Olympic Names: Gold Medal Choices

Guest blogger JILL BARNETT gives out Olympic medals.  No, not for the sports, silly; for the names.  But before we begin, an Olympic name trivia note: Roughly 20 percent of the U.S. men’s ice hockey team is named Ryan.  Why?  We’re guessing the inspiration might have been the hockey-playing heartthrob played by Ryan O’Neal in Love Story.

When I was in second grade, I had figured out two things: that the Rubik’s Cube could be easily solved by simply peeling off the colored stickers and reaffixing them onto the correct squares, and that I was destined to roller skate in the Olympics. Granted, there was no artistic roller skating event, but I was confident that if just one member of the International Olympic Committee could see me doing my best Xanadu routine while wearing my new unicorn-embossed roller skates with fuzzy pink pom-poms, he or she would recognize the need to include it in future Olympiads.

Being firmly grounded in reality, however, I soon realized that my gold medal dreams would more likely be realized by transferring my exemplary roller skating skills (I could skate backwards and forwards, and when I needed to stop, I’d gracefully dive into the grass) onto the ice. I would become a figure skater–the next Dorothy Hamill–and after a brief stop at the Olympics, I’d join her in the Ice Capades, or better yet, become a cast member of Disney on Ice!

With my new ice skating obsession, I was naturally fixated on the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, rooting for Rosalynn Sumners as she skated her way to the women’s silver medal, and cheering on Scott Hamilton as he won the men’s figure skating gold. I even stayed glued to the TV long enough to watch other events such as skiing, speed skating, curling (which I affectionately call “shuffleboard on ice”) and bobsledding, which of course inspired me to ride a greased cookie sheet down the hill in front our house and into oncoming traffic.

And even though my ice skating dreams quickly melted after I crashed into a wall at my friend Monica’s fourth grade skating party (I never quite grasped the concept of braking), I’ve continued to faithfully view the Winter Olympics on television every four years. But it’s not only the sporting events that I enjoy; I also love to hear the athletes’ names!

Rating the names has actually become a sport in and of itself to me, and if someone from the U.S. isn’t competing in a given event, I, like any reasonable name nerd, simply cheer for the participant with the best name. Likewise, if I notice an athlete with a particularly unfortunate name, I’ll lend my support to him or her. (This year, the dubious honor goes to Lilia Vaygina, a biathlete from the Ukraine.) Thankfully, for the viewing pleasure of name fans in the U.S. and beyond, the field of athletes from the 2010 Winter Olympics contains an impressive assortment of many gold, silver, and bronze medal-worthy names:


