The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced yesterday its team members for competition at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. The U.S. Team will include 596 athletes: 310 men and 286 women.
The U.S. Team will compete in 30 sports at the 2008 Olympic Games, including the newest Olympic disciplines of bicycle moto-cross (BMX), open water swimming and women's steeplechase. The United States will also field a team in women's field hockey for the first time since 1996 and in baseball for the first time since 2000. The only team events the United States will not compete in are men's field hockey and team handball.
"The United States will send a strong team of 596 athletes who will represent our country with pride and honor," said USOC Chief Executive Officer Jim Scherr. "America's athletes recognize just how challenging the competitive environment will be, and they are preparing with this in mind. We are confident they will rise to the competitive challenges in Beijing."
Leading the U.S. Team in Beijing will be a trio of five-time Olympians including 41-year-old Dara Torres (Los Angeles, Calif.), who will swim at an Olympic Games for her third consecutive decade (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2008). Torres will also enter the Olympic Games as the USA's most decorated Olympic athlete having won nine Olympic medals (four gold, one silver and four bronze).
Other five-time Olympians include Butch Johnson (archery/Woodstock, Conn.) and George Hincapie (cycling/Greenville, S.C.). In addition, 12 other U.S. athletes will be competing in their fourth Olympic Games.
All eyes will be on Michael Phelps (swimming/Baltimore, Md.) as he looks to make history by attempting to win eight Olympic gold medals at one Olympic Games. If he accomplishes this, he'll surpass swimming great Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals in 1972.
Sheila Taormina (modern pentathlon/Livonia, Mich.) already made sports history on June 1 when she became the first woman ever to qualify for the Olympic Games in three different sports (swimming, triathlon and modern pentathlon). This will be Taormina's fourth U.S. Olympic Team (1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008).
Forty-seven U.S. states will have athlete representatives competing in Beijing, based upon athletes' listed hometown affiliation. California will send the most representatives with 175, while Montana, North Dakota and Vermont do not have a representative on the U.S. Team competing in 2008.
This year's U.S. Olympic Team demonstrates that age is no obstacle when you have a dream to pursue. Four members of the team competing in Beijing next month are over 50 years old. Distinction as the oldest U.S. athlete goes to sailor John Dane III (Gulfport, Miss.), who after five decades of training made his first U.S. Olympic Team at the age of 58. At age 56, Libby Callahan (shooting/Columbia, S.C.) will become the oldest U.S. female Olympian all-time.
The youngest U.S. team members will compete together as part of the women's 10m synchro team in diving. Both 15, Mary Beth Dunnichay (Elwood, Ind.) edges partner Haley Ishimatsu (Seal Beach, Calif.) as the youngest U.S. athlete.
Led by the Lopez family in taekwondo, the 2008 Olympic Games will be a family affair for several members of the U.S. Olympic Team. Olympic history was made this year as Mark and Diana Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas) qualified for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team, joining brother Steven to become the first three siblings on the U.S. Olympic Team since 1904. They will be coached in Beijing by their eldest brother, Jean Lopez.
Other siblings competing for the United States at the Olympic Games in Beijing include: fencers Keeth and Erinn Smart (Brooklyn, N.Y.); gymnasts and twin brothers Paul and Morgan Hamm (Waukesha, Wis.); rowers and twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Greenwich, Conn.);tennis players Venus and Serena Williams (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) and twins Bob and Mike Bryan (Camarillo, Calif.).
Twenty women on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team are mothers. Among them is Torres, as well as three-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie (basketball/Hawthorne, Calif.) and 2004 Olympic champion Jennie Finch (softball/La Mirada, Calif.).
"The 2008 Olympic Games will be one of the most significant events of our generation, not only athletically, but culturally, socially, economically and environmentally," said USOC Chairman Peter Ueberroth. "The entire U.S. Olympic Team will travel to China as guests of the host nation and will be most appreciative of all they are doing to welcome athletes and visitors from around the world. The U.S. Team is ready to compete in a manner that makes this country proud."
"These U.S. athletes have faced extreme challenges and made tremendous sacrifices for the opportunity to represent their country in Beijing," said USOC Chef de Mission Charles Lee. "Being a part of this historic event is a tremendous honor for each and every person in this delegation and one the U.S. team will fully embrace."
The U.S. Team Roster could still be adjusted due to injury, illness or exceptional circumstances up to the technical meetings for each sport.