Buckeyes represented their university and their nation at the 2014 Olympics.
Ohio State grads Minttu Tuominen, Natalie Spooner and Emma Laaksonen Terho played women’s ice hockey at the Sochi Olympics. Tuominen and Terho played on the Finnish team while Spooner is on the Canadian national team, the two-time defending gold medal champion. And a fourth Buckeye, Ryan Kesler, played for the U.S. men’s hockey team. Kesler played at Ohio State in 2002-2003 before being drafted in the first round by the Vancouver Canucks in 2003.
The players took a break from intense preparations to discuss their time at Ohio State and hopes for Sochi.
Emma Laaksonen Terho (Class of 2004, Finance)
The first women’s hockey player to have her number retired as a Buckeye, Emma Laaksonen Terho first played for Finland at age 16 in the 1998 Winter Olympics. The youngest member of the Finnish delegation that year, Terho returns to her fifth Olympic Games at Sochi as an accomplished veteran, with bronze medals triumphs in 1998 and 2012.
“I now know where I’m going and can enjoy the whole journey and event,” says Terho, now a 32-year-old defenseman. “My role on the team is different. I have more responsibility to the whole team and have to do my best to support the younger teammates.”
One teammate Terho mentors: Minttu Tuominen, who followed in Terho's footsteps by heading to Ohio State from the Finnish town of Espoo, where they both grew up. “It’s always nice to have a fellow Buckeye in the locker room,” she says. “We follow the results and talk about all OSU sports and celebrate the good times.”
A 2009 inductee into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame, Terho fondly remembers spending time with teammates off the ice, whether barbeques or studying at the Younkin Success Center, which supports the academic pursuits of Buckeye student-athletes through the Student-Athlete Support Services Office.
But nothing can top a memorable locker room moment before a semi-final against Minnesota in the WCHA tournament her freshman year.
“The game got delayed due to the previous one going into overtime. We ended up doing some line dancing in the locker room and got pumped up for the game,” she recalls. “We ended up winning it and made it to the finals that year.”
Following the Turin Olympics in 2006, Terho put her finance degree from Ohio State to work at an investment bank in Finland.
“I have been trading corporate and government bonds so I have been able to use my education very well,” she says. “Currently, I’m working on a development team at the bank. My OSU education gave me a strong base that helped me get into a master’s program here, from which I graduated in 2012.”
Natalie Spooner (Class of 2012, Nutrition)
The leading goal scorer in Ohio State women’s hockey history, Natalie Spooner is a key player on the Canadian women’s hockey team, the three-time defending Olympic gold medalists. The games at Sochi will be the first Olympic games for the former All-American Spooner, who scored twice in the 2013 world championship tournament.
“My family is also able to make the trip out to Sochi. I’m excited they will be able to share a bit of the experience with me,” the 23-year-old says. “I am really looking forward to the opening and closing ceremonies. I have always watched them on TV, so being able to be there in person will be surreal.”
With the Canadian team a heavy favorite to meet the Americans in the gold medal game February 20, Spooner knows a lot is riding on the team every time they step on the ice.
“They will be the biggest games I have ever played in," she says. "We trained so hard this year that I’m excited it’s finally coming up."
Graduating from Ohio State in 2012 with a human nutrition degree, Spooner says her best memories of Ohio State involve time spent with teammates—on and off the ice.
"My sophomore year beating Wisconsin—the previous year’s national champ—and going to the final four of the WCHA was pretty awesome,” she says. “I think the people—teammates, coaches and friends—that I met throughout my college career really made it so enjoyable and a great experience at OSU.”
On February 10, Spooner will face off against her old Buckeye teammate, Minttu Tuominen, when Canada plays Finland.
"It’s always great when we get to see each other again so I’m very happy she will be in Sochi,” says Spooner of her old teammate. “I prefer playing with her to playing against her, but that’s the game. I know she will do amazing for Finland.”
Minttu Tuominen (Class of 2013, Nutrition)
A former Academic All-Big Ten player at Ohio State, Minttu Tuominen will play in her second Winter Olympics games for Finland. The 23-year-old forward helped Finland grab a bronze medal at Vancouver in 2010, while studying to keep up with her human nutrition major at Ohio State. Because she won’t be a student this year, Tuominen says, she hopes to have more time to enjoy the Olympic experience.
“I’m hoping to see a couple of the other sports events and see how the rest of our Finnish athletes do,” says the 2013 Ohio State graduate. “Last time we didn’t get to the closing ceremonies, but I believe this time we will.”
A battle of old Buckeye teammates will be in the cards on February 10, when Finland faces Canada as Tuominen and former teammate Natalie Spooner, who plays for Canada, square off.
“We have faced each other a couple of times in international settings, and it’s definitely fun to play against her,” she says. “Playing against Spoons provides a lot of challenges, and I’m up for that!”
Tuominen has fond memories of Ohio State, including time spent relaxing and laughing with teammates on a sunny day out on the Oval. Another highlight: receiving a standing ovation from an Ohio State men’s basketball game crowd, after winning the bronze medal in the 2010 Olympics.
On the ice, Tuominen’s career, which included a trip to the Frozen Four in 2010, culminated with a personal triumph with a big goal in the playoffs against Duluth in 2013. “I scored on a one-timer from Ally Tarr, and Jim, our equipment manager, said I had been working on that shot for four years. That sentence pretty much summarizes my time at Ohio State!”
Former Buckeye athlete Ryan Kesler was named to the U.S. men’s hockey team after a pair of injury-plagued seasons for the Vancouver Canucks had put him on the bubble to make the squad.
“I knew I had a good shot if I had a good start to the season and got my game back,” Kesler told reporters after being named to his second Olympics team. “I focused on that all summer, and I got my game back.”
One of the NHL’s top defensive forwards, Kesler played 40 games as a freshman at Ohio State in 2002-03, scoring 11 goals and 20 assists. The 29-year-old was the Buckeyes’ Rookie of the Year that season; he is now in his ninth professional season playing for the Canucks. In the 2010 Vancouver games, Kesler scored two goals for Team USA including a goal in the gold-medal game. In 2010, Kesler and his Olympic teammates in Vancouver won the silver medal.