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Meet the athletes competing in Beijing 2022 Olympics with ties to Michigan


John Niyo of The Detroit News takes a look at this year's Olympians competing in Beijing with ties to the state of Michigan.

Evan Bates 

Connection: Ann Arbor

Sport: Figure skating — Ice dance

Competition dates: Feb. 4, 7, 12, 14

The skinny: The 32-year-old Ann Arbor native will make history in Beijing as the only U.S. figure skater to compete in four Olympics. And he’ll make a third trip with dance partner Madison Chock, with whom Bates — a graduate of Ann Arbor Huron and the University of Michigan — has won three national titles, including the Olympic trials earlier this month. Bates and Chock, who moved their training base from Canton to Montreal after the 2018 Games, have won two world championship medals and were fourth at last year’s worlds.

Nick Baumgartner

Connection: Iron River

Sport: Snowboarding — Snowboard cross

Competition dates: Feb. 10, 12

The skinny: Snowboarding may be a sport where the kids rule, but at age 40, Baumgartner — the oldest American on Team USA in Beijing still can hang with the best of them. The Iron River native, who finished fourth in snowboard cross at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, will become the oldest American snowboarder in Olympic history in Beijing, and he has a 17-year-old son Landon who is older than some of his competitors on the course.

Matty Beniers

Connection: University of Michigan

Sport: Men’s hockey

Competition dates: Feb. 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20

The skinny: Beniers, the No. 2 overall pick by Seattle in the 2021 NHL draft, grew up just outside of Boston and originally signed to play college hockey at Harvard. But when the Ivy League canceled its winter sports season due to the pandemic two years ago, Beniers landed in Ann Arbor, where he skates on the top line with U.S. teammate Brendan Brisson for the top-ranked Wolverines.

Brendan Brisson

Connection: University of Michigan

Sport: Men’s hockey

Competition dates: Feb. 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20

The skinny: Brisson centers the Wolverines’ top line, but he’s been surrounded by hockey’s best for most of his life, thanks to his father, Pat Brisson, one of the most prominent agents in sports. A first-round pick by the Vegas Golden Knights last summer, Brisson scored a pair of goals for gold-medal winning Team USA at the 2021 world junior championships.

Madison Hubbell

Connection: Lansing

Sport: Figure skating — Ice dance

Competition dates: Feb. 4, 7, 12, 14

The skinny: Hubbell, a 30-year-old Lansing native, announced this will be her final season of competition with dance partner Zachary Donohue. Together they’ve won three U.S. titles — they took silver behind friendly rivals Evan Bates (Ann Arbor) and Madison Chock at nationals earlier this month — and they’ll head to Beijing as the reigning world silver medalists. Four years ago, they finished fourth in their Olympic debut, edged out for the bronze by another Michigan pair (Alex and Maia Shibutani) in the free dance final.

Zoe Kalapos

Connection: Beverly Hills

Sport: Snowboarding — women’s halfpipe

Competition dates: Feb. 9, 10

The skinny: Kalapos grew up in Michigan and learned to ski and snowboard at Boyne Highlands. Her father, Steve, even built a mini terrain park in the family’s backyard they dubbed “Mt. Kalapos.” But at 14, she moved to Colorado with her father and brother to pursue her snowboarding career. The 24-year-old Kalapos finished third at last year’s national championships, and she has a pair of top-15 finishes at world championships (2017, ’21)

Steven Kampfer

Connection: Jackson

Sport: Men’s hockey

Competition dates: Feb. 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20

The skinny: Kampfer, who grew up in Jackson, is one of seven players with NHL experience on a Team USA roster stacked with collegiate talent. The 33-year-old former Michigan defenseman (2006-10) was a fourth-round pick by Anaheim, but spent most of his NHL career with the Boston Bruins, earning a Stanley Cup ring in 2011. Kampfer signed to play in Russia with Ak Bars in the KHL this season.

Megan Keller

Connection: Farmington Hills

Sport: Women’s hockey

Competition dates: Feb. 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17

The skinny: Keller was still in college when she won Olympic gold with Team USA in 2018. But now the 25-year-old defenseman, who started skating at age 3 and insisted on wearing full hockey gear for skating lessons as young child, is back for more as one of 13 returning players for the American squad. Keller, who starred at Boston College, has won four world championships with the national team.

