race in Vancouver. Legendary speed skater Bonnie Blair and short track Olympic medalist Katherine Reutter are from the same hometown as Kuck. The long distance specialist won the 5000m at U.S. Olympic Trials and finished fourth in the 1500m, securing his spot in Sochi in both distances.

Twitter: @jdkuck

Emery Lehman

Speed Skating

Age: 17

Profile: The Oak Park native is the youngest member of the U.S. speed skating team. The 17-year-old is still a high school student who will go back to school after the Olympics and try out for the lacrosse team before graduating. The long distance skater started getting serious about speed skating during his freshman year and was inspired by other skaters from the Chicago area such as Davis, Hansen and Kuck. In a showdown with Kuck at Olympic Trials in the 10,000m, Lehman came back to beat Kuck and win the event, securing the lone spot on the Olympic team. He also qualified for the 5000m.

Twitter: Mry_the_Eman

Patrick Meek

Speed Skating

Age: 28

Profile: The Evanston native specializes in long distances, more specifically the 5000m and 10,000m. The first-time Olympian had his best finish in the 10,000m during the 2012-13 was second place in the division B race at the World Cup in Erfurt, Germany and Meek was the 2013 U.S. National Marathon Champion in the 25,000m and 50,000m (distances not contested at the Olympics). The part-time concierge at the Waldorf Astoria in Park City sealed his spot in Sochi at U.S. Olympic Trials when he finished third in the 5000m.

Twitter: @patjmeek

• Biographical information provided by NBCOlympics.com

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