Sen. Al Franken honors Olympians including LangenbrunnerFebruary 28th marked the end to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. I am so proud to see that there were more athletes in this year’s Olympics from Minnesota than from any other state.
By: Sen. Al Franken, Pine Journal
February 28th marked the end to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. I am so proud to see that there were more athletes in this year’s Olympics from Minnesota than from any other state. Twenty-one Minnesotans took part in these games. Most were in their first Olympics. A few others were in their second Games. Natalie Darwitz has been to three. Jenny Potter has now been to four, winning a medal every time. Isn’t that something? Four-time medal-winning Olympian and mother of two.
Twenty years ago the men’s ice hockey team shocked the world by miraculously defeating Finland and the vaunted Soviet Union to win the gold medal. Thirteen Minnesotans played for the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team, and a fourteenth was their coach.
This year’s Olympic men’s ice hockey team was considered by many not to have a chance for a medal. They were too young, too inexperienced; they hadn’t played together before. And the U.S. men hadn’t defeated Canada in Olympic play in 50 years. Yet a week ago, despite being the underdog, Team USA upset the favored Canadians in their own arena.
After defeating Switzerland and soundly beating Finland in the semi-finals, Team USA played Canada a second time last night for the gold medal. Although we fell behind early, Zach Parise – a Prior Lake, Minnesota native – tied the game with under a minute to play. Sadly for us, Canada would end up scoring in overtime to win the gold medal. But that cannot take away from what was truly a golden performance by the Americans. Jamie Langenbrunner, from Cloquet, did a stand-up job as captain, leading and pulling together a team that also included Minnesotans Erik Johnson, from Bloomington, and David Backes, from Blaine.
The American women’s ice hockey team was expected to be great. And they were. Before falling to Canada, they had out-scored their opponents 40-2. With Edina native Natalie Darwitz as captain, as well as Jenny Potter from Edina and Gigi Marvin from Warroad, they brought home a well-earned silver medal.
And of the twelve members of the U.S. Olympic curling team, eight are from Minnesota. Natalie Nicholson of Bemidji and Allison Pottinger of Eden Prairie were on the women’s team. The men’s team was an all-Minnesota affair with John Schuster and Jason Smith of Chisholm, Chris Plys and Jeff Isaacson of Duluth and John Benton of St. Michael. Even their coach, Phil Drobnick is from Eveleth.
Tony Benshoof of White Bear Lake is an Olympic luger. Kaylin Richardson of Edina was in her second Olympics, competing in alpine skiing. Wynn Roberts of Battle Lake was a competitor in the biathlon. Rebekah Bradford of Apple Valley is an Olympic speedskater. And Caitlin Compton and Garrott Kuzzy, each of Minneapolis, competed in cross-country skiing.
Twenty-one athletes from all over Minnesota have gone back to tending a bar, or being a teacher, or being an engineer or a mom. Natalie Nicholson returned to Red Lake Indian Reservation as a nurse practitioner. The men’s ice hockey players have gone back to finish the National Hockey League season. John Shuster will be getting married. All will continue to inspire us.
I want to congratulate every single one of these competitors. Each has shown tremendous grit and determination to earn a place representing our nation at these Winter Olympics. Whether you won a medal, or simply gave it your all and competed, each of you is a champion.
Olympians make the children of our state and nation dream of what they might do – and grownups like me dream of what we wish we could do – all while fulfilling their dreams on the world’s stage and representing our nation admirably. We owe them thanks for their hard work, their perseverance, and most of all their heart.