Winter Olympics 2018: Meet Michigan's Olympians

More than 30 athletes with Michigan ties will take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, this month. Free Press special writer Mark Spezia takes a look at them, along with medal predictions by Sports Illustrated's Brian Cazeneuve:

Bobsled

Sam McGuffie 

Michigan tie: Ex-Michigan football player. 

Olympic outlook:Less than three years after taking up bobsled, McGuffie will be a four-man bobsled pusher and two-man bobsled brakeman for Team USA. The 29-year-old, who reportedly still runs a 4.3-second 40-yard dash, had 661 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns in 2008, his only season with U-M before transferring to Rice. McGuffie has helped Team USA win five medals in World Cup events and placed fifth at last year's World Championships in the two-man bobsled. Winning an Olympic medal will be difficult with the way Germany dominates the sport.

Cross country skiing

Rosie Frankowski 

Michigan tie: Northern Michigan University graduate

Olympic outlook:Three-time All-American at Northern Michigan, including placing second at the NCAA Championships. Last month, she cemented a place on Team USA by taking third at the National 20K Championship in Alaska

Ice Dancing

Evan Bates

Michigan tie: Ann Arbor Huron and Michigan graduate; trains with partner Madison Chock at Novi Ice Arena.

Madison Chock

Michigan tie: Novi High School and Schoolcraft College graduate.

Olympic outlook: Bates, who was named captain of the United States Olympic figure skating team last month, is skating in his second Olympics with Chock and third overall. He finished 11th with former partner Emily Samuelson in 2010 and took eighth with Chock in 2014. Since then, Bates and Chock have fared much better on the international stage, earning a silver medal at the World Championships in 2015, bronze in 2016 before finishing seventh last year. The pair, who began skating together in 2011, were national champions in 2015, placed second in 2014, ‘16 and ’17 and were third at last month’s nationals. They should be medal contenders in Pyeongchang.

Madison Hubbell

Michigan tie: Okemos native

Olympic outlook: Hubbell and partner Zach Donohue won their first national title last month. They edged siblings and two-time defending champions Maia and Alex Shibutani of Ann Arbor by just .19 points. As a result, Hubbell and Donahue, who train in Montreal, are heading to the Olympics for the first time.  Their best World Championships finish was sixth, in 2016, but they’ll still be expected to contend for an Olympic medal.

Maia Shibutani 

Michigan tie: Ann Arbor Huron graduate; Michigan alum.

Alex Shibutani 

Michigan tie: Ann Arbor Huron graduate; Michigan alum.

Olympic outlook: The Shibutani siblings, who train at Arctic Edge Arena in Canton, are making their second Olympic appearance after placing ninth in 2014. They are strong medal contenders and are picked to win bronze by Sports Illustrated's Brian Cazeneuve. The Shibutanis have three World Championship medals:  silver in 2016 and bronze in ’11 and ’17. They enter the Olympics after a runner-up finish at the national championships, when Maia fell during the free dance. The Shibutanis were the only athletes with Michigan ties to make CBSsports.com's American Athletes to Watchlist heading into the Winter Games.

Men's hockey

Chad Billins     

Michigan tie: Marysville graduate; ex- Ferris State and Grand Rapids Griffins standout.

Olympic outlook: Billins, a USA Hockey defenseman, was a second-team All-American during his senior year at Ferris, helping the Bulldogs to their first Frozen Four berth, in 2012. He helped Grand Rapids win the Calder Cup in 2013 before bouncing around the American Hockey League, the Kontinental Hockey League and Swedish League the next five seasons. He played in 10 games for the Calgary Flames in 2013-14, recording three assists. Billins now plays for Linköping HC in the Swedish League.

Pavel Datsyuk 

Michigan tie: ex-Detroit Red Wings star

Olympic outlook: Datsyuk, who is part of the Olympic Athletes from Russia team, was a three-time All-Star, four-time Lady Byng Trophy winner and three-time Selke Award winner during his 14 seasons in Detroit (2001-16). He helped the Red Wings to Stanley Cups in '02 and '08 and finished with 314 goals and 614 assists in 953 games. Datsyuk, 39, left Detroit for Russia in 2016, and spent the past two seasons with St. Petersburg of the KHL. It's his fifth Olympics. He helped Russia win bronze in 2002. 

