Jody Victor: In her time at Ohio State, Jackie Barto has transformed the women's hockey program, turning a club program into a well-respected varsity team. Barto's perseverance has paid off: This year, the head coach is sending four players–three alumni and current student Minttu Tuominen–to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Tuominen, a freshman, came to Ohio State from Finland. She plans a future career in nutrition, working with young athletes. (She's taking classes online to keep up with her school work while competing in Vancouver.) Tuominen realized a longtime dream when she made Ohio State's hockey team. She says it's an honor to represent not only her country, but also the Buckeyes.
“When my teammates heard that I made it to the Olympics, they said, 'Oh, I'll definitely root for Finland,'” Tuominen says. “I think that the team's even more excited than I am.”
Athletes with Buckeye ties will be representing the U.S., Canada, and Finland in the Olympics. In addition to Tuominen, Buckeye Olympians are:
· Emma Laaksonen, who played defense for the Buckeyes from 2001-04 on the team. Laaksonen is the captain of Team Finland; the Vancouver games will be her fourth Olympic appearance.
· Lisa Chesson, a defender for the Ohio State women’s hockey team from 2005-08, who will play for the U.S.
· Tessa Bonhomme, a former all-American and women’s team defenseman from 2004-08, will play for Team Canada.
· Ryan Kesler, a forward for the Buckeye men’s team in 2002-03, rounds out the group. He will play for the U.S.
Barto has a good eye for future Olympians: She was on the selection committee for the 2006 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team. She also coached the U.S. Women’s National Team to a gold medal at the 2008 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships and a silver medal at the 2007 Four Nations Cup–the two biggest non-Olympic events in women's hockey.
Ohio State has a long history of Olympians, the most famous example being Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. More than 200 athletes with Ohio State ties have competed in the games, with 48 earning 77 medals: 33 gold, 28 silver, and 16 bronze.
The Buckeyes aren't just dominating on Ohio State's fields, courts, and rinks. Ohio State student-athletes also are leaders in the classroom, earning a 3.07 grade point average last year. They top the Big Ten for the sixth-consecutive year with a record of 306 Academic All-Big Ten selections and 73 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars with GPAs of 3.7 or higher.
Student-athletes' experience playing on a team and working toward a goal makes them lucrative to employers after graduation, Barto says.
“It opens up a lot of opportunities for our women once they graduate.”