AMELIE Kober—Germany, Snowboard

ANASTASIA Buscis—Canada, Speed Skating

ANNESOPHIE Barthet—France, Alpine Skiing

ANTONIA Grigorva—Bulgaria, Cross-Country

AUERELIE Revillet—France, Alpine Skiing

CAMILLA Jensen—Denmark, Curling

CAMILLE De Faucompret—France, Snowboard

CELIA Bourgeois—France, Cross-Country

CHIMENE “CHEMMY”Alcott –Great Britian, Alpine Skiing

CLAIRE Chapotot—France, Snowboard

CLARA HughesCanada, Speed Skating

CORINNA Boccacini—Italy, Snowboard

EKATERINA Ananina–Russian Federation, Ice Hockey

ELENA Doronina—Russian Federation, Bobsleigh

EMILIA AndersonSweden, Ice Hockey

EVAMARIA Brem—Austria, Alpine Skiing

HELENA Johnsson—Sweden, Biathlon

JOON Munn—Korea, Speed Skating

KAROLINA Erbanova—Czech Republic, Speed Skating

KATJA Haller—Italy, Biathlon

LILIA Ludan—Ukraine, Luge

MAGDALENA Iljans—Sweden, Freestyle Skating

MARIT Bjoergen—Norway, Cross-Country

MATEA Ferk—Croatia, Alpine Skiing

MIRABELLE Thovex—France, Snowboard

OCEANE Pozzo—France, Snowboard

SANDRINE AubertFrance, Alpine Skiing

SANNE van Kerkhof—Netherlands, Short Track

SYLVIE Becaert—France, Biathalon

VALENTINA Lizana—Sweden, Ice Hockey

VERONIKA Vitkova—Czech Republic, Biathlon

VIOLETA Stramaturaru—Romania, Luge

VITA Semerenko—Ukraine, Biathlon


AGUSTIN Torres–Argentina, Alpine Skiing

ANDERS Bardal—Norway, Ski Jumping

ANDRES Ambhul–Switzerland, Biatholon

APOLO ANTON Ohno—United States, Short Track

ARTHUR Longo —France, Snowboard

BODE Miller—United States, Alpine Skiing

BROOKS Orpik –United States, Ice Hockey

CEDRIC Grand—Switzerland, Bobsleigh

EDWARD Drake—Great Britian, Alpine Skiing

FELIX Gottwald —Austria, Nordic Combined

FRANCOIS-OLIVIER Roberge—Canada, Speed Skating

GREGOR Bermbach—Germany, Bobsleigh

IVO Rueegg—Switzerland, Bobsleigh

JEAN GUILLAUME BeatrixFrance, Biathalon

JESPER Bjoernlund—Sweden, Freestyle Skiing

JONAS Anderson—Norway, Ice Hockey

KONSTANTIN Schad—Germany, Snowboard

MAGNUS Johansson—Sweden, Ice Hockey

MAREK Matiasko—Slovakia, Biathlon

MATTEO Anesi—Italy, Speed Skating…

MAXIME Gingras —Canada, Freestyle Skating

NIELS Kerstholt—Netherlands, Short Track

OLIVIER JeanCanada, Short Track

OSKAR Eriksson—Sweden, Curling

PIETER Gysel —Belgium, Short Track

SEBASTIEN Lacroix—France, Nordic Combined

TOBIAS Angerer–Germany, Cross-Country

VAUGHN Chipeur—Canada, Figure Skating

ZOLTAN Kelemen—Romania, Figure Skating

Jill Barnett, a lifelong name fan, enjoys working with children, painting, drawing, writing, running, cooking, traveling, and following popular culture and politics. Her favorite color is yellow, her all-time favorite movie is The Sound of Music, and she has recently decided that peanut M&Ms are far more substantial than Milk Duds. Jill has enjoyed writing for Nameberry about yooneek names, stage names, and being less than pleased with her given name, and she looks forward to posting on Nameberry with so many wonderful people each day.

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23 Responses to “Olympic Names: Gold Medal Choices”

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Annabelle Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 3:05 am

Also for women there’s Maelle Rickers, who just won gold in the snowboard cross. When I hear the name Maelle I loved it!

Nephele Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 4:43 am

A splendid blog entry, Jill! I cracked up when I got to that name of the biathlete from the Ukraine — Lilia Vaygina. Poor Lilia!

UrbanAngel Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 11:20 am

I like these.
ZOLTAN I actually know a Zoltan

A lovely blog 🙂

stephanie_elizabeth Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 12:04 pm

I have been muchly enjoying watching the Olympics, both for the sport AND for the names. There are some great ones out there! That is one of my favorite parts of the Games. Especially since you can see the names on actual people, instead of just on paper.
I always felt a little sorry for Irina Slutskya…

k_lareese Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Annabelle, I totally agree!! I had never heard Maelle before, but I just love it! I actually came on here today to see what others thought of the name. Maelle Ricker should definitely be counted among these names!

And I have to agree that the Olympics are great fodder for us “nameletes.” I love the exposure to foreign and exotic names. After the Summer Olympics, I developed a name crush on Ksenia, after I saw it “sported” by Ksenia Semenova, a gymnast from Russia. Not sure what my name crush is this time around, but Maelle is definitely in the running.

JLyn Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Thanks for the blog. I have been waiting for an Olympics name blog. I love studying all the names of the athletes. Ekaterina and Katja or Katya have always been my favorites. And I wanted to name a son A.J. for my husband’s initials after seeing skier A.J. Kitt one year. One of my favorites this year is a Japanese moguls skier named Arisa.

Jill Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Annabelle: I just saw Maelle, too, and I loved it! Thanks for mentioning it!

Nepheity: Thanks! Poor Lilia certainly didn’t catch any breaks in the last name department, eh? I kept rereading the name, praying it was a typo, but alas…

Urban: Thanks! I love those names, too. (I’m thinking that Penn Jillette named his son Zoltan…Hmm…Didn’t he?)

K: I love “Nameletes!” 🙂 I wrote the blog before I read about Maelle, but I definitely would have included it otherwise.

