Top Winter Olympic Athletes from Team USA Have Strong Ties to Marquette Michigan

Past, present and future Olympic athletes, many of whom will be competing in Vancouver this month, have carb loaded on the pad Thai at Aoy’s in Marquette, Michigan. They’ve spent hours running the trails at Presque Isle, blasted around Blueberry Ridge a thousand times on XC skis or passed days on blades spinning loops around the ice track in the Berry Events Center. They’re Olympians who have trained in or raced in or lived in or studied in Marquette, and you will see some or all of them beamed in HD from Vancouver this month. Here’s a primer.

Shani Davis: Long-Track Skater

Speedskater Shani Davis, the first black athlete ever to win a gold medal in an individual event at a Winter Olympics (gold in the 1000-meter in Torino), is expected to add more golds to his count in Vancouver. As the reigning world champion and record holder in the 1000- and 1500-meter events, Davis is looking like a bionically sure bet.

The skater broke from training recently to wax nostalgic about Marquette—the city he’s called a second home since living and going to school here while training at the United States Olympic Education Center off and on beginning in 2000.

When was the last time you were in Marquette?

I was in Marquette for the short track Olympic trials, which were held sometime in September of ‘09. I was at the time training in Milwaukee, and I decided to drive up and watch and support my fellow teammates.

What do you miss most about living in Marquette?

I really miss the atmosphere and the seasons of Marquette. I love the changing weather as well as the Superior Dome that sticks out from the lakefront. I miss the water, the beautiful lakes, and I hate to admit, but I also miss the schooling. I went to school and took classes there since high school, and I hope to someday continue my education and hopefully finish my studies as well up there. I miss the food, too. Especially the Rice Paddy!!

The owner of the Rice Paddy, Aoy LaChapelle, is a good friend of yours. Care to share what you order when you stop in to see her?

Ever since my second mother, Aoy, and I became close, I don’t order. I usually just show up, sweep the floor and let her work her magic in the kitchen.

Do you stay in contact with the staff at the Olympic Education Center?

Actually from time to time I will get a call or email out of the blue from Tony Tollefson [academic coordinator at the USOEC]. I wish we talked more and stayed in touch, but I always know they are a phone call or an email away. So if I ever need anything from them, I know that they wouldn’t be hard to find!

For more on Shani Davis read Shani Davis Loves Marquette (Marquette Loves Him Back).

Kimberly Derrick: Short-Track Skater

Vancouver marks Kimberly Derrick’s second Olympics, following her debut in Torino, Italy, in 2006. Short-track skating observers predict that her best medal possibilities are in the 1000-meter (ranked 3rd in World Cup standings) and 1,500-meter individual races and the 3000-meter relay. Derrick was born in Arkansas (the first person born in the state to compete in a winter Olympics), and moved to Marquette to train at the USOEC when she entered college.

She spent four years in Marquette, earning an elementary education degree and emerging as one of the top U.S. short track women’s skaters. Derrick’s first Olympics were marked by the sudden death of her grandfather in Torino where he had traveled to see her compete. He was one of the central people in her life, and he died just hours before she raced. Look for her to be in top form this year.

Katherine Reutter: Short-Track Skater

Reutter is making her first Olympic appearance this year, but short-track skating insiders are expecting great things from this 21-year-old who hails from the same hometown (Champaign, Illinois) as legendary women’s skater Bonnie Blair. Reutter even credits Blair with having a role in Reutter’s moving to Marquette to train at the United States Olympic Education Center when she was 16.

She heard Blair speak at a high school symposium, and her stories helped Reutter realize she had to step up her commitment to the sport if she was going to succeed, so she worked hard to qualify for the USOEC program in Marquette. Accepted in 2005, she was the youngest skater in the program at the time. The training regimen quickly paid off and shortly after arriving in Marquette, Reutter won the Junior National title.

Reutter trained in Marquette until 2007, when she moved to the training center in Utah. Reutter still trains with Kimberly Derrick, whom she met and lived with in Marquette. Reutter heads into the 2010 Olympics ranked No. 2 worldwide in the 1000-meter.

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