Meet Team USA America's 531 Olympians include artists, doctors, soldiers, physicists, high school students and even a 52-year-old retiree

Aug. 02, 2004
Aug. 02, 2004

Table of Contents
Aug. 2, 2004

2004 Olympic Preview

Meet Team USA America's 531 Olympians include artists, doctors, soldiers, physicists, high school students and even a 52-year-old retiree

By Julia Morrill

The winnowing took months, and it was merciless. At the swimming
trials, Sydney medalists Brooke Bennett, Megan Quann and Ed Moses
all finished third or worse and saw their Athens dreams vanish.
In gymnastics, teenager Chellsie Memmel, world champion in the
uneven bars, failed to survive a cutthroat selection camp. At the
wrestling trials, former Olympic silver medalists Brandon Paulson
and Dennis Hall grappled through nearly 11 minutes of overtime in
their Greco-Roman final before Hall scored the winning takedown
and the two fell into an exhausted embrace. But when the culling
was complete and the tears had dried, America had a new set of
Olympians, 531 strong, drawn from 46 of the 50 states and, this
being a land of immigrants, 20 countries. The U.S. team has 274
men, 257 women, 52 past gold medalists and 334 first-time
Olympians, from 15-year-old swimmer Katie Hoff to 47-year-old
tennis player Martina Navratilova (an immigrant, of course). It
has Northerners and Southerners, favorites and long shots,
millionaire pros and starving amateurs--all soon to bond in ways
only past Olympians fully understand. The U.S. Olympic Committee
has set a goal of 100 medals for this team, but unless swimmer
Michael Phelps wins seven or more golds, no number will begin to
sum up the glories and disappointments--the human stories--of the
class of 2004.

This is an article from the Aug. 2, 2004 issue Original Layout

Most Decorated

--Jenny Thompson, swimming, 10 medals (eight gold). The
31-year-old Columbia medical school student is competing in her
fourth Games. She could finish with 13 career medals, which would
put her in a four-way tie for third among Summer Olympians,
behind Soviet gymnasts Larisa Latynina (18) and Nikolay Andrianov

--Gary Hall Jr., swimming, eight medals (four gold). Despite
having battled diabetes since 1999, the 29-year-old Phoenix
native and avid musician qualified for his third U.S. team. "The
bad news is I'm getting old," he says. "The good news is, it
proves I haven't been spending all my time playing guitar."
Hall's dad was also a three-time Olympic swimmer.


--Katie Hoff, swimming, 15. The homeschooled ninth-grader from
Abingdon, Md., is a club teammate of star Michael Phelps (page
90) and could win a medal in each individual medley. She gets
some of her athleticism from her mother, Jeanne, a former
Stanford basketball great. The team's youngest male is boxer
Rau'Shee Warren, a 17-year-old southpaw from Cincinnati who will
fight at 106 pounds.


--Elizabeth (Libby) Callahan, shooting, 52. The three-time
Olympian is a retired Washington, D.C., police lieutenant who
learned to shoot five years after joining the force in 1975. "If
you stay active it will keep you young for many years," she says.
"I've never related my accomplishments to my age." The oldest
male is archer Butch Johnson, 48, a 1996 team gold medalist who's
going to his fourth Games. His Woodstock, Conn., house has an
archery range in the basement.


--Courtney McCool, gymnastics, 4'9". The 16-year-old from Kansas
City, Mo., was the all-around champ at the Athens Olympic test
event in March.


--Tim Duncan, basketball, 7 feet. The San Antonio Spurs forward
was a competitive swimmer in the U.S. Virgin Islands and dreamed
of following the path of his sister Tricia, who swam in the 1988
Olympics. But when Hurricane Hugo destroyed his local pool in
'89, Duncan turned to hoops.


--Shane Hamman, weightlifting. The 32-year-old superheavyweight
from Mustang, Okla., has hoisted as much as 517 pounds overhead.
The 5'9" 350-pounder can dunk with two hands, do a standing
backflip and perform a number of other jaw-dropping tricks. "One
time I moved a Volkswagen Jetta over three parking spots," he
says. "In three seconds I can rip a phone book in half."

