13 athletes from Chicago and suburbs to watch in Olympics
From the opening ceremonies at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium to the Alpensia Ski Jumping Center and the Gangneung Ice Arena, Oval and Hockey Center facilities, a delegation of American athletes with Illinois ties will be making its mark at the 2018 Winter Games.
Here are glances at 13 local athletes to watch, plus a pair of hockey legends serving as coaches as Olympians come together in South Korea and a few former Chicago Blackhawks and Wolves join the Olympic mix.
Kevin Bickner, 21, is one of three members from the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove to make the U.S. team. The 6-foot, 138-pound Bickner is from Wauconda. This will be his first Olympic experience. He set a USA record with a jump of 244.5 meters last March. His father, Tom, is a member of the USA Nordic Sport board of directors, and his mother, Maureen, is a math teacher at the Winter Sports School in Park City, Utah, where Kevin lives and trains. One sister is a member of the USA Women's Development Ski Jumping Team, and his other sister works for the Peace Corps in Malawi, Africa. Follow him on Facebook: @KBickner; Twitter: @KevinBickner; Instagram: kevinbickner
Michael Glasder will turn 29 next month after he competes in his first Olympics. The 6-foot, 150-pound athlete, who just missed the 2014 and 2010 teams, has been a Norge Ski Club member since age 5. He finished first at the U.S. Olympic Trials in December. Glasder recently earned an MBA at DeVry University. Facebook: @mikeglasderskijumping; Twitter: @MGlasder
Casey Larson, a 19-year-old native of Barrington, also hails from the Norge Ski Club. This will be the first Olympic experience for the 5-foot, 10-inch, 142-pound Barrington High School lacrosse player. He finished eighth at the 2017 FIS Junior World Championships (normal hill). His parents, Guy and Margaret Larson, also have a daughter, Cara, who ski jumps. His longest jump was 216.5 meters at Vikersund, Norway. Facebook: @caseylarsonski; Instagram: caseylarson
Bradie Tennell of Carpentersville shocked everyone in winning the U.S. Championships. The 5-foot, 6-inch, 122-pound champ, a member of Skokie Valley Skating Club, had finished ninth in 2017 at the U.S. Championship, and seventh at the 2017 World Juniors. In 2015, she was the U.S. Junior Champion. She began skating at 2½ years old and now works with coaches Denise Myers and Jeremy Allen. Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove is one of her training centers. Her mom, Jean, and two younger brothers, Austin and Shane, will get to watch her in Pyeongchang. She has a website; Instagram: bradietennell; Twitter: @bradie_tennell
Alexa Scimeca Knierim and her husband, Christopher, are the top U.S. pairs skaters. A College of DuPage grad, Alexa is from Addison. The 26-year-old Alexa is a foot shorter than her 6-foot, 2-inch husband, who calls San Diego his hometown. Their coaches are Dalilah Sappenfiled and Larry Ibarra. The couple began skating together in 2012 and married in 2016. Shortly after getting married, she underwent three abdominal surgeries, needing several months to recover before she could train again. They have a website; Twitter: @lexxapaige and @chrisknierim, @Scimeca_Knierim; Instagram: Alexascimeca
Brian Hansen, 27, is a veteran Olympian in long track speedskating. From Glenview, he competed in the 2014 Olympic Games, finishing seventh in men's 1,500-meter, seventh in men's team pursuit and ninth in men's 1000 meter. He earned a silver medal at the 2010 Games in team pursuit. He played hockey before getting into speedskating and took a two-year break from the sport after the 2014 Games to get a business degree at the University of Colorado-Boulder. This time around, he has qualified for the 1,500-meter race and the team pursuit. Twitter:@BrianTHansen
Lana Gehring, 27, is a short-track speedskating specialist from Glenview. She qualified for the 2018 U.S. team by winning the women's 1000-meter, 1500-meter and overall at the U.S. trials. She earned a bronze medal at 2010 Vancouver Games on the 3000-meter relay. After not making the 2014 U.S. team, she switched to long track for two years before switching back to short track.
Emery Lehman, 21, competes in long track speedskating. The 6-footer from Oak Park qualified for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team by winning the 5000 meters and was picked as a team pursuit specialist. He competed at the 2014 Sochi Games in the 10,000 meters (10th) and 5,000 meters (16th). He is studying civil engineering at Marquette University.
Shani Davis, 35, is a decorated veteran of Olympic long track speedskating. The Chicago native qualified for the 2018 U.S. Team by finishing second in the 1,000 meters and third in the 1,500 meters. He competed in the 2014 Games, 2010 Games (gold in men's 1000 meters, silver medal in men's 1500 meters), and the 2006 Games (gold in men's 1000 meters, silver in men's 1500 meters). He also has numerous world titles.
Aja Evans, 29, of Chicago and Morgan Park High School is a former track star at the University of Illinois, where she competed in shot put and springing. At the 2014 Games, she was earned a bronze as a brakeman with pilot Jamie Greubel Poser. She comes from a family of athletes. Her brother Fred was a defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings; her uncle Gary Matthews played baseball for the Cubs. Twitter:@AjaLEvans; Instagam: AjaLEvans.
Seun Adigun, 30, was raised in the Chicago area but will compete as a member of the first Nigerian bobsled team. The 5-foot, 115-pound former track star from Homewood-Flossmoor was a sprinter in college at the University of Houston. She was born in Algonquin and raised in Glenwood. After not making the U.S. team, she founded a team in Nigeria in 2016 and helped them become the first Nigerians to qualify for the Winter Olympics. She is the driver of the team. She is also the niece of former American basketball player Hakeem Olajuwon.
Kendall Coyne, 25, is a former player on the U.S. women's team. From Palos Heights, she also plays for the Minnesota Whitecaps. She competed in the 2014 Games, earning a silver medal. She was named the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award recipient as the top player in women's college hockey in 2016, and she led the NCAA in goals, goals per game, points per game, short-handed goals and hat tricks during the 2015-16 season. She has a website, kendallcoyne.com; Facebook: @kendallcoyne26; Twitter: @KendallCoyne; Instagram: kendallcoyne26
Hilary Knight, 28, calls Sun Valley, Idaho, her hometown, but she lived in Lake Forest from 1995 to 2003 and played on boys hockey teams before earning a college scholarship to the University of Wisconsin. The 5-foot, 11-inch forward plays for the Boston Pride (NWHL). She also earned silver medals in the 2010 and 2014 Games. She is Wisconsin's all-time leader in goals (143).
• Tony Granato, 53, is the U.S. Olympic men's hockey coach. He's from Downers Grove and head coach at the University of Wisconsin. His sister, Cammi, earned the first gold medal in women's Olympic hockey and played for Team USA in 1998 and 2002.
• Chris Chelios, 56, is a U.S. Olympic men's hockey assistant coach. A native of Chicago, he played 26 seasons in the NHL, including nine with the Blackhawks. Also played one season with the Chicago Wolves.
The following hockey players have played for the Blackhawks in their career: Team USA: James Wisniewski and John McCarthy. Team Canada: Rene Bourque, Andrew Ebbett and Rob Klinkhammer. Team Sweden: Viktor Shalberg.
The following have played for the Chicago Wolves in their career: USA: Wisniewski, McCarthy, Jim Slater and Noah Welch. Canada: Ebbett and Eric O'Dell. Sweden: Carl Klingberg and Fredrik Pettersson. Norway: Henrik Odegaard. Czech Republic: Adam Polasek. Athletes from Russia: Sergei Andronov and Andrei Zubarev.
• Sources: nbcolympics.com; teamusa.org; usanordic.org.; chicagowolves.com