Countdown to London: One Day to Go
With one day remaining until the cauldron is lit at the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games, we decided to take a closer look at one team: Team USA.
There will be 529 athletes representing the United States at these Olympic Games, and they will compete in 25 sports (38 disciplines) ranging from archery to wrestling. The largest U.S. Olympic Team featured 664 athletes, when the Games were held in Atlanta in 1996 (385 men, 279 women).
For the first time, women athletes will outnumber the men on Team USA, with 268 female athletes and 261 male athletes. The timing was appropriate considering this year marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the federal legislation mandating gender equality at federally funded institutions. These Games also mark the debut of women’s boxing, and three U.S. women will be represented in this sport: Claressa Shields, Marlen Esparza and Queen Underwood.
These are the first Games since 1996 that will not include women’s softball. Men’s baseball is no longer part of the Olympic program, either.
American men might have again outnumbered women but the U.S. men’s soccer team did not qualify to compete in London. The U.S. women, who have won three of the four Olympic gold medals in soccer, began their quest for another gold medal Wednesday with a 4-2 victory against France. The 1912 Games were the last time there were no women on the U.S. team (The 1912 team featured 174 men).
Athletes will represent 45 states (based on athletes’ hometowns). California is the leader with 127 athletes. Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Rhode Island and South Dakota are each represented by one athlete apiece. New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina and West Virginia do not have any athletes on the U.S. team.
U.S. athletes hail from all over the world. Lopez Lomong, for example, is originally from Sudan. Archer Khatuna Lorig has represented three countries in the Olympic Games: The Unified Team, the Republic of Georgia and the United States. Triathlete Manuel Huerta and gymnast Danell Leyva are both from Cuba. Equestrian athlete Phillip Dutton was born in Australia and equestrian teammate Steffen Peters is from Germany. Synchronized swimmer Mariya Koroleva is from Russia and judo athlete Kyle Vashkulat is from Ukraine. Shooter Emil Milev is from Bulgaria. Tony Gunawan, who became a U.S. citizen in September, won a gold medal in badminton for Indonesia. Bernard Lagat hails from Kenya and Sanya Richards-Ross was born in Jamaica.
The oldest Team USA athlete is equestrian athlete Karen O’Connor, who is 54. The youngest U.S. entrant is swimmer Katie Ledecky, who at 15 will compete in the 800-meter freestyle. The average age of Team USA is 27. The oldest U.S. competitor at an Olympic Games was an archer in the 1904 Games who was 71 years, 179 days.
The tallest member of Team USA comes from the men’s basketball team. Tyson Chander, a center, stands at 7-foot-1. Three athletes tie for being the smallest at 4-foot-11: Katie Bell (diving), Clarissa Chun (wrestling) and Gabby Douglas (gymnastics).
The most decorated U.S. Olympic athletes are swimmers. Michael Phelps enters London, his fourth and what he has said are his final Olympic Games, with 16 Olympic medals (14 gold, 2 bronze). Natalie Coughlin, competing in her third Olympic Games has 11 medals (3 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze). Phelps is the world leader among male athletes with the most Olympic medals; Coughlin needs one medal to tie American swimmers Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres, who each have a dozen Olympic medals.
Teresa Edwards, a five-time Olympian and the most decorated Olympic basketball player in the world (4 golds, 1 bronze), is Team USA’s chef de mission. There are seven U.S. athletes who will be competing in their fifth Olympic Games in London: Amy Acuff (track and field), Dutton (equestrian), Lorig (archery), Milev (shooting), O’Connor (equestrian), Kim Rhode (shooting), Danielle Scott-Arruda (volleyball). Sixteen other athletes have competed in five Olympic Games for the United States.
Sixty-seven members of Team USA are parents. There are 54 fathers and 13 mothers. Hurdler Lashinda Demus gave birth to twin boys in 2007 and made the 2012 team. Kerri Walsh, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball delivered her second son in 2010, is back to compete with Misty-May Treanor in London. Josh Richmond, a double trap shooter, became the father of his second child, in April.
The U.S. Army will be well represented in London. Spc. Dennis Bowsher (modern pentathlon), Sgt. 1st class Dremiel Byers (Greco-Roman wrestling), Spc. Justin Lester (wrestling), Sgt. Spenser Mango (wrestling), Sgt. John Nunn (track and field), Sgt. 1st class Keith Sanderson (shooting) and Sgt. 1st class Daryl Szarenski (shooting) are all part of the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program. There are also six members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit who will be competing in London: Sgt. Glenn Eller, Sgt. Vincent Hancock, Sgt. Michael McPhail, Sgt. 1st class Jason Parker, Staff Sgt. Josh Richmond, Sgt. 1st class Eric Uptagrafft. Uptagrafft, who last competed in the Olympic Games in 1996, will be joined in London by his wife, Sandra, a Navy reservist and now an Olympic shooter herself.
Several U.S. Olympic Team members are related to Major League Baseball or NFL players: Track star Sanya Richards-Ross, an Olympic contender in the 400, is married to defensive back Aaron Ross, now of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Weightlifter Holley Mangold’s brother, Nick, is a Pro Bowl center for the New York Jets. Beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor is married to Matt Treanor, a catcher for the Texas Rangers. Diver Brittany Viola’s father is Cy Young award winner Frank Viola. Meanwhile shot putter Michelle Carter is the daughter of Michael Carter, who is believed to be the only athlete to garner an Olympic medal and Super Bowl ring in the same year.