Olympics

Here come the Carolinas’ Olympians

Women’s Gymnastics: Ashton Locklear trains at Huntersville’s Everest Gymnastics and is an alternate for the Rio Olympics.
Women’s Gymnastics: Ashton Locklear trains at Huntersville’s Everest Gymnastics and is an alternate for the Rio Olympics. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

North Carolina

Notable athletes with a North Carolina connection who will compete in the Oympic Games for Team USA in Rio de Janeiro:

Swimming

(Six of these seven swimmers compete for SwimMAC’s Team Elite, which is based in Charlotte. N.C. State swimmer Ryan Held is the exception. Those seven will be joined in Rio by David Marsh, coach of Team Elite and, for these Olympics, the U.S. women’s swimmers).

Cammile Adams

Event: Women’s 200 butterfly.

Competes: Aug. 9-10.

What you should know: This is Adams’ second Olympics; she finished fifth in the same event in 2012. She will get married in her home state of Texas shortly after these Olympics, and her twin sister is helping plan the wedding.

What does it feel like to make the Olympic team and represent America in Rio? Cammile Adams, Kathleen Baker, Anthony Ervin, Jimmy Feigen, Ryan Lochte and Katie Meili share their thoughts about traveling to Rio to compete for Team USA. All six trai

Kathleen Baker

Event: Women’s 100 backstroke.

Competes: Aug. 7-8.

What you should know: Only 19, Baker grew up mostly in Winston-Salem but has been living in Charlotte most of the time since age 14 to train with SwimMAC. She has overcome Crohn’s disease – a chronic gastrointestinal disease – to make the U.S. team.

Anthony Ervin

Events: Men’s 50 freestyle; 400 freestyle relay.

Competes: Aug. 7, 11, 12.

What you should know: At 35, Ervin is the oldest member of the U.S. swim team and undoubtedly the one with the most extreme life experiences. He first made an Olympic team at age 19, then he left the sport for almost all of his 20s. His autobiography “Chasing Water” details his struggles with drugs, alcohol and Tourette syndrome.

Jimmy Feigen

Event: Men’s 400 freestyle relay.

Competes: Aug. 7.

What you should know: A powerful, playful Texan who is 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Feigen will compete in the same relay as SwimMAC teammate Ervin. While Ervin glides through the water like a barracuda, Feigen overpowers it. Feigen won a silver medal in the same relay in 2012.

Ryan Lochte

Event: Men’s 200 individual medley; 800 freestyle relay

Competes: Aug. 9, 10, 11.

What you should know: An 11-time Olympic medalist, Lochte is by far the most well-known of the Carolinas’ Olympic contingent. A nagging groin injury nearly short-circuited his Olympic trials. He hopes to be fully healed for Rio.

Katie Meili

Event: 100 breaststroke.

Competes: Aug. 7-8.

What you should know: Meili’s last name rhymes with “Smiley,” and she was all smiles after making the Olympic team in an upset. From Texas, Meili also has an Ivy League degree from Columbia in psychology and loves “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Ryan Held

Event: Men’s 400 freestyle relay.

Competes: Aug. 7.

What you should know: A rising junior at N.C. State, Held is a star for a Wolfpack team that will have four Olympians in Rio (the other three will swim for foreign countries). On Held’s Twitter biography, he admits to being an avid watcher of cat videos.

Canoe/Kayak

Casey Eichfeld

Event: Men’s single canoe and doubles canoe.

Competes: Aug. 7-9; Aug. 11.

What you should know: Eichfeld moved to Charlotte eight years ago to train and work at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. This is his third Olympics – his best previous Olympic finish was 11th. But this is the first time he was able to qualify in two events.

Michal Smolen

Event: Men’s kayak.

Competes: Aug. 10.

What you should know: Smolen has lived in the Gastonia area for the past eight years and also trained regularly at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Born in Poland, Smolen is coached by his father. Rafal Smolen, a former Polish national team member in canoe/kayak, also coaches Eichfeld.

Women’s Gymnastics

Gymnast Ashton Locklear is an alternate for the USA women’s gymnastics team at Rio Olympics.

 

Ashton Locklear

Event: Uneven bars.

Competes: She won’t, unless one of the five primary U.S. women’s gymnasts gets hurt. Locklear is an alternate but does get to travel to Rio just in case.

What you should know: Locklear, 18, is one of the best in the world at the uneven bars. She would have to be added to the U.S. lineup before competition begins Aug. 7 or else she will be sitting out and watching these Olympics.

