Minnesotans in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics

February 12, 2010

The U.S. Olympic team has been finalized, and Minnesota is sending more athletes to Vancouver than any other state. Chisholm, Duluth, and Edina tie for most athletes from a single city.

Visit TeamUSA.org

Women’s Ice Hockey

Jenny Potter (formerly Schmidgall) - Edina, Minn.
Position: Forward

Jenny Potter, 31, has competed in three Olympics as part of Team USA. She won a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics, a silver medal in 2002 and a bronze medal in 2006. She currently plays for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the Western Women’s Hockey League, where she won the league championship and was named the MVP for the 2008 to 2009 season. Potter is a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth. She was married in 2001 and is a mother of two. Her daughter, Madison, is 8, and her son, Cullen, is 2.

Natalie Darwitz - Eagan, Minn.
Position: Forward

Natalie Darwitz, 25, began playing hockey when she was 5 and made her first national team at the age of 15. She is considered one of the world’s best forwards. Darwitz has a silver medal and a bronze medal from the two Olympic Games that she has competed in. She is also captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team.

Darwitz attended the University of Minnesota and now lives in Apple Valley where she is an assistant coach for the University of Minnesota’s women’s ice hockey team. In 2007, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science with an emphasis on sport management. Her family consists of her mother, Nancy; her father, Scott; her sister, Nikki; and her brother, Ryan.

Interview: Darwitz predicts U.S. will take gold in Vancouver



Gigi Marvin - Warroad, Minn.
Position: Forward

Gisèle “Gigi” Marvin, 22, began playing hockey at a young age. During her hockey career at the University of Minnesota, Marvin twice finished in the top 10 for the Patty Kazmaier Award, which is given to the nation’s top college player. She graduated in 2009 from the University with a communications major and journalism minor.

Marvin comes from a large hockey family. Her parents are Mike and Connie Marvin, and her late grandfather, Cal Marvin, was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame as a coach, manager, and entrepreneur. Her father, Mike, played hockey at Brown University. Her Aunt Janet and Robin Marvin are mainstays on the Blue Jays, a senior women’s team in the Twin Cities, while some of her cousins played hockey at Dartmouth, North Dakota, and Michigan.

Men’s Ice Hockey

Erik Johnson - Bloomington, Minn.
Position: Defense

Erik Johnson, 21, plays defense for the St. Louis Blues in the National Hockey League. He was a former player for the National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. Johnson also played hockey for the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, Minn. In 2007, he was a member of the Under-20 American team that won a bronze medal in the U20 World Championships. During the tournament, Johnson was named the Tournament’s Best Defenseman.

Johnson attended the University of Minnesota and was signed by the St. Louis Blues on April 20, 2007.

David Backes - Blaine, Minn.
Position: Right wing

David Backes, 25, plays right wing and is an alternate captain for the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League. Backes played high school hockey at Spring Lake Park in Spring Lake Park, Minn. He was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Before he began playing for the Blues, Backes played college hockey at Minnesota State University-Mankato for three seasons. In 2007, Backes played for Team USA at the 2007 International Ice Hockey Foundation World Championship.

Jamie Langenbrunner - Cloquet, Minn.
Position: Winger

Jamie Langenbrunner, 34, is the team captain of the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League, as well as the captain of the men’s hockey team for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

During high school, Langenbrunner played for the Cloquet Lumberjacks in the Minnesota State High School Hockey League. In 1993, he was drafted out of Cloquet 35th overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by the Dallas Stars. In 2002, Langenbrunner played for the New Jersey Devils, where he led the team to win their third Stanley Cup in nine years.

Langenbrunner lives in North Caldwell, New Jersey with his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children: daughter, Laine, and sons Landon and Mason. Langenbrunner and his family live in Minnesota during the offseason.

Zach Parise - Prior Lake, Minn.
Position: Left Wing

Zach Parise, 25, plays winger for the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League. He has played in three world championships, two world junior championships and helped the U.S. team win a gold medal by defeating Canada in the 2004 world juniors. He also represented the U.S. at the 2002 Under-18 world championships, where the U.S. won its first gold medal.

Parise comes from a family of hockey players. His father, J.P. Parise, was a two-time NHL All-Star who played for the Minnesota North Stars and the New York Islanders. Zach Parise’s older brother, Jordan, plays goalie in the minors for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ affiliate. Before he played for the Devils, Parise played four seasons of hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s high school and one season at the University of North Dakota, where he was named an All-American.

