Heard on the Hill

Pyeongchang Send-Off: Members of Congress Share Their Excitement for Local Celebrities

States with several Olympians tout their accomplishments

U.S. athletes model the outfits they’ll wear in the opening ceremonies. (Courtesy of U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team on twitter)

As members of Team USA arrive in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the Olympic Games, the White House is eyeing the hermit kingdom to the north. 

Vice President Mike Pence left for the games on Monday, with a few stops planned along the way. He’ll tour a ballistic missile defense facility, attend talks with Japanese leaders and otherwise “send a clear message of American resolve to the North Korean regime,” according to an aide.

Meanwhile, members of Congress are keeping it local, sending warm wishes to their districts’ skiers and skaters and largely steering clear of sports diplomacy.

Regional pride was a favorite talking point. New York is sending the U.S. team’s oldest member — hockey player Brian Gionta, 39 — while Illinois will furnish three of the Americans’ seven ski jumpers.   

Here’s what members of Congress from the Empire and Prairie states had to say as the opening ceremony nears:

[Pyeongchang Send-Off: Members of Congress Wish Their Local Celebrities Well]

Kevin Bickner,  Wauconda., Ill., ski jumping: “The 14th Congressional District is proud to be sending one of our own to the 2018 Winter Olympics. Bickner, a Wauconda High grad, comes from a family of skiers and is the current national record-holder in ski jumping — flying nearly three football field lengths in Norway last year. I know I’ll be rooting for him, as will his family, friends, neighbors and fellow Illinoisians. Best of luck to him and the entire Team USA!” said Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill.

Michael Glasder, Cary, Ill., ski jumping: “It’s always exciting to see the results of years of hard work and dedication pay off on the Olympic stage,” said Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill. “I’ll definitely be watching and cheering on Lake Forest native Michael Glasder as he competes in Pyeongchang this month.”

Casey Larson, Barrington, Ill., ski jumping; Michael Glasder, Cary, Ill., ski jumping; Bradie Tennell, Carpentersville, Ill., figure skating: “There is no greater satisfaction than to put one’s heart, soul, sweat and tears into something and to see that hard work and dedication pay off. It is such a tremendous honor to represent your country doing something that you love. I’m proud of all of the men and women that are part of Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics and am especially pleased to have three outstanding young athletes from my district,” said Rep. Peter Roskam , R-Ill. “[They] epitomize American strength, values and drive, and I wish them success during these Olympic games — we’ll be cheering you on from the 6th District!”

Brian Gionta, Rochester, N.Y., hockey: “Our region has a proud tradition of leading the way on the world’s stage, from our renowned athletes to iconic companies like Hickey Freeman, which has made apparel for Team USA. Brian was recently home playing with his hometown Rochester Americans as he prepares to play in South Korea. I wish him the best of luck, our entire community will be rooting for him!” said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y.

Brian Gionta, Rochester, N.Y., hockey; David Leggio, Buffalo, N.Y., hockey;  Emily Pfalzer, Buffalo, N.Y., hockey;  Jon Lillis, Rochester, N.Y., skiing; Morgan Schild, Pittsford, N.Y., skiing: “It is with great pride that we honor several Olympic athletes from Western New York that have worked hard their entire lives to achieve such an outstanding honor and compete for the USA,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y.  “Western New Yorkers will be cheering for you as you showcase to the world your exceptional talents. Bring home the gold, we are so proud of you.”

Read more send-offs here.

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