Fifteen Wisconsin athletes will be among the American contingent at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. That ties the Badger State for fourth-most in the country.
Lake Effect sports contributor Howie Magner says before any of them even begin competing in the Winter Games, there are several compelling names to know:
- Aly Dudek, short-track speedskating. The Hales Corners native took home a bronze medal in the 3000M relay in short-track speedskating in Vancouver, and hopes to reach the medal stand again this year. Dudek may be an underdog in Sochi, but Magner believes some of the beauty of short-track lies in its ability to surprise. "It's unpredictable," he says. "They skate in such tight packs, they're taking such tight turns, they're going so fast, that it's really an action-packed sport. Chaotic things happen, so she could be coming home with another medal."
- Sugar Todd, long-track speedskating. Todd was born in Nebraska, but moved to Milwaukee as a teenager to train at the Pettit National Ice Center. She graduated from Wauwatosa East High School before moving to Utah to get closer to her Olympic ambitions. She'll skate in the 1000-meter and 500-meter events. "She's also probably not a medal favorite," Magner says. "But it wouldn't be unheard of for somebody to get to the Olympics and has a career day and surprises people. Magner points out, though, that several athletes who train in Milwaukee - most notably, Shani Davis and Brian Hansen - are favorites to contend for long-track medals.
- Amanda Kessel, women's ice hockey. Kessel is from Madison - though she went to college at the state's arch-rival, the University of Minnesota. Magner says it's fair to call her the top player on the top women's hockey team in the world. "The U.S. beat Team Canada in the 2013 World Cup, and Amanda scored the winning goal," Magner says. "So she really is carrying the flag for the women's hockey team, which is the gold medal favorite." Meanwhile, her brother - and fellow Madison native - Phil Kessel could be a difference-maker on the USA men's hockey team, as well.
- Matthew Antoine, skeleton. Antoine is from Prairie du Chien, and is making a name for himself in the often-overlooked sport of skeleton. Often confused with luge, skeleton racers rocket down a course on a tiny sled - head-first. "Matt Antoine has gotten hot at just the right time," Magner says. "He's won a couple of World Cup medals recently, and people think he's got an outside shot to win a medal in Sochi."
In addition to speedskating, skeleton, and ice hockey, there are three Wisconsinites on the USA Curling team, and a fourth who graduated from UW-Milwaukee.