MEET TEAM USA

America's eclectic new batch of Olympians includes athletes from 36 states, a ski jumper who's afraid to fly, a mandolinist, a luger born in Venezuela, a skier who once subsisted on spinach and—sign of the times—several reality-show vets
February 08, 2010

YOUNGEST

The baby of Team USA is 16-year-old aerialist Ashley Caldwell, a former gymnast and the first athlete out of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association's Elite Air program to make the Olympics. The youngest male is ski jumper Peter Frenette, who turns 18 on Feb. 24.

OLDEST

Curler Tracy Sachtjen is the eldest U.S. Olympian; she'll turn 41 midway through the Vancouver Games. The oldest male is fellow curler John Benton, 40. Both Sachtjen and Benton are making their Olympic debuts.

SHORTEST

Five women are tied as the shortest U.S. athletes: Biathlete Laura Spector, hockey player Erika Lawler, moguls skier Michelle Roark and pairs figure skaters Amanda Evora and Caydee Denney all stand five feet tall.

TALLEST

Four-man bobsled pusher Chuck Berkeley is 6'5".

YOU'RE HIRED!

Hockey player Angela Ruggiero, who has won Olympic gold, silver and bronze, appeared on The Apprentice in 2007. She was fired after 10 episodes, but Donald Trump was so impressed that off the air he offered her a job. Ruggiero turned down The Donald and played for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the Western Women's Hockey League.

REALITY CHECKS

In 2006 skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender worked as a challenge tester and camera assistant in the Cook Islands for the show Survivor. Speedskater Chad Hedrick and his wife, Lynsey Adams, had their June 2008 nuptials filmed for the Style Network's Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?

WHERE THEY'RE FROM

By birthplace, these states produced the most team members:

Minnesota (23)

New York (18)

California (17)

Colorado (13)

Michigan (13)

Utah (13)

Massachusetts (11)

Illinois (10)

Wisconsin (10)

Washington (7)

FAMILY TIES

• Twins Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux (SI, Feb. 1) will make their Olympic debuts on the women's hockey team.

• Hockey player Chris Drury's brother Ted played on the 1992 and '94 Olympic teams.

• Alpine skier Jimmy Cochran's aunt Barbara Ann won slalom gold at the 1972 Sapporo Games. His father, Bob, and another aunt, Marilyn Cochran Brown, also skied in Sapporo, and his grandfather Mickey was the U.S. Alpine team director for the 1973--74 season.

• Hockey player Paul Stastny's father, Peter, played for Czechoslovakia at the 1980 Olympics and for Slovakia in '94.

Ryan Suter could be the third in his family to win an Olympic hockey medal. His father, Bob, won gold with Team USA in 1980. His uncle Gary won silver in 2002.

• Two speedskaters have renowned Olympic mothers: Elli Ochowicz's mom, Sheila Young-Ochowicz, won three speedskating medals, including a gold, in 1976. Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr.'s mother, also named Nancy, was on four Olympic teams from 1976 to '88 and once held the world record in the 3,000 meters.

MOST APTLY NAMED

The first name of figure skater Mirai Nagasu, 16, means future in her immigrant parents' native Japanese.

HEIGHT OF IRONY

Johnny Spillane, who must ski jump as part of Nordic combined, has a fear of flying.

DON'T TELL SPILLANE

Luger Dan Joye got his paraglider's license when he was only 13. Ski jumper Nick Alexander plans to enroll at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida after the Olympics to become a pilot.

GRIDIRON TOUGH

At least three U.S. bobsled pushers have links to big-time football. Jamie Moriarty played safety at Cornell, and his father, Tom, was a defensive back for the Atlanta Falcons and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Justin Olsen was a tight end on the practice squad at Air Force. And Elana Meyers's fitness coach is former NFL wide receiver Billy (White Shoes) Johnson, an ex-teammate of her father; Eddie Meyers was a Falcons running back.

HE YIS WHAT HE YIS

Early in his career Alpine skier Steve Nyman often went through stretches of several weeks when he ate spinach at every meal.

FOOD NETWORKED

Returning snowboardcross gold medalist Seth Wescott co-owns a barbecue restaurant called The Rack near the Sugarloaf ski area in Maine.

MOST EXPERIENCED

Luger Mark Grimmette and Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick each will be competing in his fifth Games.

HOMECOMINGS

Tanith Belbin isn't the only team member who'll be returning to her birth country to compete. So will short-track speedskater Travis Jayner (born in Moncton, New Brunswick), hockey player Paul Stastny (Quebec City) and curlers Debbie McCormick (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) and Allison Pottinger (Brampton, Ont.)

