14 Chicago Area Athletes to Watch in the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics

14 Chicago Area Athletes to Watch in the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics

Updated Feb. 12, 2018

These local athletes will hit the slopes and the ice to compete for Olympic glory in PyeongChang this month.

“There are so many reasons why the Olympics seem to excite people around the globe,” says Peg Corboy, trustee of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation. “All humans, young and old, can relate to the challenges, struggles, and successes of athletes. The act of dreaming to be our best, like the athletes, unites us. Cheering for a team, whether it be a little league team or an Olympic team, unites us. Sharing goals, camaraderie, and general goodwill unites us. An Olympic team might begin with an individual athlete’s dream, but it can only grow with the support and encouragement of many people, coaches, mentors, friends, competitors, and supporters. Getting involved gives value to your dreams by making them a reality. For me personally, I know I have a soul when I cheer for our athletes because I can feel it; for that reason alone, supporting our team is a no-brainer.”

If you would like to learn more about the USOPF, make a donation, volunteer, or more, click here.


Aja Evans


A post shared by Aja Evans (@ajalevans) on Dec 5, 2017 at 4:48pm PST

Chicago native Aja Evans, 29, will compete in her second Olympic Games as brakeman for bobsled driver Jamie Greubel Poser, with whom Evans won an Olympic bronze medal in 2014. One of two U.S. women’s bobsled teams, the duo is one to watch. Greubel Poser ranks third in the world, and Evans has won 14 World Cup medals since 2012.

Figure Skating

Alexa Scimeca Knierim

Addison, Illinois

Alexa Scimeca Knierim, 26, returned to pairs figure skating last year after a life-threatening illness and three abdominal surgeries kept her off the ice for much of 2016. After winning gold at this year’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships, she and her husband, Chris Knierim, 30, will skate together in PyeongChang in the couple’s first Olympic Games.   

Bradie Tennell

Carpentersville, Illinois

After winning the women’s event at the U.S. Championships this year, Bradie Tennell, 19, is one of three female figure skaters representing the U.S. at the 2018 Winter Games. Tennell has trained in Buffalo Grove for the past 10 years and proves to be one of the steadiest and strongest jumpers on the team.

Ice Hockey

Kendall Coyne

Palos Heights, Illinois

Ice hockey player Kendall Coyne, 25, returns to the Winter Olympics after winning a silver medal in the 2014 Sochi Games. Known for her speed, Coyne has skated in eight Four Nations Cups and has competed in six International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships, five of which she won.

Sled Hockey 

Brody Roybal

Northlake, Illinois

A post shared by Brody Roybal (@brodyusa4) on Dec 13, 2017 at 8:37am PST

Brody Roybal, 19, will compete in his second Winter Paralympic Games following a gold medal win at the 2014 Games in Sochi when he was just 15. A member of the U.S. National Sled Hockey team, Roybal was born a congenital, bilateral amputee and has been playing sled hockey since 2006.

Josh Misiewicz

La Grange, Illinois Joe Misiewicz, 29, will compete in his first Paralympic Games in PyeongChang this year. He served with the 1st Battalion 5th Marines in Afghanistan, where he was injured on patrol by an improvised explosive devise, resulting in double above-knee amputations. He is a Blackhawks fan and is a member of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team.

Kevin McKee


A post shared by USAMcKee88 (@usamckee88) on Aug 8, 2017 at 6:11pm PDT

Olympic gold medallist Kevin McKee, 27, will return to his second consecutive Paralympic Games this 2018. Born with sacral agenesis, McKee has played on the national team for four years now and is ranked third on the team following December’s World Sled Hockey Challenge.

Long Track Speed Skating

Shani Davis

A post shared by Wintrust (@wintrust) on Dec 11, 2017 at 5:37pm PST

Chicago Chicago native Shani Davis, 35, became the first African-American athlete to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics when he won the 1,000-meter speed skating race in 2006. Davis, who learned to skate in Evanston, holds two gold medals and two silver medals from previous Olympic Games. 2018 marks his fifth Olympic Games and follows his eighth place finish in Sochi.

Brian Hansen

Glenview, Illinois

A post shared by Brian Hansen (@brianthansen) on Dec 11, 2017 at 3:58pm PST

Brian Hansen, 27, grew up skating at the Northbrook Speed Skating Club. His Olympic career began in 2010, when he won a silver medal in men’s team pursuit. After placing seventh and ninth at the Sochi Games, Hansen took a break from speed skating, but will return to the ice again in PyeongChang.

Emery Lehman

Oak Park, Illinois

A junior at Marquette University, Emery Lehman, 21, joins the seven-member men’s team pursuit at the 2018 Olympics. This is the second Olympic Games for Lehman, who competed in the 5,000-meter and 1,0000-meter speed skating races in 2014.

Short Track Speed Skating 

Lana Gehring

Glenview, Illinois     

A post shared by Lana Gehring (@lagehring1) on Dec 5, 2017 at 7:30pm PST

2010 Olympic bronze medalist Lana Gehring, 27, will return to short track speed skating at the 2018 Olympic Games after winning the women’s 1,000-meter, 1,500-meter, and overall at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Despite not qualifying for the Olympics in 2014, Gehring is a five-time world champion speed skater and one to watch this year.

Ski Jumping

Kevin Bickner

Wauconda, Illinois

Kevin Bickner, 21, will make his Olympic debut in PyeongChang. The “ski jumping prodigy” set the U.S. distance record in 2017 at 244.5 meters.

Michael Glasder

Cary, Illinois  After just barely missing the mark to qualify for the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, Michael Glasder, 28, will compete in his first Olympic Games this year. He might be the oldest member on the team, but Glasder holds the top spot. He has trained with the same coach since he was 5 years old, and he is the first member of Fox River Grove’s Norge Ski Club to compete in the Olympics since its founding in 1905.

Casey Larson

Barrington, Illinois


A post shared by Casey Larson (@caseylarson) on Jan 25, 2018 at 12:12pm PST

Casey Larson, 19, has been skiing since he was 6 years old and will compete at his first Olympic Games in 2018. He finished in sixth place at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.


Get into the Olympic spirit with your family at the Chicago Children’s Museum

In anticipation of the Winter Olympics, Chicago Children’s Museum has introduced an exhibit called “Heart & Seoul: Growing up in Korea,” which brings modern-day South Korea to life in the museum. The exhibit was designed with the help of South Korean children to provide an interactive experience for kids and parents to step into South Korea and experience the culture, history, and ways of life. The exhibit runs from Jan. 24 through May 6. Visit chicagochildrensmuseum.org for more information.


More from Make It Better: 

Macon Bianucci

Macon Bianucci is a student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She is an intern at Make It Better for her final quarter at Northwestern, and she enjoys writing about social justice issues and politics. Macon is a longtime supporter of The Foundation For Tomorrow, a NGO in Tanzania that provides education and support for orphaned and vulnerable children. 







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