With the Super Bowl hype finally coming to an end, nurse it’s time to focus our attention to the 2014 Winter Olympics, stuff which start this Thursday. Between hockey, ice skating, skiing and curling, we get to see the best of the best from each country (Team USA is sending 236 athletes alone!) compete for the next three weeks in Sochi, Russia.
This week, we’re back to the Chicago theme and featuring three talented Illinois athletes as our HAM(s) of the Week. In fact, the state is sending six of the nine U.S. men’s long-track speed skating team to Sochi. Keep an eye out for these famous names:
Jason Brown Hometown: Highland Park Age: 19 Sport: Ice Skating
The 411: This guy is an all-around superstar and brings his natural charisma to the U.S. men’s figure skating team. He’s a 2014 U.S. national silver medalist (placing third in the short program and first in the free skate), a two-time World Junior medalist (silver in 2013, bronze in 2012). His amazing 2013 World Junior Championship routine garnered national attention (and made him a bona-fide YouTube star) and it’s basically the reason why we’re falling in love with him. Plus, it’s not every day your hometown names a day for you.
Brown began skating at age three and won his first national title at 11. Brown placed third at a Grand Prix event in Paris and 5th at 2013 Skate America. He’s also well-known for his ponytail, which has its own Twitter account.
Here I am flowing in the wind during Jason’s long program pic.twitter.com/wG4lJGmyPm
— Jason’s Ponytail (@2014PonyPower) January 19, 2014
And when you’ve got praise from skating greats like Johnny Weir, you know you’re definitely one to watch.
Follow Jason at @jasonbskates.
Brian Hansen Hometown: Glenview Age: 23 Sport: Speed Skating
The 411: Hansen is en route to his second Olympics, having been a silver medalist in Vancouver in the team pursuit along with current Sochi teammate Jonathan Kuck (Kuck is also one to watch—he’s an engineering student at the University of Illinois).
Hansen also won a bronze and a silver at the World Single Distance Championships in the team pursuit in 2009 and 2012, respectively, and a silver and a bronze in the all-around at the World Junior Championships in 2010 and 2009, respectively. He claimed a top-three finish in the 1,000-meter, 1,500-meter and team pursuit races he participated in during two World Cup events this season. In the 1,500-meter, where he finished second, Hansen clocked the sixth-fastest time in history.
Hansen is currently balancing his status as a two-time Olympic athlete and as a student at Marquette University. Along with his brother Stephen, Brian is also the founder of bottlebark, a water bottle foam roller company. And he’s certainly taking everything in during his journey at Sochi.
— Brian Hansen (@BrianTHansen) January 31, 2014
Shani Davis Hometown: Chicago Age: 31 Sport: Speed Skating
The 411: The 6’2”, 185 lbs., torpedo is the most well-known speed skater of them all and the favorite in the Olympic 1,000 meters. Sochi marks Davis’ third Olympics—he won the gold medal in the 1,000 and a silver in the 1,500 meter event in Turin in 2006, along with a gold and a silver in the same two events in Vancouver in 2010 (along with the world record for the 1,000 and the 1,500). He became the first African-American to win a gold medal in an individual sport, and is vying for a three-peat.
Davis faces a touch challenge against Hansen, who took gold in the 2013 U.S. championships in the 1,500 (Davis took silver). But whereas Hansen participates in both team and individual races, Davis focuses solely on individual events—he made the Olympic team in 2002 as a relay alternate, but did not compete.
He has incredible hometown pride: Giordano’s is his comfort food and he’s a huge Bulls, Blackhawks and White Sox fan (and he even feels for us Bears fans after that loss to Green Bay).
Skating for 25 years, Davis is seen as one of the stars of this year’s Team USA. He was raised by a single mother and grew up on the South Side, putting himself in roller skates at age two and winning titles by the time he was six. If anything, Davis reminds us of the character Frozone from The Incredibles. Which is ironic, because we totally think Samuel L. Jackson could play him in a movie.
He’s also made Cosmopolitan’s “14 Hot Guys To Watch at the Winter Olympics” list. Enough said.
— Shani Davis (@ShaniDavis) January 29, 2014