UNLIKELIEST PATH

Luger Dan Joye was born in San Tomé, Venezuela, birthplace of his mother. He then lived in the Dominican Republic, where his parents were attending medical school; they moved to the U.S. when Dan was three. He took up luging at age 11, when he tried the street version of the sport in a parking lot in White Plains, N.Y.

LUCKY BREAK

As a child short-track speedskater Simon Cho sneaked into the U.S. with his mother (crossing the Canadian border near Vancouver) to join his father, who was working in the States but did not yet have his green card. He didn't expect to make this year's team and was planning to quit the sport after the Olympic trials. But during a 500-meter final Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski got tangled up, allowing Cho, 18, to finish first and become the speedskating squad's youngest member.

MILITARY MEN

Bobsled driver Mike Kohn is a member of the Virginia National Guard; he was considering giving up the sport when Todd Hays told his teammate to put retirement on hold because Hays had to stop driving due to a concussion. Kohn, an alternate at the Turin Games, will chase his second Olympic medal (he was on the bronze-winning four-man U.S. team in '02), at age 37. Another bobsledder, driver John Napier, is an engineer in the Army National Guard. He could be deployed to Afghanistan this spring.

BREWSKI

Moguls skier Shannon Bahrke founded the Silver Bean Coffee Co. in Salt Lake City with her fiancé, Matt Happe. Customers can order a blend in honor of a U.S. Winter Olympic athlete; for each bag sold Bahrke will donate a dollar to that athlete and to a charity of the athlete's choosing.

MOONLIGHTERS

• Snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler designs her own clothing line (the GB Collection) for Oakley.

• Alpine skier Erik Fisher started an online classifieds website, Skodeo.com, through which people can buy and sell used sporting goods and clothing.

• Biathlete Haley Johnson launched Snowfall Cards, a line of original, mostly snow-themed greeting cards.

• Speedskater Jordan Malone has a business making carbon fiber tips for fellow short-trackers to stick on their left-hand fingers to provide protection when they scrape the ice on turns.

• Cross-country skier Andy Newell cofounded X Ski Films, a production company that makes movies designed to make cross-country skiing seem edgy and cool.

• Moguls skier Michelle Roark, who studied chemical engineering at the Colorado School of Mines, started Phi-nomenal, a perfume line.

THE MUSIC MAN

Biathlete Lowell Bailey, a mandolinist and guitarist, plays in a bluegrass group led by his father called the George Bailey Trio. Lowell wrote and recorded the biathlon team's theme song, Fire You Down.

TUNED UP

To help cover her training expenses, speedskater Jilleanne Rookard worked as a deejay at a roller-skating rink in Milwaukee.

ODDS BEATERS

Snowboarder Chris Klug underwent a life-saving liver transplant in 2000, and two years later he earned a bronze medal at the Salt Lake City Games. Klug, the only organ transplant recipient to win an Olympic medal, is back to compete in his third Games. Cross-country skier Kris Freeman is the first athlete with type 1 diabetes to compete in the Olympics in an endurance sport.

SCHOOL DAYS

Hockey player Molly Engstrom won the Indiana state high school title in the discus. Moguls skier Hannah Kearney won New Hampshire state championships in track and soccer. Bobsledder Michelle Rzepka was a Big Ten pole vault champion at Michigan State. Her teammate Emily Azevedo was captain of the UC Davis track team and once held the school's 100-meter-hurdles record.

FIGHT CLUB

Snowboarder Nick Baumgartner was a state championship wrestler in Michigan. Luger Megan Sweeney holds a black belt in karate.

FORE!

Nate Roberts, the 2005 world champion in moguls, is a zero handicap and wants to be a golf pro someday.

SKIING AERIALS

RYAN ST. ONGE started young—long before 1997, when he made the national team at age 14. (At the time he was the youngest person ever to make the U.S. ski team.) St. Onge's parents, both ski instructors, had him on the slopes before his second birthday. Now 27, St. Onge is headed to his second Olympics; he finished 16th in the aerials at the Turin Games and goes to Vancouver as the reigning world champion. St. Onge won't stop flying after the closing ceremonies. During a trip to New Zealand a few years ago he took a ride on a stunt plane, and the experience inspired him to take flight: He's now a certified pilot.

ICE DANCING

The Vancouver Games will be a homecoming of sorts for TANITH BELBIN. The Kingston, Ont., native was raised in Quebec, but in 1998 she moved to Detroit in search of an ice dancing partner. She met BEN AGOSTO in Motown that year, and they've made sweet music on the ice ever since. Belbin and Agosto are four-time U.S. champions (they finished second to fellow medal hopefuls Meryl Davis and Charlie White at nationals last month), and they took silver at the 2006 Olympics—the first U.S. ice dancing medal since 1976. (Belbin became a U.S. citizen in 2005.) Agosto, who is Chicago born and bred, plays guitar and piano and wants to be in a blues band. But in Vancouver the song he and Belbin most want to hear is their national anthem.

