Patrick Mader discusses his book, “Olympic Gold,” at the Roseville Library. Pictured is a slide of Roseville’s Sara Reiling Hildebrand.

Bob Paradise

Tom Malchow

Lindsay Whalen

As Rio 2016 approaches, local author’s book prompts recollections of Minnesota’s past Olympic contenders

Rio de Janeiro will be the site of the 2016 Olympics Aug. 5 to 21, and while Brazilian officials say they will be ready to host the 42-sport event, there are plenty of looming concerns.

As the opening ceremony draws closer, athletes and spectators are expressing worries about the Zika virus, water quality, venues, transportation and more.

The barring of Russian track and field athletes from the games for past use of performance-enhancing drugs has ratcheted up tensions, and all this is happening against the backdrop of increasing economic and political chaos in Brazil.

When Minnesota author Patrick Mader of Northfield spent three years writing his recently published and well-illustrated book about 57 past Minnesota Olympians and the personal challenges they faced to become world-class athletes, there were few signs of the volatile political situation and swirling Olympic controversies that would dominate the news leading up to this summer’s games.

As Twin Citians prepare to watch the 2016 Olympics, they will enjoy reading Mader’s book, “Olympic Gold; Conversations with Northland Athletes Competing on the World Stage,” which tells captivating stories about the training and development of previous Minnesota Olympians.

Among the local athletes highlighted in the book are: speedskater Randy Bartz, who grew up in Roseville; diver Sara Reiling Hildebrand of Roseville; runners Bob Kempainen of Minnetonka and Janice Klecker of Edina; swimmer Tom Malchow of Lilydale; basketball player Lindsay Whalen of Hutchinson; triple jumper Shani Marks of Apple Valley; and hockey player Bob Paradise of St. Paul. The book is loaded with photos — 250 of them — and has interesting details that Mader learned from talking to the Olympians.

Speaking at a recent Roseville Rotary meeting, the former elementary school teacher and author of several children’s books, said that in writing “Olympic Gold” he was “seeking a way to combine several interests:  Minnesota sports, history and geography.” He ended up wanting to preserve the “fascinating personal histories and athletic achievements of a cross section of Minnesota sports and athletes.”

In Mader’s coffee-table book, Bartz tells of playing basketball and baseball at Mounds View High School, and in the winter, practicing speed skating at the skating oval at Como Lake. The short track speed skater competed in the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, where his relay team won a silver medal. After retiring from the Olympics, he was selected as a commentator for short track skating events at the Nagano, Japan, Olympics in 1998. He now runs a business that makes high-performance coatings to protect against the elements.

Hildebrand was a gymnast as a child but switched to diving after suffering a stress fracture in her lower back. Diagnosed with dyslexia, she said reading was difficult so she had to work extra hard in high school. Her self-discipline and study skills stood her in good stead in the 2004 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, though she didn’t medal there. She now teaches elementary school and her two daughters compete in gymnastics.

Mader said Whalen, a former University of Minnesota star and current Minnesota Lynx point guard, is one of the state’s best-known female athletes. Her Olympic basketball team took gold in 2012, and she has been named to the 2016 team.

Janet Gerhauser, the doubles figure skater from Minneapolis who was one of 13 women on the 1952 Winter Olympic team, recently spoke at the Roseville Library along with Mader. She told how training facilities and equipment have improved significantly since she was on the team and won sixth place in pairs. In recent years she has been a figure skating judge.

One of nine kids, Bob Paradise of St. Paul lived in St. Joseph’s Orphanage for two years after his father died prematurely and his mother recovered from the trauma of his death. His family moved often, but Paradise was able to play hockey at Cretin High School and St. Mary’s College. He was named to the 1968 Olympic hockey team along with Herb Brooks. The team finished in sixth place. He then played professional hockey, and eventually was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Three-time Olympian Tom Malchow grew up in Lilydale and took up swimming  because it worked with his asthma. He swam with  St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights and the University of Michigan, and took silver in the 1996 Olympics. In 2000 the 6-foot six-inch swimmer with the wide arm span took gold in the 200-meter butterfly with a record-breaking time, and in addition, he earned a new Corvette from his father. He competed again in 2004, but lost to Michael Phelps. Malchow attributed his success to his parents’ support.

“As my book developed, I found the 57 athletes I interviewed to be intelligent, approachable, athletically gifted, persevering, mentally tough, and learned they give back tremendously to their sport and community” Mader said. “All of them were gracious and welcoming — it was a very positive experience.

“Writing and marketing the book “has also been very positive. It has been so rewarding to tap into the various athletic communities and get to know the families of the profiled athletes.  And speaking engagements and presentations have been wonderful opportunities to share the book and my passions.”

Mader added, “There are definitely concerns about the upcoming Olympics in Rio:  financial, political, venue preparation, infrastructure, and health.

“To the athletes, however, it is the spirit of the competition that is important. The location does not weigh too heavily on many of them.”

“Olympic Gold” is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.


Pamela O’Meara can be reached at pomeara@lillienews.com or 651-748-7818.


The Olympic Games originated in Greece around 3,000 years ago. From the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D., the games were held every four years in Olympia, Greece during a religious festival honoring the god Zeus.

After the Roman Empire conquered Greece in the mid-second century B.C., the games continued, but their standards and quality declined. Then in A.D. 393, Emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, called for a ban on all “pagan” festivals, ending the ancient Olympic tradition after nearly 12 centuries.

It would be another 1,500 years before the games would rise again, largely thanks to the efforts of Baron Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937) of France, a fitness buff who thought maybe the French lost the Franco-Prussian War because the French soldiers lacked vigor. After some research, he decided that it was sports that made for a vigorous person. He tried to get the French interested in sports but met with little success so in 1890 he founded a sports organization and proposed reviving the Olympics as an international athletic competition held every four years.

The first modern Olympics were then held in Athens, Greece, in 1896 with 280 participants from 13 nations (all male). It featured the first Olympic marathon, which followed the 25-mile route run by a Greek soldier who once  brought news of a victory over the Persians. He ran from Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. but then dropped dead from the exertion. Later, the distance was later standardized to 26.2 miles.

The official symbol of the modern Games is five interlocking colored rings, representing the continents of North and South America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia.


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