The 2018 Winter Olympics will feature many athletes from the Lone Star State. Most will compete for the U.S., but a few represent other countries, to which they have ties. And their chances of success are as varied as the sports in which they will compete.
Houston Chronicle Sports Reporter David Barron says the odds of reaching the podium are not overwhelmingly in speed skater Jonathan Garcia’s favor.
“The U.S. team is one of the stronger ones in the world,” Barron says. “But, Jonathan qualified as the second skater in the 500 meters, but not in the 1,000 meters. The International Olympic Committee cut back on the number of spaces available this year to add another speed skating event. It’s typical of what the IOC does to increase participation from other countries. They’ll try to adjust the number of athletes to keep the participation level constant, which works against countries like the U.S.”
Houstonian, Sam McGuffie may be more well-known as a football player, but he is now part of the U.S. Olympic bobsled team.
“This happens a lot to former football players,” Barron says. “We have two former Texans who have medaled in bobsled.”
One of them is Justin Olsen from San Antonio. His participation is uncertain due to an emergency appendectomy. The team is hopeful he will be able to compete. Former Olympic team member Todd Hays from Del Rio was among the group that broke a 46-year long medal drought for the U.S. bobsled team at the 2002 Winter Olympics, and he’s back this year.
“Bobsled is not unlike playing football,” Barron says. “In bosled the start is key. In football the key is for the running back to hit the hole and find your way down field. For bobsled all four athletes have to hit a thousand-pound sled at the same time and get it moving and then jump inside. There’s also the equivalent of explosiveness.”
Olympic ice dancer Kaitlyn Weaver has had a circuitous path to the Olympics. There are many more female skaters than male skaters, so women are forced to relocate to find available partners.
“She was skating with a young man in Dallas and was able to make it up to the novice ranks in the United States,” Barron says. “Then her partner quit to go to college, which led her to Canada to find another partner.”
The former Houstonian is now competing as part of the Canadian Olympic team and has had some success on the international scene. Barron says that she hopes to replicate past success in the coming weeks.
A former University of Houston student is competing on Nigeria’s women’s bobsled team. The combination of Nigeria, Texas, and bobsledding may be a bit of a headscrather, but it’s part of the International Olympic Committee’s effort to grow sports in regions where they may not already have a following.
As far as other athletes with Texas ties Barron says we should still keep an eye out.
“You never know, it’s a big state,” he says. “People may slip through the cracks.”
Written by Jeremy Steen.