It is an exciting time in sports as the 2022 Winter Olympics are taking place in Beijing, China. It is even more exciting to see eight former Black Bears competing in the games. Two current and three former UMaine women’s hockey players, one former men’s hockey player and two former track and field athletes are participating in the global competition.
The two current Black Bears in Beijing are third-year defender Amalie Andersen of Denmark and second-year forward Rahel Enzler of Switzerland. Andersen is also joined by former Black Bear Michelle Weis on team Denmark, while two Black Bear alumni, Tereza Vanišová and Vendula Přibylová, are representing the Czech Republic.
Denmark has already been eliminated from the women’s hockey competition. Starting in group B, Denmark would have had to place in the top three of the five teams in their group. When the dust settled on round robin play within the group, Denmark sat in last place after only winning one of their four games. They started off with back-to-back losses against China and Japan, while their lone win came against the Czech Republic before losing to Sweden in their final game of the group stage. Weis showed up twice on the scoresheet, picking up a goal and an assist over the four games.
As for Vanišová, Přibylová and the Czech Republic, they fared a bit better, finishing with two wins and an overtime loss in their four group stage games, which was good enough to place second in group B and earned them an appearance in the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, the Czech Republic fell to the USA 4-1, ending their run. Vanišová had a spectacular showing, tallying two goals and four assists over five games.
The lone UMaine women’s hockey player still alive in the tournament is Enzler on team Switzerland. The team struggled in their group stage, finishing last in group A. However, every team in group A was guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals due to their global rank. Switzerland took advantage of the rare opportunity and upset Russia 4-2 to advance to the semifinals. It will be an uphill battle as they take on the tournament favorite Canada in the semifinals on Monday, Feb. 14.
In the men’s hockey, the lone representative for the Black Bears is Adrián Holešinský of Slovakia. Holešinský played for UMaine from 2017-2020 and now plays professionally for NK Nitra of the Slovak Extraliga. Slovakia earned one win during the group stage, and are currently awaiting the results of other games to see who they play first in the knockout rounds, which begin on Tuesday Feb. 15.
The other UMaine athletes in Beijing are former track and field athletes Frank Del Duca and James Reed, both representing team USA on the bobsled. Reed and Del Duca were on the track and field team together at UMaine and are now on the 4-man bobsled team together. Del Duca also competes in the 2-man bobsled competition. The men’s 2-man heats begin on Monday Feb. 14 and the 4-man heats begin on Saturday Feb. 19.
Hopefully one of these athletes can take home a medal, but even if they do not, they have made the Black Bear nation proud regardless. It is an accomplishment and an honor for these athletes to represent their home countries on the biggest athletics stage in the world.