NORDIC COMBINED

In 2002 BILL DEMONG cracked his head on the bottom of a pool, suffering a fractured skull and short-term memory loss. He recovered, but at last year's worlds Demong's relay team was DQ'd because he forgot to wear his bib. He put the gaffe behind him and won individual gold. Can Demong, 29, win the U.S.'s first Olympic medal in his sport (ski jumping plus cross-country)? That would be something to remember.

FIGURE SKATING

There's no question EVAN LYSACEK can skate. But can he stay healthy? In 2006 Lysacek, suffering from a bacterial infection, needed an IV to treat dehydration after his Olympic short program. (He finished 10th.) A month later he won bronze at the world championships despite still battling the infection. Last year he won at worlds with a stress fracture in his left foot. This year? Lysacek, 24, is a healthy bet to win his first Olympic medal, perhaps alongside teammate Jeremy Abbott.

SKELETON

NOELLE PIKUS-PACE was the Olympic favorite when a rogue bobsled ran into her and broke her right leg four months before the '06 Games. She missed Turin but came back to win the 2007 worlds by the largest margin in history. After taking a year off to have her first child, she's ready, at 27, to finally chase the gold medal.

SKELETON

On the eve of the 2006 Games, ZACH LUND, then the world's top-ranked slider, was suspended for a year for using a banned hair-replacement drug. (It was later removed from the WADA prohibited list.) He returned to win the World Cup title in '07. Now 30 (and bald), Lund will finally make his Olympic debut in Vancouver.

BOBSLED

Driving blind? It wasn't just an expression for STEVE HOLCOMB, who as recently as 2008 was competing despite barely being able to see because of a degenerative eye disorder. Surgery improved his 20-500 vision to 20-20, and last year Holcomb drove the men's four to Team USA's first world championship in half a century.

SKELETON

Since finishing sixth in Turin, KATIE UHLAENDER has won two overall World Cup titles; if not for a snowmobile accident that shattered her left kneecap last year, she might be the favorite in Vancouver. Uhlaender is still regaining her form after three operations, but inspiration won't be a problem: She wears around her neck the 1972 World Series ring earned by her late father, Ted, a former Reds outfielder.

LUGE

No U.S. woman has won an Olympic luge medal, but ERIN HAMLIN knows how to break a streak. German women had won 99 straight international competitions and 19 of the last 20 world titles heading into the 2009 world championships, but Hamlin pulled a stunning upset on her home track in Lake Placid. She's the first U.S. woman to win a world title.

SPEEDSKATING

The U.S. is stacked, but even among stars like Shani Davis and Apolo Ohno, CHAD HEDRICK(left) shines. The former in-line skating star broke out at the Turin Games, winning a gold, a silver and a bronze. Who's this year's Hedrick? Keep an eye on TREVOR MARSICANO(middle), who won four medals at the '09 World Single Distance Championships, and TUCKER FREDRICKS(right), one of the world's top sprinters and the 2007 World Cup champ at 500 meters.

WOMEN'S ICE HOCKEY

Do these ladies look like villains to you? They will to many fans in Vancouver; the rivalry between the U.S. (one gold medal since women's hockey became an Olympic sport in 1998) and Canada (the other two) is the most heated in the Games. This is the fourth Olympics for defenseman ANGELA RUGGIERO(second from right) and forward JENNY POTTER(third from right). Captain NATALIE DARWITZ(third from left) is only 26, but when she was 15 she was the youngest player ever on the national team; she and forward JULIE CHU(far left), a Harvard grad and the NCAA career points leader, are playing in their third Games. Forward HILARY KNIGHT(far right) and goalie JESSIE VETTER(second from left) are Olympic rookies, but their résumés are solid. Knight led Wisconsin to the NCAA championship last year. Vetter won three NCAA titles at Wisconsin—and in Little League homered off the son of women's hockey coach Mark Johnson.

CROSS-COUNTRY

How big is KIKKAN RANDALL in her home state of Alaska? In 2008 she filled in as a celebrity judge in a cooking contest—for Sarah Palin, who had to drop out. The two-time Olympian deserves the fame: Randall is the only U.S. woman to win a medal at a world championships (a sprint silver in '09), and her ninth-place finish in Turin was the best ever by a U.S. woman in the Olympics.

Get the latest Team USA news from Brian Cazeneuve and the view from Vancouver at SI.com/Olympics

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TWELVE PHOTOSPhotographs by Michael O'Neill THIRTEEN PHOTOS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)