Most Controversial

--Marion Jones, track and field. The five-time Sydney medalist is
embroiled in the BALCO drug case, and in July two newspapers
reported that her ex-husband, C.J. Hunter, had told investigators
that she had used performance-enhancing drugs before and during
the 2000 Olympics (an allegation she denies).

--Tammy Crow, synchronized swimming. A judge agreed to postpone
Crow's serving a 90-day sentence for two counts of vehicular
manslaughter until after the Games. Crow was behind the wheel in
a 2003 accident in California that killed her boyfriend and a
12-year-old passenger.

Brothers and Sisters

The eight sets of siblings include tennis players Serena and
Venus Williams and swimmers Kalyn and Klete Keller and Dana and
Tara Kirk (the first sisters to make the U. S. Olympic swim
team). Identical twins Bob and Mike Bryan are the second brothers
to represent the U.S. in Olympic tennis. The first: Joseph and
Arthur Wear, great-great-uncles of President George W. Bush, in

Other Family Ties

--Taylor Dent, tennis, is the cousin of beach volleyball Olympian
Misty May and the son of former Australian tennis star Phil Dent.

--Hazel Clark and Jearl Miles-Clark, track and field, are
sisters-in-law and will run the 800 meters--Miles-Clark for the
fourth straight Games.

--Rebecca Giddens, kayaking, is distantly related to suffragist
Susan B. Anthony.

Most Team Members

1. California (140)
2. Texas (29)
3. Florida (25)
4. New York (22)
T5. Colorado (21)
T5. Ohio (21)
(Based on athletes' hometowns)

No Members

Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia.

Most Superstitious

--Lisa Fernandez, softball. Besides having lucky socks, shoes and
glove, the star pitcher says she always follows the same pregame
ritual: "I take a cup of water and drink three swigs. The first I
spit out, the second I swallow, the third I spit out. Then I
leave my cup in a specific hole in the fence by the dugout.
Finally I have my catcher hand off my glove to me like a
quarterback to a running back, and I burst onto the field."

Most Artistic

--Cheryl Haworth, weightlifting. The 2000 superheavyweight bronze
medalist is a junior at Savannah College of Art and Design. She
spent eight weeks this spring working on a nine-foot-high pencil
drawing of a figure wearing a gold leaf crown, sitting on a rock
surrounded by serpents.

--Cael Sanderson, wrestling. At Iowa State, Sanderson was
undefeated on the mat (159-0 with four NCAA titles) and
impressive in his work as an art and design major. He plans to
pursue a career in advertising design.


--Jason Read, rowing, is chief of operations for a volunteer
rescue squad in Ringoes, N.J., and worked at Ground Zero after
Sept. 11.

Miracle Man

--Tony Azevedo, water polo. When the U.S. team's star was four
and playing in his backyard in Long Beach, Calif., he fell and
broke open his trachea. At the hospital he stopped breathing for
two minutes and doctors said he would be on a respirator for
life. He recovered in just eight months. "I showed them," says
Azevedo, 22, who's renowned for his toughness in the pool. "My
motto is, you can overcome anything."

Most Inventive

--Steve Tucker, rowing. Tucker, a 35-year-old MIT-trained
physicist, created a training aid he calls an "accelerometer"
that he and partner Greg Ruckman, 30, a Harvard philosophy grad,
wire into their lightweight doubles scull. The device measures
speed, oar-lock angle, seat position and other data, which the
duo study later on a laptop or Palm Pilot.

Uniquely Funded

--Carol Cronin, sailing. After the 40-year-old Yngling-class
(three-person keelboat) racer lost five pounds on the Atkins
diet, she approached Atkins Nutritionals and received $244,000
over two years in sponsorship for her team.

--Mohini Bhardwaj, gymnastics. She received $20,000 in training
funds from Pamela Anderson, a former gymnast who wanted to help
the Cincinnatian make her first Olympic team.