Andrew Ebbett     

Michigan tie: ex-Michigan standout.

Olympic outlook: The forward, who will play for Canada, was named Michigan's Most Valuable Player during his senior season (2005-06), then spent  nine seasons in the NHL and AHL. Ebbett played for six NHL teams from 2007-15, appearing in 224 games and finishing with 26 goals and 45 assists. He has spent the past three seasons with Bern in the Swiss National League. He leads the team this season with 46 points (13 goals, 33 assists) in 47 games.  Canada has won gold the last two Olympics, but Cazeneuve picks the Canadians to win silver behind Sweden. 

Jordan Greenway

Michigan tie: National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor.

Olympic outlook: The first African-American to play hockey for Team USA in the Olympics, Greenway, a Boston University junior, is one of college hockey's best players. He has 18 goals and 47 assists in 89 career games for BU, including five game-winning goals.

Erik Gustafsson 

Michigan tie: ex-Northern Michigan University standout.

Olympic outlook: The defenseman was a two-time All-American in three seasons at Northern Michigan (2007-10). He spent the next five seasons playing with the Philadelphia Flyers and the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms. He has played in the Swiss League and KHL since then and currently suits up for Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik in the KHL. Cazeneuve picks Sweden to win its first hockey gold since 2006. The Swedes will be led by Rasmus Dahlin, who is expected to be the No. 1 pick in this year's NHL Draft.

Chad Kolarik     

Michigan tie: Ex-Michigan standout; U.S. National Team Development Program.

Olympic outlook: USA Hockey forward was a second-team All-American during his senior season with the Wolverines (2007-08). Since then, he has bounced around the AHL, KHL, Swedish League and Swiss League  before spending the past two seasons with Adler Mannheim in Germany. He leads the team with 44 points (22 goals, 22 assists) in 44 games. Kolarik also played in six NHL games during stints with the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers from 2009-11.

Brandon Maxwell

Michigan tie: National Team Development Program.

Olympic outlook: One of Team USA's three goaltenders, Maxwell has spent the past five seasons in the Czech League. He is in his second season with Mlada Boleslav. Maxwell has a 2.42 goals-against average and .920 save percentage with three shutouts this season.  

Brock Radunske 

Michigan tie: ex-Michigan State standout; played for Grand Rapids Griffins.

Olympic outlook: Radunske, a forward, has played professionally in South Korea since 2008 and will compete for the country in the Olympics after being one of 16 foreign athletes granted citizenship under changes to the country’s immigration laws. He is currently playing for Anyang Halla and has 11 points (five goals six assists) in 23 games. Radunske played for the Spartans from 2001-04. 

Jim Slater  

Michigan tie: Lapeer native; ex-Michigan State standout

Olympic outlook: USA Hockey forward played 10 seasons for the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets before spending the past three seasons playing in Switzerland. He had  67 goals and 71 assists over 584 NHL games after being named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award — hockey’s Heisman trophy — at MSU. He is currently playing for Fribourg-Gotteron HC   in the Swiss League and is third on the team with 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 42 games. Cazeneuve does not pick Team USA to win a medal, but NHL players are not participating for the first time since 1994, making this Olympics more difficult to predict.

Ryan Stoa

Michigan tie: National Team Development Program.

Olympic outlook: Ex-University of Minnesota standout played for AHL and NHL teams from 2009-14 and now will suit up for Team USA. He got into 40 games in stints with the Colorado Avalanche and Washington Capitals and had four goals and three assists. Currently playing for Moscow Spartak. Stoa is third on the team with 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) in 51 games. 

Troy Terry

Michigan tie: National Team Development Program.

Olympic outlook: Terry, a forward, is in his third season at University of Denver after helping the Pioneers to an NCAA Championship last year. Has 42 goals and 57 assists in 104 career games at Denver.

