The Heartland will be well represented in this year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver Feb. 12-28.
Lindsey Kildow Vonn, who grew up skiing at Minnesota's Buck Hill, is America's top female racer and one of the best ever in the sport. She is just the latest ski racer to come out of the Buck Hill racing program taught by legendary coach Erich Sailer. That program produced past champions Kristina Koznick and Tasha Nelson, among others.
Vonn, who was enticed to the Buck Hill racing program by doughnuts and hot chocolate served after ski race training, was racing every night at Buck by the age of 7. She will be competing in five events and could medal in all. She now lives in Utah, but still has lots of supporters in the Gopher State and across the Midwest who will be cheering her on.
Snowboarder Louie Vito grew up in Bellefontaine, Ohio, riding at Mad River Mountain with his dad, Louie Sr. Showing early talent, he attended Stratton Academy in Vermont for high school and burst on the snowboard scene in 2005 with big superpipe victories in New Zealand and Australia. Today, he excels in all aspects of the sport: pipe, slope style, rails, and back-country kickers. He's probably best known for his technical expertise and back-to-back 1080s.
While Vonn and Vito are the best known Heartlanders to compete in this year's Olympics, there are several other Midwestern U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team members that could make an impact in this and future Olympics.
Ski racer Kaylin Richardson of Edina, Minn., started skiing at Hyland Ski & Snowboard Area near Minneapolis when she was 5. She was the 2006 U.S. slalom champion and downhill champ in 2007 and last year.
Snowboarder Mason Aguirre, who grew up riding at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Snowboarding Team in 2006 when he just missed a medal finishing fourth in the half-pipe competition.
Nick Baumgartner, an Iron Mountain, Mich., native who honed his skills at Ski Brule, has wrapped up the fourth and final U.S. Olympic berth in men's snowboardcross for the Vancouver Games. The 27-year-old is ranked third in the U.S. and fourth in the world in snowboardcross. He won a bronze medal at last year's world championships.
Snowboarder Steve Fisher, originally from St. Louis Park, Minn., won a World Cup half pipe event in 2005 and finished second in a U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix in Colorado last season.
Sterling Grant, another Sailer protégé, began skiing at age 2 at Trollhaugen Ski Area along the Wisconsin/Minnesota border before joining the Buck Hill program. She was last season's NorAm slalom champion and finished second in the 2007 National Championships.
Freestyle aerialist Jana Lindsey from Black Hawk, S.D., began skiing at nearby Terry Peak. She competed in the 2006 Olympic winter games and won last season's national championships.
Another freestyle aerialist Allison Treleaven, Fort Wayne, Ind., was the FIS Rookie of the Year in 2008.
Other Midwest ski racing and freestyle past champions include: Chuck Ferries, Houghton, Mich., two-time Olympian during the 1950s; Barbara Ferries, Houghton, won a bronze downhill medal in 1962; Cindy Nelson, who grew up skiing at Lutsen, was the 1976 Olympic downhill bronze medalist, won three World Championship medals, and seven U.S. titles; Cary Adgate, who grew up skiing at Boyne Mountain, was a two-time Olympian and won four U.S. slalom titles; Trace Worthington, a Minneapolis native and two-time freestyle Olympian, won 37 World Cup events, 12 U.S. titles, and two gold medals at the 1995 World Freestyle Championships; Steve Roxberg, from Lakeville, Minn., was a two-time U.S. freestyle champ; and Ian Edmondson, from Birmingham, Mich., a 1999 World Freestyle champion, won 11 World Cup Events.
The Midwest has a long proud history of producing great champions. Stand tall Heartland hopefuls.