Lucky Number Five
A single Olympic Games appearance is the culmination of a dream for most who make it and an unreachable goal for many others who try.
It was just the beginning for 228 Americans, who will be returning to the Olympic Games when the Games of the XXX Olympiad kicks off Friday in London. And for seven of those Americans, this will be their fifth Olympic Games.
TeamUSA.org takes a look at those seven athletes:
Amy Acuff considered herself retired from high jumping after the birth of her daughter Elsa two years ago. Then the 37-year-old began training again. When she cleared 6-4 ¾ at the Olympic Trials in June, the athlete/model indeed qualified for her fifth Olympic Games. The 6-foot-2 Acuff has competed in every Olympic Games since 1996 in Atlanta. Her best Olympic finish was fourth at the 2004 Games in Athens, when she cleared 1.99 meters (6-6 1/4). Her personal best was 2.01 meters (6-7), which she set in 2003. Acuff is self-taught and describes herself as a “mail-order high jumper.” The four-time Texas high school champion from Calallen was named National High School Athlete of the Year in 1993. She went on to win three indoor and two outdoor NCAA titles at UCLA. Acuff has since added six USA Outdoor and five USA Indoor championships. Acuff, who is licensed in acupuncture, has appeared in several magazines as a model. She is married to Tye Harvey, the 2001 world indoor silver medalist in the pole vault.
Equestrian Phillip Dutton moved from his native Australia to the United States in 1991 to prepare for the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Ten years later, he became an American citizen. In London, Dutton will be competing in his fifth Olympic Games — and second for Team USA. The 48-year-old grew up on a farm in Nyngan, New South Wales. At his first Games in 1996, Dutton helped Australia’s three-day eventing team to a gold medal. He also won Olympic gold in the same event in 2000. Though Dutton fell short of a medal in his first Olympic Games with Team USA, he has achieved great success wearing the red, white and blue. Dutton was part of a seventh-place U.S. team in 2008 and won an individual silver medal at the 2007 Pan American Games. He was the United States Equestrian Association Leading Rider of the Year in 1998 and then again each year from 2000 to 2010. Dutton owns True Prospect Farm in West Grove, Pa., with his wife, Evie. He has a stepdaughter Lee Lee and twin daughters Mary and Olivia.
Khatuna Lorig gained notoriety for two off-competition experiences: In 2008, she was selected as Team USA’s flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony at the 2008 Olympic Games, and in 2012 she coached actress Jennifer Lawrence in preparation for the blockbuster movie “The Hunger Games”. Of course, there are good reasons the 38-year-old has gotten those opportunities. Lorig, a recurve archer, has competed in four Olympic Games since 1992 — wearing the uniform of the Unified Team in 1992 and her native Georgia in 1996 and 2000 — and earned the a bronze medal in the 1992 team competition. After missing the 2004 Games while changing citizenship to the United States, Lorig placed fifth, the highest by a U.S. archer, male or female, at the 2008 Games. The West Hollywood, Calif., resident will compete both individually and with the team in London — the first time the U.S. women’s team has qualified since 2004 — and will boast one high-profile supporter. “I made a promise to Jennifer Lawrence that I would go to London and she made a promise to me that she would say, ‘That’s my coach’,” Lorig said.
Emil Milev, a school teacher in Tampa, Fla., made his first four Olympic appearances for his native Bulgaria. Now the 44-year-old will compete in rapid fire pistol — the same event in which he earned a silver medal in the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games — for Team USA at the 2012 Olympic Games. Milev moved to the United States with his family in 2004. He became a U.S. citizen and member of the USA Shooting National Pistol Team in 2009. Milev won a gold medal in the 2011 Pan American Games, setting a record with 24 hits from 25 meters. Milev has two children, Alexa and Philip, with Anina, his wife of more than 20 years.
Karen O’Connor laughed when referred to as Team USA’s “senior-most Olympian” for the 2012 Games. But at age 54 and having competed for Team USA in four Olympic Games since 1988, that’s exactly what the equestrian has become. O’Connor is part of the 2012 U.S. eventing team, the event in which she claimed a silver medal in 1996 and a bronze in 2000. Along with her husband David, she developed the O’Connor Event Team in Plains, Va., In 1996, Karen and David became the second husband-and-wife combination to stand on the same podium in the same Olympic event.
In April 2011, Kim Rhode became the first athlete to be nominated to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. The shooter also might be one of the most accomplished U.S. Olympians ever. In London, Rhode is trying to become the first American athlete in any individual sport to win a medal in five straight Olympic Games. The El Monte, Calif., native won the women’s double trap gold in Atlanta in 1996 as a 17-year-old and followed that up with bronze in 2000 and another gold in 2004. After that she switched to skeet shooting and won a silver medal at Beijing in 2008. She will compete in women’s trap and skeet in London. Basketball player Teresa Edwards is the only U.S. athlete to medal in five straight Olympic Games. Swimmer Dara Torres medaled in five, but not in succession. Torres did not qualify to compete in London.
Danielle Scott-Arruda is the most experienced player on a U.S. women’s volleyball team that is ranked first in the world as it prepares to pursue its first Olympic gold medal. The 6-foot-2 middle blocker from Baton Rouge, La., will be 40 Oct. 1. She has played in every Olympic Games for Team USA since 1996. Scott-Arruda’s age has hardly been slowing her down. She was captain and a starter in eight of 14 matches when United States won the World Grand Prix gold medal earlier this summer. Prior to helping the United States to an Olympic silver medal in 2008 (plus a fifth-place finish in 2004 and a fourth-place finish in 2000), Scott-Arruda was a three-time All-American at Long Beach State, which she led to 1993 NCAA title as national Player of the Year. She also was an all-Big West basketball player for Long Beach State. “I’ve played basketball, softball and track and field and volleyball is by far the ultimate team sport,” Scott-Arruda said. She has also played professionally, including most recently in Brazil. The flag bearer for the U.S. delegation at the 2007 Pan American Games is married to Eduardo Arruda. They have a 2-year-old daughter Julianne.Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc. Tom Robinson is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.