Friday marks the opening ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics, ushering in three weeks of guilt-free nationalism. (Suck it, Slovenians!) But let us not lose sight of our Minnesota pride. We Northlanders are typically less adept at sports that don't take place near ice or, say, beer, but the Land of 10,000 Lakes is still the native or adoptive home for 11 athletes on the 530-strong U.S. Olympic squad. Here's a list of hometown representatives whose feats you should make appointment viewing.
Amanda Smock -- triple jump
A Melrose, Minn., native who will turn 30 on the day of the opening ceremony, Smock deserves attention for being great at this difficult sport, with its jump-hop-JUMP pattern that will remind the lazy of "Super Mario Bros." Smock's story is not just about length, as in her 45-foot, 9-inch mark to finish first at Olympic trials, but also depth: When Smock missed the 2008 Olympics, her cancer-stricken father scribbled out the "2008" on his credential, and wrote in "2012." He died in 2009, and Smock says she hears his voice as she bounds down the track.
Susie Scanlan -- fencing
Rooting for Scanlan will be tough, because once fencers put on that beekeeper suit, they all pretty much look the same. You'll know Scanlan, then, by her tight footwork and swift, left-handed thrusts. Scanlan was inspired to try the sport after seeing a young Lindsay Lohan fencing in 1998's "The Parent Trap." Now, she's a world-class fencer, studying economics at Princeton University. Uh, Scanlan, not Lohan.
Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore -- basketball
Want to see the heyday of a U.S. basketball dynasty? No, wait, drop your eyes a bit ... OK, a lot ... and stop looking for LeBron. There they are! It's the U.S. women's squad, which has turned in a Dream Team-esque performance time and again. Through the past four Olympics, dating back to 1996, the American women have won 20 straight games, often by preposterous margins. The Lynx are providing three players to this year's team. Take your pick: The slight but skilled Whalen, who hails from Hutchinson, Minn.; three-time WNBA All Star Augustus, who has quietly emerged as a role model for openly gay athletes, and Moore, the 23-year-old phenom who has won a championship at every level, and is now making a run at her first gold medal.