Men’s Luge

Tony Benshoof - White Bear Lake, Minn.

Tony Benshoof, 34, has been competing since 1990. During the International Luge Federation World Luge Championships, he won three medals in the mixed team event, along with two silver medals in 2004, 2005, and a bronze medal in 2001. Benshoof finished fourth in the men’s singles event at the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Benshoof is considered the highest Olympic finisher for any USA luge athlete in Men’s Singles Luge. He won the most international medals by any USA Men’s Singles athlete, and has also won the most US National titles.

Women’s Alpine Skiing

Kaylin Richardson - Edina, Minn.

Kaylin Richardson, 25, is a member of the U.S. Ski Team A-Team. Throughout the 2007 season, Richardson led the Americans in both speed and tech events on the World Cup, such as at the Krajanska Gora slalom race, where she placed 8th. In the 2006 Olympics, she placed 17th in Alpine Skiing Combined.

Richardson was born in Minneapolis, but lives in Edina. Richardson started skiing in the Twin Cities with the Skijammers Ski and Snowboard School, a travelling ski program where her father was an instructor. When she was 9, she began ski racing with Team Gilboa at Hyland Hills. Her older brothers, Chris and Tom, also ski race. Richardson attended Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Men’s Biathlon

Wynn Roberts - Battle Lake, Minn.

Wynn Roberts, 21, has been on the U.S. Biathlon National team since 2009. He was named to the U.S.’s men’s biathlon team after he finished in the top-two in a six-biathlete internal competition in Alternberg, Germany. He will be making is Olympic debut in Vancouver.

Roberts, the son of the cross-country ski coach at Battle Lake High School, began skiing when he was 9 and took up biathlon when he was 12. He began competing in bike racing when he was 10 and took up cross-country skiing and biathlon in order to keep in shape for biking. He was quickly recognized for his biathlon prowess, leading him to win the International Biathlon Union Cup trials in 2009 for the Junior National Team.

Women’s Cross-country Skiing

Caitlin Compton - Minneapolis, Minn.

Caitlin Compton, 29, started cross-country skiing in high school and has been competing since 2001. Her best World Cup finish was during the team spring event at Whistler Olympic Park in January 2009, where she finished 17th. Her best individual finish was 32nd in a 7.5 km + 7.5 km double pursuit event, also at Whistler Olympic Park.

Compton has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Environmental Design from Northern Michigan University, where she was All-American in both cross-country running and Nordic skiing multiple times. She was born in New York City, but lives and trains in Minneapolis.

Men’s Cross-country Skiing

Garrot Kuzzy – Minneapolis, Minn.

Garrot Kuzzy, 25, was added to the Olympic cross-country ski team on Jan. 26 when the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association expanded their quotas. The American team was able to add Kuzzy because other teams did not fill all their quota spots.

Kuzzy started skiing competitively when he was 12 and later skied for his high school team at Hopkins High School. He skied four years at Middlebury College in Vermont where he was an All-American for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. After college, Kuzzy returned to the Midwest to train and compete with the Central Cross Country Skiing Elite Team.

Men’s Curling

John Shuster - Chisholm, Minn.
Position: Skip

John Shuster, 27, began curling when he was 14. In the 2006 Winter Olympics, Shuster helped the U.S. team win a bronze medal, their first Olympic curling medal ever, after defeating Great Britain. He qualified for the 2010 Olympics by skipping the winning team at the U.S. Olympic Trials in February 2009. The win also qualified his team for the 2009 World Championship in Moncton, New Brunswick, where they finished fifth.

In the winter, Shuster bartends at his curling club, the Duluth Curling Club. He attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

John Benton - St. Michael, Minn.
Position: Lead

John Benton, 40, considered retiring from curling after several years of disappointing finishes. Benton made his major international debut at the 2009 World Championships and qualified for his first Olympic team by winning the U.S. Olympic Trials in February 2009. Benton curls out of the Saint Paul Curling Club, which is the largest curling club in the U.S.

Benton is married and is a senior engineer for Fairview Health Services of Minnesota. He is the youngest of 11 siblings, all of who have curling experience. Benton’s older brother, Chris, curled competitively and lost in the finals at the 1998 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

Jeff Isaacson - Duluth, Minn.
Position: Second

Jeff Isaacson, 26, made his major international debut at the 2009 World Championships by playing second for John Shuster’s rink. Isaacson and Shuster were former curling rivals until Isaacson joined Shuster’s rink in 2007. In the 2005 World Junior Championships, Isaacson won the 2005 Junior Nationals, as well as the winning title at the World University Games in 2007. After the World University Games, he decided to focus on his career as a high school chemistry teacher, but returned to curling in 2008 when Shuster asked him to join the team.