Men’s Basketball

Harrison Barnes

Competes: Aug. 6-21.

What you should know: UNC product Barnes – who signed a four-year, $95 million deal with Dallas this offseason – will team in these Olympics with the better-known player who will replace him at Golden State in Kevin Durant. Barnes’ former teammates Draymond Green and Klay Thompson also will be part of the mix.

Kyrie Irving

Competes: Aug. 6-21.

What you should know: Having won an NBA championship by hitting the winning shot in Game 7, Irving could complete a magnificent summer if he can help lead this short-handed U.S. team to a gold medal. USA coach Mike Krzyzewski had to recruit Irving, who played one season at Duke, all over again to get him to join this team after a long NBA season.

Diving

Four years ago, Duke student Abigail Johnston won a silver medal in synchronized diving at the 2012 London Games. Now, the medical student looks to earn another medal in the Olympics, this time in the 3­meter springboard event.

 

Abby Johnston

Event: Women’s 3-meter springboard

Competes: Aug. 12, Aug. 14.

What you should know: Johnston, who will enter her third year at Duke’s medical school in August, won a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics in synchronized diving. This time she qualified as an individual. She will retire after these Olympics.

Women’s Soccer

(All five of the locally connected Carolinians on the U.S. women’s soccer team, which competes Aug. 3-19, played collegiately at North Carolina).

Crystal Dunn

What you should know: Originally from New York, Dunn was one of the best players to play at UNC in recent years. She was upset that she didn’t make the U.S. team that won the women’s World Cup in 2015, but she has improved so much that she could be a breakout star at forward for the squad in Rio.

Whitney Engen

What you should know: Engen, a defender, wanted to be a gymnast when she was young. An avid reader, she prefers science fiction and thrillers. She wants to go to law school after her soccer career is over.

Tobin Heath

What you should know: Heath has been a longtime stalwart for the U.S. women’s soccer team. Along with U.S. stars and fellow 2016 Rio-bound team members Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo, Heath has now been named to three Olympic rosters.

Meghan Klingenberg

What you should know: Klingenberg, a defender, will be very happy to see the field this time around. She was an alternate but didn’t get to play for the 2012 gold medalists in London. In the 2015 women’s World Cup, however, she played every minute of all seven games.

Allie Long

What you should know: Long, a midfielder, transferred from Penn State to UNC midway through her collegiate career and went on to help the Tar Heels to an NCAA championship in 2008. She now plays professionally for the Portland Thorns FC.

Fencing

Olympic fencer for USA is also a Muslim and will be first American Olympian to compete in a hijab

 

Ibtihaj Muhammad

Event: Women’s sabre, individual and team

Competes: Aug. 8, Aug. 13.

What you should know: Muhammad, a 2007 Duke graduate, will become the first U.S. athlete to compete wearing a hijab – the traditional covering for the head and neck worn by Muslim women.

Women’s Field Hockey

Seven of the 16 players on the U.S. roster either grew up in the Triangle area or went to school at one of the four ACC schools in North Carolina. Michelle Kasold is from Chapel Hill and starred at Wake Forest. There is also a former player from Duke (Stefanie Fee) and five former players from North Carolina (Jaclyn Briggs, Rachel Dawson, Katelyn Falgowski, Kelsey Kolojejchick and Caitlin Van Sickle). The women’s field hockey competition runs from Aug. 6-19.

Shooting

Lucas Kozeniesky

Event: 10-meter air rifle

Competes: Aug. 8.

What you should know: Kozeniesky is a rising senior at N.C. State and the school’s first All-American in shooting since 1975. He wears his normal eyeglasses when he shoots and superstitiously travels to competitions without a toothbrush.

Track and Field

Tavis Bailey

Event: Men’s discus

Competes: Aug. 12-13.

What you should know: Bailey played football and threw the discus and shot put at A.L. Brown in Kannapolis. He originally went to Lenoir-Rhyne on a football scholarship before transferring to Tennessee to concentrate on track and field.

Shalane Flanagan

Event: Women’s marathon

Competes: Aug. 14.

What you should know: Flanagan, 35, has been one of the best distance runners in the U.S. for some time. This is the fourth Olympics for the UNC graduate. She won a bronze medal in the 10k in 2008 in China and finished 10th in the Olympic marathon in 2012.

Shannon Rowbury

Event: Women’s 1500

Competes: Aug. 12, 14, 16.

What you should know: Rowbury, who went to Duke, will compete in her third Olympics for the U.S. She wears lipstick during all her races in homage to her grandmother who believed in dressing up for special events.

Ronnie Ash

Event: Men’s 110 hurdles

Competes: Aug. 15, 16.

What you should know: Ash learned how to run the hurdles at Knightdale High. He graduated from Knightdale in 2008, went to Bethune-Cookman and then transferred to Oklahoma.

Foreign countries

Notable foreign athletes with N.C. connections:

Nic Batum, France

Event: Men’s basketball.

Competes: Aug. 6-21.

What you should know: Batum will be one of the stars for the French national team. The Charlotte Hornets gave Batum the richest contract in Charlotte pro sports history – $120 million over five years – in July to make sure he stuck around after he helped lead the Hornets to the playoffs in 2015-16.

Kirsty Coventry, Zimbabwe

Event: 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke.

Competes: Aug. 7-8, Aug. 11-12.

What you should know: Coventry, 32, is about to compete in her fifth Olympics. She has won seven individual swimming medals over the years for Zimbabwe, where she is treated like Michael Phelps. Coventry has been training with Charlotte’s SwimMAC Elite group since 2014.

Dion Dreesens, The Netherlands

Event: Men’s 200 freestyle, 800freestyle relay.

Competes: Aug. 7-9.

What you should know: Dreesens trains with SwimMAC Elite in Charlotte and also has swum for Queens. In 2016, Dreesens was the NCAA Division II Swimmer of the Meet after winning three championships in the 200-, 500- and 1000-yard freestyle events.

Patricia Castro-Ortega, Spain

Event: Women’s 200 and 400 freestyle; 800freestyle relay.

Competes: Aug. 7-10.

What you should know: Castro-Ortega earned four national Division II records with Queens this year in four different individual events. She was also an Olympian for Spain in 2012.

Shermaine Williams, Jamaica

Event: Women’s 100 hurdles

Competes: Aug. 16-17.

What you should know: Williams is a two-time Olympian as well as a Johnson C. Smith graduate (she still trains at the school). She also has a younger sister who is usually a better hurdler than she is. But in Jamaica’s Olympic Trials, younger sister Danielle hit a hurdle and lost her rhythm, and only older sister Shermaine qualified.

Kendra Clarke, Canada

Event: Women’s 400; women’s 1600 relay.

Competes: Aug. 13-15, Aug. 19-20.

What you should know: Clarke, a current Johnson C. Smith student, is only 19 years old and has a lot of college track honors still ahead of her. Although not a serious medal threat, making an Olympic team this early in her career is impressive.

Tia-Adana Belle, Barbados

Event: Women’s 400 hurdles

Competes: Aug. 15-16, 18.

What you should know: Belle, 20, qualified for her first Olympics after a record-breaking season with St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh. She set the NCAA Division II record in the 400-meter hurdles as St. Augustine’s placed second in the NCAA Division II women’s track and field championships.

Simonas Bilis, Lithuania

Events: Men’s 50 freestyle, men’s 100 freestyle

Competes: Aug. 9-12.

What you should know: One of four N.C. State swimmers competing in the Olympics, Bilis set a Lithuanian record in the 100-meter freestyle during his trials swim earlier this year. The 22-year-old placed second in the NCAA championships in both the 50 and 100 free and was an ACC champion in the 200 free.

Katie Bowen, New Zealand

Event: Women’s soccer

Competes: Aug. 3-19.

What you should know: A reserve player in the 2012 Olympics and a member of the nation’s 2015 World Cup team, Bowen is expected to be a key midfielder for New Zealand this summer. The 22-year-old appeared in all 22 games during her 2015-16 senior season for North Carolina and scored New Zealand’s lone goal in their final game before the Olympics, a 1-1 draw against Australia.

Roxroy Cato, Jamaica

Event: Men’s 400 hurdles

Competes: Aug. 15-16, 18

What you should know: After placing 31st in the 400-meter hurdles in the 2012 Olympics, the former St. Augustine’s track and field standout qualified as Jamaica’s third and final hurdler in the event this year. The 28-year-old is a former NCAA Division II champion in the event.

Soren Dahl, Denmark

Event: Men’s 800 freestyle relay

Competes: Aug. 9.

What you should know: One of four N.C. State swimmers competing in the Olympics, Dahl qualified for the relay team with a top-four finish in the individual 200 free for Denmark. The rising senior from Copenhagen was a member of a Wolfpack relay team that won an NCAA title.

Burkheart Ellis Jr., Barbados

Event: Men’s 200

Competes: Aug. 16-18.

What you should know: A Raleigh native, former Knightdale High star and 2016 St. Augustine’s graduate, Ellis was named the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year after a dominant performance across the board at the Division II championships. Ellis has dual citizenship after moving from Barbados back to the U.S. in 2006.

Jeffery Gibson, Bahamas

Event: Men’s 400 hurdles

Competes: Aug. 15-16, 18.

What you should know: Gibson holds the Bahamian record in the 400 hurdles after winning a bronze medal at the event the 2015 IAAF World Championships and competing on a relay team in the 2012 Olympics. The 25-year-old previously attended St. Augustine’s after growing up in the Bahamas.

Vikas Gowda, India

Event: Men’s discus

Competes: Aug. 12-13.

What you should know: After placing 22nd in the 2008 Olympics and eighth in 2012, 33-year-old Gowda will aim to earn his first medal in the discus throw this year. He was born in India but grew up in Maryland and attended North Carolina. He’s the only Indian male to win a track-and-field gold medal in the Commonwealth Games over the past 50 years, prompting Indian Express to call him “arguably the most consistent Indian athlete in recent times.”

Lindsey Harding, Belarus

Event: Women’s basketball

What you should know: Harding, the 2007 Naismith College Player of the Year for Duke, has played in the WNBA for nine years and signed with the Phoenix Mercury last month. The 32-year-old was Belarus’ leading scorer in the Olympics’ qualifying tournament.

Anton Ipsen, Denmark

Event: Men’s 400 freestyle, Men’s 1500 freestyle

Competes: Aug. 6, 12-13.

What you should know: One of four N.C. State swimmers competing in the Olympics, Ipsen won four ACC championships this year as a sophomore before qualifying for the Olympics in two events for Denmark.

Rebecca Quinn, Canada

Event: Women’s soccer

Competes: Aug. 3-19.

What you should know: A native of Toronto and former Duke star, Quinn made her first Canadian National Team appearance in 2014 but was left off last year’s World Cup squad before being selected for the Olympics. She scored three goals in 22 games as a Duke senior last fall and can play either midfield or defense.

LaToya Pringle Sanders, Turkey

Event: Women’s basketball

Competes: Aug. 6-20.

What you should know: Sanders was born in Germany, attended high school in Fayetteville, played collegiately for North Carolina and now lives in Turkey, having played there professionally since 2010 and obtaining citizenship in 2013. Now 29, she averaged 14.6 points per game for the Tar Heels in 2007-08.

South Carolina

Notable Team USA athletes with a South Carolina connection:

Track and Field

Raven Saunders

Event: Women’s shot put

Competes: Aug. 12.

What you should know: Saunders, who is originally from Charleston, is only 20 years old but has been racking up individual NCAA championships left and right at Ole Miss. She also enjoys playing the piano.

Sandi Morris

Event: Women’s pole vault

Competes: Aug. 16, 19.

What you should know: Morris, who went to high school in Greenville, S.C., competed two years at UNC before transferring to Arkansas. She can play both the guitar and violin and loves reptiles enough that she has owned several snakes.

Brianna Rollins

Event: Women’s 100 hurdles

Competes: Aug. 16-17.

What you should know: From Miami, Rollins has six brothers. She graduated from Clemson in 2013, where she had a standout track career for the Tigers.

Natasha Hastings

Event: Women’s 400; 4x400 relay

Competes: Aug. 13-15, 19-20.

What you should know: Hastings, 30, won an Olympic gold medal for the U.S. in 2008. From New York, she graduated from South Carolina in 2009. She is nicknamed the “400M Diva” and has thought about returning to school one day to become a chiropractor.

Foreign countries

Others with an S.C. connection who are going to Rio:

USC student Aliyah Abrams (400 meters, Guyana); USC student Julia Vincent (diving, South Africa); USC student Akaram Mahmoud (swimming, Egypt); USC graduate Sabrina D’Angelo (soccer, Canada); USC graduate Kierre Beckles (women’s 100 hurdles, Barbados); USC graduate Jeannelle Scheper (women’s high jump, Saint Lucia); USC women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley (assistant basketball coach for U.S. women’s team); USC coach Curtis Frye (assistant coach for U.S. track team); Clemson graduate Patricia Mamona (women’s triple jump, Portugal); Clemson graduate Joana Costa (women’s pole vault, Brazil); Clemson graduate Natoya Goule (women’s 800 meters, Jamaica).

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