James Wisniewski     

Michigan tie: Canton native; ex-Plymouth Whalers standout

Olympic outlook: Wisniewski, of USA Hockey, was a productive defenseman for six NHL teams from 2006-16, finishing with 221 goals and 274 assists in 552 games. He led the Columbus Blue Jackets with 44 assists during the 2013-14 season, played for a KHL team in Russia last season and is currently with the Kassel Huskies in Germany. Wisniewski is third on the team in points with 44 (nine goals, 35 assists) in 33 games.

Women's hockey

Megan Keller 

Michigan tie: North Farmington High graduate

Olympic outlook: Keller, a two-time All-American at Boston College, took a leave of absence this season to compete for USA. She will return to BC in August for her senior season and already is the school's career leader in defenseman scoring (115 points) and defenseman assists (89). She was the college hockey’s top-scoring blue-liner as a sophomore and junior. Keller has helped USA to three world titles (2015-17), but the U.S.  has not won Olympic gold since 1998.

Short-track speed skating

Jessica (Smith) Kooreman 

Michigan tie: Melvindale native, Allen Park Cabrini graduate.

Olympic outlook: Kooreman finished fourth in the 1,000 meters, sixth in the 1,500 and 30th in the 500 at the 2014 Olympics after winning all three events at the Olympic Trials. She will compete in the 500 and 1,000 in Pyeongchang after placing second in both events at the Olympic Trials. Kooreman appears to be a long shot to earn a medal because she ranked 27th in the world in the 1,000 and 35th in the 500 by the International Skating Union. She married Grand Rapids native Mike Kooreman, a former speedskater who is part of the Team USA staff, in 2015. Her brother-in-law, Matt Kooreman, is Team USA's coach. 

Ryan Pivirotto

Michigan tie: Ann Arbor native 

Olympic outlook: Pivirotto will skate for USA in the 5,000-meter relay. The team is ranked third by the International Skating Union and is a solid medal contender. Brian Cazeneuve does not pick USA for a medal, but adds "the United States could nab a medal."

Snowboarding

Nick Baumgartner

Michigan tie: Iron River West Iron County graduate. 

Olympic outlook: Baumgartner is competing in snowboard cross for Team USA for the third time, having finished 25th in 2014 and 20th in 2010. In recent years, Baumgartner won bronze at the World Championship (2015) and placed fourth in 2017. He has finished in the top nine of the World Cup season standings eight times, including ninth last year which, and has an outside chance to medal. Cazeneuve did not pick him to medal, but Baumgartner did finish fourth overall and ahead of the man picked for gold — Australia's Alex Pullin — at a World Cup event in Turkey last week.

Kyle Mack 

Michigan tie: West Bloomfield native; Pontiac High School graduate.

Olympic outlook: Mack makes his Olympic debut with USA after winning the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix slopestyle event in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., on Jan. 20. He will compete in the slopestyle and big air events in South Korea. Mack has an outside shot at a medal, having won bronze in slopestyle and big air at the 2015 World Championships. A year later, he captured the prestigious Burton U.S. Open, becoming the first man to land back-to-back triple corks during that competition. 

Other Michigan ties

Men's hockey

Chris Chelios, USA Hockey assistant (Red Wings assistant)

Tony Granato, USA Hockey assistant (ex-Red Wings assistant)

JIm Paek, South Korea men's hockey coach (ex-Grand Rapids Griffins assistant; played for Muskegon Lumberjacks). 

Ron Rolston, USA Hockey assistant (Fenton native; ex-Flint Powers Catholic/Michigan Tech standout; ex-Buffalo Sabres coach)

Women's hockey

Sarah Murray, Korean women's hockey coach (daughter of WMU hockey coach Andy Murray)

Ice dancing

Alisa Agafonova/Alper Ucar, Turkey (train at Detroit Skating Club)

Nicholas Buckland, Great Britain (trains at Novi Ice Arena)

Yura Min/Alexander Gamelin, South Korea (train at Novi Ice Arena)

Cortney Mansour/Michal Ceska, Czech Republic (trains at Novi Ice Arena)

Oleksandra Nikitin/Maxim Niktin, Ukraine (train at Novi Ice Arena)

© 2018 Detroit Free Press


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