Isaacson, who is now a substitute science teacher, curls out of the Bemidji Curling Club and attended Bemidji State University. He was born in Gilbert, Minn., but lives in Duluth.

Jason Smith - Chisholm, Minn.
Position: Third

Jason Smith, 26, made his international debut at the 2009 World Championships where he placed fifth playing for John Shuster’s rink. Smith and Shuster were childhood friends and curled together in curling leagues. Smith is also close to Jeff Isaacson, who will be playing second for the Shuster’s rink in the 2010 Olympic Games.

During the winter, Jason bartends with Shuster at the Duluth Curling Club. Smith grew up with his grandparents in Florida, but his parents, Mark and Linda, live in Saint Paul, Minn.

Chris Plys - Duluth, Minn.
Position: Alternate

Chris Plys, 22, has been curling since 1998. He has won five U.S. junior titles, a gold medal with John Shuster at the World University Games in 2007 and a bronze at the 2009 World Junior Championships. He was also a 2008 World Junior champion in Ostersund, Sweden. Plys currently holds the record for the most United States Junior National Championships by a skip. He curls out of the Duluth Curling Club.

Phill Drobnick - Eveleth, Minn.
Position: Head coach

Phill Drobnick, 29, is the head coach of John Shuster’s curling team for the 2010 Winter Olympics and coached Chris Plys’ junior team for the past three seasons. In 2008, he was named the USA Curling Coach of the Year after Plys’ team won the gold medal at the World Junior Championships. Drobnick also led his team to a bronze medal in 2009. Before becoming a coach, Drobnick competed at several Men’s Nationals, Olympic Team Trials and won the 2000 U.S. junior title.

Many of Drobnick’s family members curl, and they introduced him to the sport when he was 6. Drobnick served on the Board of Directors for the Curl Mesabi Curling Club and works as a probation officer with St. Louis County.

Story: Olympic curling dominated by Minnesotans, Wisconsinites



Women’s Curling

Natalie Nicholson - Bemidji, Minn.
Position: Lead

Natalie Nicholson, 33, started curling in 1993 and now plays lead for Debbie McCormick’s team. In 2000, Nicholson curled in her first World Curling Championships as lead for Amy Wright and finished in sixth place. She finished in eighth place during the 2002 World Curling Championships, and then finished fourth in 2004. In 2006, Nicholson won a silver medal playing for McCormick’s team.

Nicholson is married with one daughter. She has a Master of Science in nursing from the University of North Dakota-Grand Forks.

Allison Pottinger - Eden Prairie, Minn.
Position: Third

Allison Pottinger, 36, plays third for teammate Debbie McCormick, who plays skip for the 2010 women’s Olympic curling team.

Pottinger won three silver medals, the first at the 1994 World Junior Curling Championships as an alternate for Erika Brown’s team, the second at the 1996 World Curling Championships as the lead for Lisa Schoenberg, and the third in 1999 playing second for Patti Lank. In 2003, she played third for Debbie McCormick, where the team won the first gold medal for the American team at the World Curling Championships. Pottinger curls out of the St. Paul Curling Club in St. Paul, Minn.

Pottinger graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history. She also has an MBA in marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is currently a market research analyst.

Women’s Speedskating

Rebekah Bradford - Apple Valley, Minn.

Rebekah Bradford, 26, has competed in international speed skating since the World Junior Speedskating Championships in 2002. Since then she has competed in five World Cup teams. Bradford also competed at the 1998 U.S. Olympic Team Trials when she was 13 years old. She earned the title of 2010 U.S. Sprint Champion at the U.S. Speedskating Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Bradford is studying psychology and exercise sports science, with a minor in nutrition, at the University of Utah.

Maria Lamb - St. Paul, Minn.

Maria Lamb, 24, was the 2005 U.S. National Allround Champion and holds Junior records in the 3000m and 1500m. Though she was injured during the season leading up to the 2007 World Allround Championships, Lamb was still one of the top finishing American women. During the 2006 Olympic Games, Lamb skated in the 1500m and Team Pursuit. She earned the 2010 Allround Championship title during the U.S. Speedskating Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In her spare time, Lamb enjoys cooking and sewing clothes and costumes. She plans to major in costume design.