--Shawn Crawford and Reese Hoffa, track and field. Crawford, a
sprinter, outran a giraffe but lost to a zebra on Fox's Man vs.
Beast TV special in January 2003. Two years ago he wore a Phantom
of the Opera mask during a 200-meter race in Milan; the mask
slipped over his eyes, causing him to stray from his lane and be
disqualified. Hoffa, a pro wrestling fanatic, calls himself the
Unknown Shot-putter. He, too, competed in a mask (black, with a
red X on it) at a meet in California last year, but with better
luck: He threw a then PR of 68'7".

William Tell Award

--Vic Wunderle, archery. The 28-year-old from Lincoln, Ill., once
demonstrated his sport in front of a class of kids by piercing a
balloon and then hitting progressively smaller targets,
culminating with a Tic Tac.

No Stopping Them

--Collyn Loper, shooting. The 17-year-old trapshooter from
Birmingham was born blind in her right eye, so even though she's
righthanded she shoots lefty.

--Kevin Hall, sailing. In 1990, as a senior at Brown, he was
found to have testicular cancer and had both testicles and many
abdominal lymph nodes removed. Now cancer-free, he takes weekly
testosterone injections, with approval from the U.S. and
international governing bodies.

--Rulon Gardner, wrestling. Since winning gold in Sydney, the
Greco-Roman heavyweight from Afton, Wyo., has had a toe on his
right foot amputated because of frostbite, survived a motorcycle
crash and--just weeks before this year's trials--dislocated his
right wrist playing basketball.

The Doctor Is In

Several Olympians are in medical schools or residencies. In
addition, high jumper Amy Acuff (who made news by posing for the
September issue of Playboy) is studying to become an
acupuncturist and doctor of Oriental medicine.

Other Careers

--Barb Lindquist, triathlon, will soon open a bed-and-breakfast
in Alta, Wyo.

--Lori Harrigan, softball, is a security supervisor for Las
Vegas's Bellagio hotel-casino.

--John Magera, archery, is the refuge manager of the Middle
Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge in Marion, Ill.

--Jennifer Nichols, archery, is a dance instructor in Cheyenne,

--Kathy Colin, kayaking, designs, develops and tests hardware and
software for military tactical data systems at a San Diego

--Dan Kellner, fencing, was nominated for two Daytime Emmys for
his graphic-design work on the titles for The Rosie O'Donnell

--Ellen Estes, water polo, studied roller-coaster design as an
engineering intern for Disney.

--Tela O'Donnell, wrestling, was a fisherman in her native


--Marty Nothstein, cycling. The 2000 sprint gold medalist
attended drag racing school in Maple Grove, Pa., in June and hit
158 mph on a quarter-mile dragster run.

Best Name

--Whitney Ping, table tennis. The Beaverton, Ore., high schooler
has heard Ping-Pong jokes all her life.

Hot List

--Dain Blanton, beach volleyball. The 2000 gold medalist was a
finalist last year to star in The Bachelor.

--Jennie Finch, softball. The pitcher was named one of PEOPLE's
50 Most Beautiful in May.

--Amanda Beard, swimming. The breaststroker has posed for Maxim
and FHM.

Melting Pot

Thirty team members were born in other countries, and they, along
with those with strong ties to their heritage--like diver Kimiko
Soldati, whose Japanese-American grandparents were held in an
internment camp in Idaho after Pearl Harbor--give the delegation
a strong multicultural character. A few of the foreign-born

--Colleen De Reuck, track and field. The three-time South
African Olympian, who moved to Boulder, Colo., in 1993 and
became a U.S. citizen in December 2000, was the surprise winner
of this year's U.S. marathon trials at age 39.