JLyn: You’re welcome! I love the names you listed! I completely missed Arisa! I think it’s gorgeous!

Thanks for your comments, everyone! I loved reading them! 🙂

Jongseong Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Mun Joon (that’s how the name is spelled in the Vancouver 2010 website; Joon is of course the given name) is a male speed skater, not female. His given name and the family name rhyme in Korean. It is pronounced approximately like the English words “Moon June” but with shorter vowels.

susan Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Great blog! What a delightful mix of international names! My faves are Oskar, Pieter, Sebastien, Anders, Veronika Vitkova! (love her last name, too!), Anastasia, and Clara. Wonderful!

Jill Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Stephanie: Hi! I missed your post before! I agree that it’s so cool to be able to see the faces attached to the names, and am glad to know I’m not the only one who loves hearing the names!

JongSeong: Thanks so much for the correction! I guess I wasn’t reading the offical site’s list. I still think that Joon Mun is fun to say. 🙂

Susan: Thanks! I love your favorites, and I actually thought of you when I saw the name Veronika Vitkova! I love the alliteration. 🙂

Take care! 🙂

Kathleen Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 4:10 pm

great list! thanks for putting it together

Ignotz Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Great blog. I loved your article.You have a wonderful sense
of humor. Your writing reminds me of the late Erma Bombeck!

Em Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 6:05 pm

So, I have nothing to comment about the names except that it’s a great list, but I have to say that I cracked up reading about the rubiks cube because I did the same thing! And pretty soon all of the stickers were peeling at the edges and falling off completely!

Rosy Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 6:42 pm

I love watching the Olympics. They’re pretty much the highlight of my season! I love how the names are little representations of the different countries. My favorites are:



Oh! I was watching the pairs’ short program Sunday night and the German competitor was named Aliona, which I though was gorgeous!

Another Kathleen Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 8:47 pm

What about Tanith? Tanith Belbin is an American ice dancer and I think she has a great name.

Jill Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Mia: I’m sorry I missed your post before! Thanks for the info about Joon! 🙂

Kathleen: I’m glad you liked it!

Ignotz: Awe, thanks! I really, really appreciate the compliments! Thank you so much!

Rosy: I agree about Aliona! I went through over 2,000 names to make the list, and I must have missed Aliona!

Em: Haha!! You did that, too? Too funny… I ruined all of my stickers, too. 🙂

Another Kathleen: I’m glad you mentioned Tanith! There are so many great Olympic names!

Thank you all for your comments! 🙂 (And if I missed someone, I’m really sorry. My computer is very weird, and sometimes posts appear.)

Andrea Says:

February 17th, 2010 at 10:13 pm

There’s a high school girl in this area named Chamonix. I didn’t make the connection with the Olympics until I heard the place name mentioned during the opening ceremony. I’ve never been to France or heard of this locale and had assumed that the parents had named her after some science fiction character. Now I’m curious about whether the name had anything to do with the Olympics or if they went to France and named her after the trip. It sounds prettier pronounced than the way I was pronouncing it in my head.

disa_lan Says:

February 18th, 2010 at 2:16 am

Great topic! I love seeing Matea and Matteo up there. Zoltan has always enticed me.

CK Says:

February 18th, 2010 at 3:46 am

I’ve been really enjoying watching the Olympics, for the names almost as much as the sports.

One that I was completely enthralled with today was Peetu. He’s a snowboarder from Finlad. I’ve also always loved Louie Vito’s name, who’s also a snowboarder. And Bjoergvin Bjoergvinsson, which is just fun to say.

Also, am I the only one who thinks of Dude, Where’s My Car when they hear Zoltan?

Jill Says:

February 19th, 2010 at 12:07 am

Andrea: Thanks for sharing Chamonix! There are so many great French names!

Disa: I love Mattea and Matteo!

CK: I notived Peetu today, too, and agree that Bjoergvin Bjoergvinsson is fun to say, even more than Joon Mun! And no, you’re not the only one who thinks of “Dude, Where’s My Car” when you hear Zoltan! Count me in! 🙂

Thanks, everyone, and if you hear of any more great names, I’d love to hear them! 🙂

m Says:

February 20th, 2010 at 8:28 pm

I absolutely love “Torah.” She’s the Australian who won the snowboarding half-pipe gold.

smismar Says:

February 23rd, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I’m watching Women’s Skating right now, and I have to say, I’m loving the name Mirai!

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