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Montana, Wyoming athletes represent Team USA in Beijing Olympics

Yanqing Longqing Gorge Ice and Snow Festival in Yanqing District in Beijing
Mirko Kuzmanovic/Getty Images
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iStock Editorial
Several local athletes will be competing in this year's Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Winter sports fans in Montana and Wyoming have five “hometown” athletes to cheer for during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in February.

The U.S. has sent 222 athletes to China for the Olympics, the second largest contingent ever to the Winter Olympic Games. Team USA says the 2022 roster is “the most experienced USA Winter Olympics team ever” with 99 returning Olympians, including most of the area's local athletes.

Whitefish, Montana, native Jake Sanderson, 19, is one of 15 current NCAA players on the U.S. Men’s Ice Hockey team. This is his first trip to the Olympics.

Sanderson is a sophomore defenseman and assistant captain on the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Hawks hockey team. Sanderson was selected in the 1st round (5th overall) by the Ottawa Senators in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. His father, Geoffrey, spent 17 seasons in NHL.

Twenty-three year old Maggie Voisin is another Whitefish native representing the U.S. in Beijing. She and Missoula native Darian Stevens, 25, are on the U.S. women’s freeski team for slopestyle and big air events. Freeski is described as a specific type of alpine skiing involving tricks, jumps and park features like rails, boxes and other obstacles. Big air is a new event for the 2022 winter games where skiers slide down a tall ramp that tilts up at the end allowing gravity-defying tricks. Both are judged events, not timed.

Voisin qualified for the 2014 Sochi Olympics as the youngest member of the ski team at age 15, but she broke her ankle during a training run and was unable to compete. In the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea she finished 4th in slopestyle.

This is Stevens’ second Olympics: She competed in 2018 in South Korea and finished 17th in her Olympic debut. She was born and raised in Missoula and grew up competing in moguls until age 15 when she switched to slopestyle.

Brad Wilson of Butte is making his third trip to the Olympics in freestyle moguls skiing. The 29-year-old finished 20th in 2014 and 18th in 2018. He is a three-time World Cup winner and has 5 U.S. Championship titles. His brother Bryon won a bronze medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Alta, Wyoming, native Jaelin Kauf, 25, is on her second Olympics women’s mogul ski team, having finished seventh in 2018. She was the 2016 World Cup rookie of the year.

Breezy Johnson, a 26-year-old native of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, will not be going to Beijing despite being named to her 2nd Olympic alpine ski team. She withdrew from competition in late January after suffering a knee injury during a training run in Italy. Johnson finished seventh in the downhill in 2018 and was considered a top contender for gold in downhill.

Opening Ceremonies for the 2022 Beijing Olympics are Feb. 4.

Kay Erickson has been working in broadcasting in Billings for more than 20 years. She spent well over a decade as news assignment editor at KTVQ-TV before joining the staff at YPR. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a degree in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation she worked in Great Falls where she was one of the first female sports anchor and reporter in Montana.