--Meb Keflezighi, track and field. His family left the African
nation of Eritrea in search of a better life and, after a year in
Italy, settled in San Diego in 1987. "I'm always thankful," says
Keflezighi, a 29-year-old UCLA grad who'll run the marathon in

--Mary Sanders, rhythmic gymnastics. The 18-year-old Toronto
native, a dual citizen, chose the U.S. over Canada to honor her
late American-born dad, Fred, the 1963 Big Ten trampoline
champion for Michigan. "Since my father was an American gymnast,
it's always been in my mind to compete for the USA," she says.
"He taught me to fight for my goals, so I want to make him

--Jasna Reed, table tennis. The 33-year-old Chicago resident was
born in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina and won an Olympic bronze
for Yugoslavia in 1988. She gave the medal to her grandmother,
but it was lost 12 years ago when Serb troops stormed her

He's Greek to Me

Then there's Tom Pappas, the decathlon world champ from Glendale,
Ore. His great-grandfather was born in Greece, and Pappas plans
to meet up with distant relatives at the Games. He often receives
e-mail from Greeks asking him to change his citizenship and win
gold for their country this summer.


--Aquil Abdullah, 31, is the first black man to make the U.S.
Olympic rowing team. The son of a Catholic mother and a Muslim
father, he grew up in Washington, D.C., and is a George
Washington alum. He now lives in Princeton, N.J., and is a
freelance computer programmer.

--Maritza Correia, 22, is the first black woman to make the U.S.
Olympic swim team. The Georgia student was born in Puerto Rico to
Guyanese parents; she now lives and trains in Athens, Ga.

Military Honors
The U.S. Armed Forces are represented by 17 athletes, in
shooting, fencing, modern pentathlon, rowing, track and field,
and wrestling. The boxing coach is Army Staff Sgt. Basheer

--Marathon and 10,000-meter runner Dan Browne is a 1997 West
Point grad and a captain in the Oregon Army National Guard. At
the marathon trials he wore a white ribbon to honor two
classmates who died in Iraq. "I thought of them and I knew I
wouldn't quit," he said.

--Fencer Seth Kelsey graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2003
with a degree in behavioral science. A second lieutenant and epee
specialist, he plans to become a services officer, running
support systems at everything from day care centers to mess halls.

--Shooter Todd Graves has been assigned to the U.S. Army
Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Ga., since 1984. The
41-year-old sergeant first class, who'll compete in skeet, is the
most experienced U.S. Olympic shooter, having taken part in the
1992, '96 and 2000 Games.

