- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Eleven Illinoisans are competing with the U.S. Olympic team in the winter games that start Thursday in Sochi, Russia.

The list released by Gov. Pat Quinn’s office includes speed skaters, figure skaters, hockey players, a bobsledder and a member of the women’s curling team. Ten members of the Chicago Blackhawks also are competing, playing hockey for five different countries.

Quinn says Illinois’ athletes personify the Olympic ideal of “unity among diversity.”

“We celebrate the Olympic athletes from across Illinois who are at the pinnacle of success, and we salute their coaches, families and friends for all the sacrifices they’ve made to support them,” Quinn said in a statement.

Illinois boasts figure skaters Jason Brown of Highland Park and Gracie Gold of Chatham. The state also is home to men’s speed skater Shani Davis and women’s bobsledder Aja Evan, who competed in track and field at the University of Illinois. Ann Swisshelm of Chicago is a curling champion. She started with the sport at age 10 and previously competed in the 2002 Olympics.

Chicago Blackhawks player Patrick Kane is playing for the U.S. Team. Jonathan Towes, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp are playing for Canada. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Johnny Oduya are playing for Sweden. Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus are playing for Slovakia and Michael Rozsival is playing for the Czech Republic.

The state of Illinois has started a website featuring biographic information on Illinois athletes. It also includes information on where winter sports activities are available in Illinois.

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Online: https://www.illinois.gov/olympics

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