All posts by christopherkwiecinski2018

Meet the Chicago-area athletes competing in Pyeongchang

By Chris Kwiecinski
Medill Reports

The highly anticipated 2018 Winter Olympics will begin on Thursday. Here are the 12 Illinois athletes who have qualified for the Games. .

Kevin Bickner – 21, ski jumping

Bickner, who makes up one-third of the Norge Ski Club’s Olympians, qualified for the Olympics with a high World Cup showing. Even though he didn’t win the U.S. trials to qualify, Bickner was never worried about his status with Team USA.

Kendall Coyne – 25, ice hockey

In her second Olympics, Coyne, a Palos Heights native, will try to win an elusive gold medal after taking silver in 2014. The 25-year-old helped the U.S. team win gold at the 2017 World Championships. Continue reading

Northbrook club’s speed skating alum carries swagger to South Korea

By Chris Kwiecinski
Medill Reports

MILWAUKEE – He doesn’t make outlandish guarantees, but it’s easy to see that two-time Olympian Mitchell Whitmore isn’t short on confidence. 

Asked about his expectations for the 2018 Winter Games, Whitmore, who trained at the Northbrook Speed Skating Club, showcases more bravado than his fellow speed- skating Olympians.

“I think I have a chance to win a medal this time around,” Whitmore last week said about his Olympic expectations.

Whitmore, a Waukesha, Wisconsin, native, pointed to his improved 2017-2018 World Cup performances to support his confidence.

According to International Skating Union, Whitmore improved his 500-meter race from a 16th-place finish in Heerenveen, Netherlands on November 12, to a 3rd-place finish in Calgary on December 3.

These World Cup performances came against most of the skaters Team USA will face in Pyeongchang. This includes Netherlands skater, and medal favorite, Ronald Mulder, whom Whitmore sees as a main competitor in the oval.

“I really enjoy when I’m ahead of him,” Whitmore said.

U.S. All-round Long Track team head coach Tom Cushman echoed Whitmore’s confidence, saying he has a “very good” chance to medaling in South Korea.

“He just set the track record in Milwaukee,” Cushman said.

“He’s just on a very nice progression.”

Despite not being a medal favorite on paper, Whitmore’s 2017-2018 World Cup finishes have given him a confidence boost heading into the Games.

“I didn’t expect a lot, but I had a couple placings higher than what I was expecting,” Whitmore said.

Asked a similar question, two of Whitmore’s counterparts, three-time Olympian Brian Hansen and two-time Olympian Emery Lehman, shied away from swaggering statements.

Hansen, who owns a silver medal from the 2010 Olympic games, said it wasn’t too crazy to think he could medal, but had tamer expectations overall.

“I don’t expect to get on the podium,” Hansen said. “My biggest thing is that I want to know that I executed the race as the best that I could.”

Lehman also stayed away from the idea of great Olympic expectations.

“I skated faster this time around at World Cups; I placed lower,” the 21-year-old Lehman said. “I don’t know what to expect going in.”

Whitmore improvement and bravado could prove to be the missing pieces, as he said he wasn’t medal threat in 2014.

“I’m just an overall better skater now,” Whitmore said.

The Petit National Ice Center, where the U.S. Long Track Speed Skating team trained prior to the 2018 Olympics. (Chris Kwiecinski/MEDILL)

Trio of Chicagoans make Olympic ski-jumping history in 2018

By Chris Kwiecinski
Medill Reports

Three of the four members on the U.S. Olympic ski-jumping team hail from Illinois’ lone ski-jumping club, and have made history for their training club in the process.

U.S. Ski and Snowboard announced on January 25 Wauconda’s Kevin Bickner and Barrington’s Casey Larson will join Cary’s Michael Glasder on the 2018 Olympic team, marking the first ski jumpers from the northwest-suburban Norge Ski Club to make the Olympics.

Park City, Utah, native Will Rhoads was the fourth and final ski jumper to make the Olympic team.

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‘Wily’ speedskater Brian Hansen took a different approach while preparing for 2018 Winter Games

By Chris Kwiecinski
Medill Reports

Those who know three-time Olympic speed-skater Brian Hansen have their own ways to describe the Glenview native.

U.S. Speed Skating Long Track All-Round coach Tom Cushman’s praise for Hansen was almost endless, referencing Hansen’s attitude as a multi-year Olympian.

“There’s no attitude, no arrogance,” Cushman said of Hansen’s personality.

Olympic speed-skating teammate Mitch Whitmore, however, described Hansen as “wily,” especially when it comes to his hobbies.

“He’s into a lot of crazy things, like surfing in lakes and Lake Michigan,” Whitmore said.

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‘Rising star’ speed skater Emery Lehman is fitting smoothly with U.S. team pursuit squad

By Chris Kwiecinski
Medill Reports

MILWAUKEE – The U.S. Speed Skating’s team pursuit squad will feature a new member, an Oak Park native, on its three-man team in the 2018 Winter Games.

Emery Lehman will replace Chicagoan Shani Davis, a five-time Olympian, for the team pursuit in Pyeongchang, joining Glenview’s Brian Hansen and Joey Mantia on the team.

Not that the 21-year-old needed any more pressure, but now he’s tasked with filling the shoes of one of the most decorated speed skaters in U.S. history.

“To try and fill the shoes is not something I think I can do,” Lehman said. “All I can do is skate as fast as I can skate.”

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Olympian Bradie Tennell’s choice of ‘Cinderella’ could lead to a ‘happily ever after’

By Chris Kwiecinski
Medill Reports

BUFFALO GROVE – Bradie Tennell has been living an almost fairy-tale-like life since for the past two months.

The Carpentersville-native figure skater catapulted herself into the international spotlight after she was named to the 2018 Olympic team on January 6.

That news came days after winning the 2018 U.S. Championship, and just weeks after surprising the figure-skating community with a third-place finish at 2017 Skate America in November.

The often-shy Tennell has yet to adjust to life as an Olympian, as a small swarm of reporters and TV cameras focused on her after an open practice at the Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove.

As the timid 19 year old has now found out, this is part of the toll an Olympic athlete pays every four years.

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