How many U.S. Olympians are from within the Great Lakes basin?

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This map of the Great Lakes basin from the EPA is similar to others, but includes hardly any of the Chicago area in the southwest side of the watershed. (Photo: EPA)

This map of the Great Lakes basin from the EPA is similar to others, but includes hardly any of the Chicago area in the southwest side of the watershed. (Photo: EPA)

How many U.S. Olympic athletes are from the Great Lakes watershed?

Well, that probably depends on the map you’re looking at.

We know that the eight Great Lakes states are home to 82 of the United States’ 230 Winter Olympic athletes. But accounting for each that also lives within the Great Lakes watershed is open for interpretation.

The watershed, also called a basin, is all the land that drains into the Great Lakes. We like to think that it also defines Echo’s news community.

Most maps of it are nearly identical, but you can pick out small differences. Thankfully, this Environmental Protection Agency’s watershed search links zip codes to specific watersheds.

There are a few Olympians who are right on the border of what could be considered either inside or outside of the Great Lakes basin, especially those who grew up around the Chicago area.

Is Oak Park, Ill., home to speed skater Emery Lehman, part of the Great Lakes watershed? Oak Park is about ten miles west of Chicago. What about hockey player Kendall Coyne? She’s from Palos Heights, about fifteen miles due south from Oak Park.

This map of the basin from the U.S. Geological Survey includes a larger (though still not large) amount  of the Chicago area in its depiction of the Great Lakes watershed. (Photo: USGS)

This map of the basin from the U.S. Geological Survey includes a larger (though still not large) amount of the Chicago area in its depiction of the Great Lakes watershed. (Photo: USGS)

Though the two Chicago suburbs are almost right next to each other, according to the EPA’s website, Palos Heights is part of the Great Lakes watershed while Oak Park is not.

Based on the search, we found that 33 of the 82 athletes from Great Lakes states also come from within the Great Lakes watershed, including all 13 athletes from Michigan–the only state completely within the basin. Of course, that doesn’t account for their exact address. Parts of the same zip code could lie on either side of the boundary

. One city or zip code can be a part of multiple watersheds, so without an athlete’s specific address, it’s not possible to know whether they grew up inside or outside the basin.

How do you interpret the boundaries of the Great Lakes watershed? While online search tools and lines on a map can help define the basin’s edge, there seems to be some room for debate.

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