Minnesota sent 22 athletes and two alternates to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and amazingly 14 of them came back Olympic medalists. Those are some good odds! This is perhaps one of the rare times where Minnesotans can credit the winter for giving them a leg up in life. With several months to practice snow sports every year, Minnesotans may have an advantage to athletes in other states that have a much shorter winter season. Maybe that is taking credit for these talented athletes’ accomplishments, but you can be sure that Minnesotans feel even more proud to call this state their home after the outstanding performances by natives, whether they medaled in an individual sport, helped their teammates to victory, or simply represented the U.S. in the Olympics.
The first Minnesota-native to medal in the Olympics was Lindsey Vonn in the Alpine skiing women’s downhill event. Vonn earned bronze, with Ragnhild Mowinckel from Norway with the silver and Sofia Goggia from Italy with the gold. This was the fourth time competing in the Olympics for Vonn, who grew up skiing on the slopes of Buck Hill in Burnsville before moving to Colorado. Vonn’s latest Olympic win was a historic feat after overcoming a back injury in December. With her bronze medal, she also became the third U.S. Alpine skier in history to win three Olympic medals and the fourth woman to win two Olympic downhill medals.
With a dramatic finish in the cross-country skiing women’s team sprint, Jessie Diggins and partner Kikkan Randall brought home the first U.S. gold medal in cross-country skiing. The pair beat the Swedish team at the finish line and Norway who took bronze. Born in St. Paul and currently residing in Afton, Diggins has already made a big name for herself as one of the most successful American cross-country skiers in the sport’s history, with four world championship medals and a third place finish in the Tour de Ski this year. Afton is eagerly awaiting her return, with a large party planned to welcome home their local hero and a possible new ice cream flavor named after Diggins at Selma’s Ice Cream Parlour.
The women’s ice hockey came out victorious after a tie-breaking shoot out against their Canadians rivals. Perhaps the eight Minnesotans on the roster had something to do with the win (we are the State of Hockey after all). The lineup of locals include Hannah Brandt, Dani Cameranesi, Amanda Kessel, Gigi Marvin, Sidney Morin, Kelly Pannek, Maddie Rooney, and Lee Stecklein. Most of these women play or played for the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, while Rooney and Morin play for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The team was a mix of young talent and veterans, with 20-year-old goaltender Rooney making the final save of the shoot out and leading the U.S. team to gold.
Last but definitely not least, was the outstanding gold medal win for the men’s curling team. Led by Minnesota native John Shuster, the team started out as the underdogs in the competition on the verge of elimination in several matches and ultimately beat Sweden for the first ever U.S. gold medal in curling. Shuster was joined by other Duluthians Tyler George, John Landsteiner, and Joe Polo. The team plays from the Duluth Curling Club, which George’s parents managed during his youth.