WASHINGTON - Every four years, elite athletes from across the globe gather together to share their prodigious talent and skill with a world audience through friendly competition. We enjoy the intense competition that is the hallmark of the Olympic Games. We enjoy the gravity-defying athletes who only seem to get more daring with each passing year. We enjoy the personal and heartwarming stories of triumph and perseverance that are highlighted at the Games. They remind us of what is possible.
And we cheer for the Stars and Stripes. We are proud Americans who cheer our athletes to victory - and for those of us from Michigan, there is the additional reward of cheering for athletes with ties to our state.
Michigan was well-represented at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
Sen. Carl Levin
One area where Michigan shined was in ice dancing. Impressively, 15 of the 24 teams participating in ice dancing trained in metro Detroit at one of three rinks: the Detroit Skating Club, Novi Ice Arena, and Arctic Edge in Canton, which is where the gold and silver medal teams trained. This reflects the level of coaching and talent that resides in Michigan.
The couple that captured our imagination for the second straight Olympics Games, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, capped their Olympic career with a captivating gold medal performance in ice dancing, adding to their silver medal performance in 2010 and their team bronze in Sochi.
The list of ice dancers with strong ties to Michigan also includes Maia Shibutani, Alex Shibutani, Evan Bates, Madison Chock, Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje, Alexandra Paul, Mitch Islam, Anna Cappellini, Luca Lanotte, Charlene Guignard, Marco Fabbri, Nathalie Pechalat, Fabian Bourzat, Pernelle Carron, Lloyd Jones, Nelli Zhiganshina, Alexander Gazsi, Julia Zlobina, Alexei Sitnikov, Isabella Tobias, Deividas Stagniunas, Danielle O'Brien, Greg Merrian, Cathy Reed and Chris Reed.
Olympic hockey also showcased the talent Michigan has to offer. Players with ties to Michigan represented a number of different countries. They included Americans Ryan Miller, Ryan Kessler, Cam Fowler, Jimmy Howard, Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Justin Faulk, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan Suter, James van Riemsdyk, Max Pacioretty and Dan Bylsma. Those who skated for other countries included Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathon Ericsson, Johan Franzen, Jonas Gustavsson, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Duncan Keith, Chris Kunitz, Mike Babcock and Brian Lebler. Each made a significant contribution and provided us ample reason to be proud.
In addition to these incredible athletes are Narumi Takahashi, Ryuichi Kihara, Jeremy Abbott, Valentina Marchei and Patrick Chan who competed admirably in figure skating. Jessica Smith, Jilleanne Rookard, Shani Davis, Jordan Malone, Kyle Carr, Chris Creveling and Anthony Lobello graced the speed skating track. And there were snowboarders Karly Shorr, Danny Davis and Nick Bumgartner, whose style and flare were unmistakable.
Rounding out Michigan's contribution in Sochi was Lauryn Williams, a Summer Olympic star who became the first woman and fifth person overall to medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Her silver as part of a two-person bobsled team was one of the most memorable moments of the Games.
To become an Olympian is no easy task. Each athlete has sacrificed much to earn a spot at the Olympics. These Games and the performances we bear witness to are often the capstone of careers that have spanned many years and are the product of an enormous amount of training, dedication and focus.
I join many across Michigan in congratulating each of these athletes. It was gratifying to watch and reminds us all, especially young people across Michigan, that reaching for the stars, or in this case the Olympics, is firmly within their grasp. As one Olympic figure skater so aptly put it, "To be able to come up here and feel stiff and white as a ghost but stare fear in the face is what I'm all about." That's the true Olympic spirit we tune in to watch, and that is a fitting way to describe the grit, grace and athletic prowess we witnessed day after day in Sochi.
- - -
Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan.