Ten American Athletes to Watch at the Rio Olympics
After four long years of waiting, the Olympics have finally come around again, this time in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. With the start of the Olympics comes sitting on the couch at home for hours, eagerly watching all the different sports and rooting for Team USA. Although it’s fun to frantically search the Wikipedia pages of the athletes during the commercial breaks, we figured it would be more helpful to list out some athletes who are going to be making a splash in Rio. So, here’s ten athletes, six different sports, all ready to make their mark at the games.
Simone Biles// Simone, a 19 year old gymnast, grew up and launched her gymnastic career in Texas. She started competing at the Junior level in 2011, then moved to the Senior level in 2013. At the Senior level, she has become the first and only woman to win three world all-around titles in a row and is the most decorated American female gymnast in the history of the World Championships. Just a friendly reminder-- she managed to do that in only three years! Aside from gymnastics, she loves shopping and being with friends. Keep an eye out for Simone and the rest of the USA Women’s Gymnastics Team Members on August 4th, when live stream coverage of their Podium Training begins on nbcolympics.com at 8:45am EDT.
Nathan Adrian// one of the most well-known men’s swimmers in the Olympics, Nathan Adrian is returning to the games to defend his gold medal in the 100 Meter Freestyle. Born and raised in Washington, Nathan began swimming at the age of two and still continues today at the age of 27. After an amazing high school career that included breaking the Washington high school 200M Free record, Nathan went on to collegiately swim at Cal. Since making the Olympic Team in 2008, he has collected many other honors and accolades, such as being elected to the Asian Hall of Fame, becoming the American record-holder in the 50M Free, and winning the NCAA Men’s Team Championship with Cal in 2011. Nathan is definitely a family man, and a very proud uncle to his three young nephews, one of whom even came to watch him at Olympic Trials. Watch Nathan take on the Men’s 100M Free preliminaries on August 9th, with the livestream starting on nbcolympics.com at 4pm EDT.
English Gardner// a newcomer to the Olympics, English Gardner, a 24 year old track athlete, is already the world’s seventh fastest woman ever. English grew up in New Jersey, where she got her start sprinting at 12 years old. After a devastating injury to her knee in 2008, the year before her high school graduation, all colleges recruiting her backed out except for Oregon. Jokes on them. She went on to be named the Pac-12 Rookie of the Year in her freshman year and win four NCAA titles in the three years she spent at the school before going professional in 2013. English also went on to break the world record for the 100 Meter at the Olympic Trials on July 3rd, setting the new time at 10.74 seconds. After setting the record, a video went viral of English praising Jesus on the track, garnering 1.5 million views online. The track star is a devout Bible-reader, saying that she likes to interpret the different stories into her life. Follow English in the Women’s 100M preliminaries on August 12, where a live stream begins at 12:35pm EDT on nbcolympics.com.
Kyrie Irving// to anyone who follows the NBA or Duke University Basketball, the name Kyrie Irving is a familiar one. Born in Australia but raised in New Jersey, Kyrie grew up playing basketball in the Amatuer Athletic Union (AAU) and even switched high schools to have more of a challenge while playing. He committed to Duke in 2009, but ended up only playing the 2010-11 season for the team because of his decision to join the NBA. Drafted as the number one pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011, Kyrie has earned many different NBA honors since then, such as 2011-12 Rookie of the Year, being voted to the All Star Game three times, and winning the 2016 NBA Championship with the Cavaliers. Aside from basketball, Kyrie likes to read, play his saxophone, dance, and sing. Look out for Kyrie and the US Men’s Basketball Team on August 6th, when they play their first game of the Olympics versus China with the live stream on nbcolympics.com beginning at 10pm EDT.
Mallory Pugh// a newcomer to both the Olympics and the US Senior Women’s Soccer Team, at just 18 years old, Mallory Pugh is one of the best soccer players in the US. Mallory grew up playing in her home state of Colorado for the club team Real Colorado and her high school, Mountain Vista. She has collected many accolades while playing for her high school, club, and the US U17/U20 teams, including being named the 2016 Gatorade National Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year, 2013 NCSAA Youth All-American Team, and 2015 US Soccer Young Female Player of the Year. She first captained the US Senior Women’s Team in January of 2016, going on to become the youngest US female in history to appear in an Olympic-qualifying soccer game. In Mallory’s free time, she likes to listen to Justin Bieber and cheer for FC Barcelona. Follow along with Mallory and the US Women’s Soccer Team on August 3rd, as they take on New Zealand at 10pm EDT on nbcolympics.com.
Katie Ledecky// at nineteen years old, Katie Ledecky is already attending her second Olympic Games and ready to defend her 2012 gold in the 800M Freestyle. Raised in Maryland, Katie began swimming for Nation’s Capital Swim Club (whom she still trains with today) at the age of six and went on to swim for her high school, Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart. At just 15 years old, she broke the American Women’s 800M Free Record at the London Olympics. In the years since, she’s shaved eight seconds off her own 800M Free World Record and set an additional world record in the 1500M Free. Although she committed to Stanford in 2014, Katie deferred enrollment to the fall of this year in order to focus on Rio. Watch Katie’s first race, the Women’s 400M Free Preliminaries, on August 7th with live stream coverage beginning on nbcolympics.com at 4pm EDT.
Sam Mikulak// attending his second Olympics as a gymnast, Sam Mikulak is ready to make a splash at Rio after posting the highest all-around score at US Olympic Trials. Born and raised in California, Sam began gymnastics at two years old, spurred on by his parents, who were both collegiate gymnasts. He was a member of the Junior National Team from 2007-2010, then joined the University of Michigan’s Gymnastics Team in the fall of 2010. During his time at Michigan he was chosen for the 2012 Olympic Team, placing fifth in the vault final and fifth in the team final in London. Sam went on to win three NCAA all-around titles, two parallel bar championships, and one high bar title in his collegiate career. A fun fact about Sam is that he started a tea company called MateBros and likes to drink this tea before his meets. Follow Sam and the US Men’s Gymnastics Team as they open up with the first event of the Olympic Games, Podium Training, at 1:30pm EDT on August 3rd with live stream coverage on nbcolympics.com.
Breanna Stewart// regarded as one of the best women’s collegiate basketball players in history, Breanna Stewart is making her Olympic debut with US Women’s Basketball. Breanna grew up in New York, going on to play for Cicero-North Syracuse High School, the University of Connecticut, and currently, the Seattle Storm. At UConn, she achieved so many different honors that it’s almost difficult to keep count: four national championships, four time Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, three straight AP Player of the Year awards, becoming a three time Naismith Trophy Winner, and two undefeated seasons. She went first in the 2016 WNBA Draft for the Seattle Storm, and has already scored 389 points in 20 games. In her free time, Breanna likes to play video games, including Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Watch Breanna and the US Women’s Basketball Team on August 7th, as they open their Olympic Games by playing Senegal with the nbcolympics.com live stream starting at 3pm.
Ashton Eaton// a decathlon star and world record holder, Ashton Eaton is hoping to defend his Olympic gold he won in 2012. Ashton grew up in Oregon, going on to run for Mountain View High School where he competed in the 200M, 400M, and long jump. He never even gave decathlon a thought until after high school, when the sport was introduced to him by his track coaches at the University of Oregon. Decathlon is a competition involving ten sports, the 100M, 400M, 1500M, long jump, shot put, discus throw, high jump, pole vault, javelin throw, and 110M hurdles, with the races happening over two days. Ashton currently holds the decathlon world record at 9,045 points, technically making him the “World’s Greatest Athlete” as some label the world’s top decathlon athlete. He is married to a Canadian pentathlon athlete, Brianne Theisen-Eaton. Follow along with Ashton on his first day of decathlon competition, August 17th, with the nbcolympics.com live stream beginning at 12:30pm EDT.
Laurie Hernandez// only breaking into the Senior Level Gymnastics scene this year, Laurie Hernandez is already Olympics-bound after finishing 2nd All-Around at US Olympic Trials. Born and raised in New Jersey, Laurie started gymnastics at age five and hasn’t stopped since. She competed at the Junior Level from 2012-2015, then was drafted to Team USA at the end of 2015 and became a Senior in 2016. Laurie has been having big finishes all year, from a 3rd place All-Around at the Pacific Rim Championships, to a tied 2nd place finish with Aly Raisman at the P&G National Championships. Laurie is the youngest member of the US Women’s Gymnastics Team, having only turned 16 last month. Aside from gymnastics, she likes to paint her nails, draw, swim, and write poetry. Follow along with Laurie and the US Women’s Gymnastics Team on August 4th, with livestream coverage beginning at 8:45am on nbcolympics.com.
Between ten athletes and six different sports, you’re going to be seeing plenty of these athletes! No matter the finish, watching all of Team USA compete in Rio is going to be fantastic.
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