Kaila Kuhn

Connection: Boyne City

Sport: Freestyle skiing — women’s aerials

Competition dates: Feb. 10, 13, 14

The skinny: At 18, Kuhn is the youngest woman on the U.S. freestyle ski team headed to the Olympics. The Boyne City native started skiing as a toddler and with her background as a competitive gymnast, she took the advice of Winter Vinecki — fellow Olympian and Michigan native — to give aerials a try at age 12. That soon led to a move to Park City, Utah, to a promising junior career with the U.S. team, and last year Kuhn recorded her first World Cup podium finishes.

Strauss Mann

Connection: University of Michigan

Sport: Men’s hockey

Competition dates: Feb. 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20

The skinny: A two-time All-Big Ten selection (2020-21) for the Wolverines, Mann was the first goaltender ever to be selected captain at Michigan. Now 23, he’s playing professionally in Europe, leading the Swedish Hockey League in goals-against average (1.87) and save percentage (.927) for second-place Skelleftea AIK. Mann, a Connecticut native, is expected to be Team USA’s starter in net in Beijing.

Andy Miele

Connection: Grosse Pointe Woods

Sport: Men’s hockey

Competition dates: Feb. 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20

The skinny: Miele, 33, grew up playing hockey in Grosse Pointe Woods before starring in college at Miami (Ohio), where he won the Hobey Baker Award as the nation's top player in 2011. An undersized forward (5-foot-7) he went undrafted, but spent three seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes organization and two more with the Grand Rapids Griffins before playing overseas. He played for Team USA at the world championships in 2011 and '14.

Pat Nagle

Connection: Bloomfield Hills

Sport: Men’s hockey

Competition dates: Feb. 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20

The skinny: At 34, Nagle will be the oldest player on the U.S. men's roster in Beijing. But the former Ferris State goalie, who has spent the last decade as a minor-league goaltender, including a few years with the Grand Rapids Griffins, will be counted on for his veteran presence on a roster that includes 15 college players.

Ryan Pivirotto

Connection: Ann Arbor

Sport: Short track speedskating

Competition dates: Feb. 5, 7, 9, 11, 13

The skinny: Pivirotto, 26, contemplated retiring from the sport after the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, where he was an alternate on the U.S team but didn’t get an opportunity to compete. But now the Ann Arbor native, who moved to Connecticut with his family when he was 12, is one of just two men on the U.S. team, slated to compete in three individual events as well as the mixed relay.

Abby Roque

Connection: Sault Ste. Marie

Sport: Women’s hockey

Competition dates: Feb. 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17► The skinny: Roque, who grew up in Sault Ste. Marie as a member of the Wahnapitae First Nation tribe, will be the first Indigenous woman to represent Team USA in hockey at the Olympics. But the 24-year-old Roque, whose father, Jim, is an NHL scout with the Maple Leafs, also may be the best women’s player in the world. And the former NCAA champ at Wisconsin — she played high school hockey on the boys’ team in the Soo — will make her Olympic debut as the Americans defend their 2018 gold medal.

Jake Vedder

Connection: Pinckney

Sport: Snowboarding — Snowboard cross

Competition dates: Feb. 10, 12

The skinny: Vedder, 23, was a late addition to the U.S, snowboarding team this week, replacing former Olympic bronze medalist Alex Deibold, who suffered a head injury last week at a World Cup race in Italy. Vedder, who learned to ski as a toddler at Mt. Brighton, has been a member of the U.S. ski team since 2016 and won a junior world title in 2018. He finished fourth at a Worlld Cup race last January. 

Winter Vinecki

Connection: Gaylord

Sport: Freestyle skiing — women’s aerials

Competition dates: Feb. 10, 13, 14

The skinny: Vinecki, 23, of Gaylord, started her own nonprofit as a 9-year-old to fund prostate cancer research after losing her father to the disease. She set a world record at 14 as the youngest runner to complete marathons on all seven continents. And a decade after taking up freestyle aerials, Vinecki, who missed the 2018 Olympics due to a knee injury, is a medal contender after finishing second in the World Cup standings last year.

john.niyo@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @JohnNiyo