Only a few chances left for Washingtonians to medal at Sochi

TJ Oshie is playing for the US Olympic hockey team this year. (Photo by sarah_connors via Flickr)
TJ Oshie is playing for the US Olympic hockey team this year. (Photo by sarah_connors via Flickr)

The United States sent 230 athletes to Sochi this year to compete in the winter Olympics. Nine of those athletes – or eight if a certain hockey star cannot be claimed – hail from the state of Washington.

That number ranks Washington as one of the top ten states to send Olympians to this year’s winter games.

Washington sent four cross-country skiers (Erik Bjornsen, Sadie Bjornsen, Brian Gregg and Torin Koos), two freestyle skiers (Patrick Deneen and Angeli VanLaanen), a luger (Christian Niccum), a speed skater (J.R. Celski) and a hockey player (T.J. Oshie).

But while sending athletes is good, everyone knows that the athletes have one thing on their minds: winning a medal. That task, so far, has proven difficult for the Washingtonians in Sochi.

Erik and Sadie Bjornsen, who are brother and sister, have failed to medal so far with their best finish between them being Sadie’s ninth place finish in the 4×5 km relay event. Erik still has a chance to medal with the men’s team sprint classic event as qualification will happen on Wednesday in Sochi.

The other two cross-country skiers, Koos and Gregg, have both failed to medal as well. Koos failed to qualify for the finals of the men’s sprint free competition. Gregg placed 47th in both events he was in.

Angeli VanLaanen, a freestyle skier from Bellingham who was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2009, is set to compete in the women’s freestyle ski half-pipe – an event which is making its debut at the Olympic games – on Feb. 20.

Patrick Deneen, the other freestyle skier, managed to qualify for the finals of men’s moguls back on Feb. 10. But he failed to medal, placing sixth in two different runs.

Christian Niccum, the lone luger from Washington, participated in the team luge relay on Feb. 13. The United States relay team was only able to manage a sixth place finish meaning he will not win a medal.

J.R. Celski is likely the biggest name that people knew from Washington before the Olympic games. Celski won two bronze medals in speed skating at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. His name is known around the country, not just in Washington.

Celski has gotten closer than any other Washingtonian so far, placing fourth in the men’s 1500m speed skating event.

The entire United States speed skating team is currently struggling, but Celski has managed to qualify for the men’s 500 m event that will take place on Friday in Sochi.

The last Olympian is the one that only some people consider a Washingtonian. T.J. Oshie was born in Everett, Wash, but attended high school in Minnesota. He is currently a star forward for the St. Louis Blues of the NHL.

On Saturday, Oshie put the United States hockey team over Russia by scoring four out of six shootout goals and was in headlines across the U.S. The U.S. team will face the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals on Wednesday in Sochi.