TWO B/W PHOTOS: PETER GREGOIRE (PAPPAS, FINCH) Clockwise from top left: decathlete Pappas, tennis star SerenaWilliams, badminton partners Han and Bach, pitching ace Finch,ex-swimmer Duncan, medal queen Thompson, weightlifter Hamman,Sydney champ Jones, wrestler Gardner (center).TWO B/W PHOTOS: WALTER IOOSS JR. (WILLIAMS, GARDNER) [See caption above]TWO B/W PHOTOS: MICHAEL O'NEILL (HAN AND BACH, DUNCAN) [See caption above]B/W PHOTO: CARLOS SERRAO (THOMPSON) [See caption above]B/W PHOTO: TODD KOROL (HAMMAN) [See caption above]B/W PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER (JONES) [See caption above]COLOR PHOTO: PORTFOLIO BY MICHAEL O'NEILL Still the Best Despite the BALCO drug scandal, the U.S. track and field teamremains the strongest in the world. Its stars include (from left)shot-putter Adam Nelson, a 2000 silver medalist and Dartmouthgrad who's pumped that his event will be held in Olympia, site ofthe ancient Games (look for him to strut and scream before hethrows); Breaux Greer, Nelson's Athens, Ga., training partner(and singer for the rock band I Felt a Red Letter), who could winthe first U.S. men's javelin medal since 1972; and 1996 110-meterhurdles gold medalist Allen Johnson of Irmo, S.C., who, at age 33and despite being legally blind in his left eye, could become atwo-time Olympic champ. COLOR PHOTO: MARK DUNCAN/AP (DIRRELL) GREATEST CONNECTION Six-time national champion Andre Dirrell, a 165-pounder, willtry to win a boxing medal for his grandfather and coach, LeonLawson. It was Lawson who introduced Dirrell to the sport, at age10, to keep him off the streets of Flint, Mich., and who latertried to inspire him by arranging a chat with an oldacquaintance, Andre's idol, Muhammad Ali. (As a 10th-grader in1957, Lawson trained with Ali, then 15 and known as Cassius Clay,at a Louisville gym.) What words of wisdom did Ali give to theyoung fighter? "Listen to your granddaddy." COLOR PHOTO: PORTFOLIO BY MICHAEL O'NEILL NEW YORK BORN AND RAISED The best U.S. fencing team in history has a strong New Yorkflavor. Of the 17 members and alternates, five are from the BigApple, including (from left) Erinn Smart, alternate TimMorehouse, Keeth Smart (Erinn's brother) and Ivan Lee. Lee andthe Smarts, all from Brooklyn, are products of the PeterWestbrook Foundation, an inner-city sports program launched bythe 1984 sabre bronze medalist. Last year Keeth became the firstU.S. fencer to earn a No. 1 world ranking, in sabre.COLOR PHOTO: PORTFOLIO BY MICHAEL O'NEILL Dynamic Duo When Kerri Walsh, then a shy 15-year-old, first playedvolleyball against Misty May, Walsh was so impressed by her idol,16 and a high school superstar, that she asked May for anautograph. Seven years later the two Californians met on the probeach circuit, became friends and decided to team up. They're nowranked No. 1 in the world, having run off a recent 90-matchwinning streak. Their coach, Dane Selznick, describes theno-longer-starstruck Walsh (above, left) as a "caged cat" who"pounces on you" and May as "the opposite--calm, cool andcollected." Says Walsh, "We complement each other very well." B/W PHOTO: PORTFOLIO BY MICHAEL O'NEILL Fond Farewell Athens will likely be the swan song for five stars who helpedbring women's soccer into America's consciousness. KristineLilly, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Joy Fawcett and Brandi Chastain(pictured from left) led the U.S. to two World Cup championships,a gold medal in 1996 and a silver in 2000. Now they want toreturn to the top of Mount Olympus before retiring. "We've grownup together since we were 15," says Lilly, who's now 33. "We'relike sisters."COLOR PHOTO: PORTFOLIO BY MICHAEL O'NEILL American DreamersAsian-born doubles partners Kevin Han (above, left) and HowardBach want to win their adopted homeland's first badminton medal.Han, 31, left Shanghai when he was 17--he was already a badmintonwhiz--and moved to Brooklyn, where he learned English as adelivery boy for a Chinese restaurant. Bach, 25, was just threewhen he and his family left Ho Chi Minh City for San Francisco,where he took up the sport at the local YMCA. "That's my Americandream, going to the Olympics," says Han. "What bigger dream couldyou have?" B/W PHOTO: JOEL W. ROGERS (ABDULLAH)B/W PHOTO: LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS (CORREIA)B/W PHOTO: PORTFOLIO BY MICHAEL O'NEILL The Martial Artist "I'm aggressive and competitive," says Steven Lopez, the SugarLand, Texas, native who kicked his way to the U.S.'s firsttaekwondo gold medal in 2000. "It was never a question of if [I'dwin], but when." Inspired by his dad, a fan of Bruce Lee andChuck Norris, Lopez began competing in taekwondo at age six. Histhree siblings have also starred in the sport. In June, Lopez,25, was named one of PEOPLE's 50 Hottest Bachelors.COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL (IAGORASHVILIS) Wedded Bliss A typical married couple they are not. Rather than go to amovie or watch TV, Vaho and Mary Beth Iagorashvili spend theirfree time practicing pistol shooting, fencing, swimming,horseback riding and cross-country running--the five disciplinesof their sport, modern pentathlon. Vaho, 40, is originally fromthe Republic of Georgia and won a gold medal in 1988 for theSoviet Union. Mary Beth, 30, from Munkwonago, Wis., was the firstAmerican woman to compete in the modern pentathlon, at the 2000Olympics. The two met in 1998 at an Olympics training center inSan Antonio and married nine months later. "Training with MaryBeth helps me to see how motivated and dedicated she is," saysVaho. "She gives me inspiration." Other married couples on theU.S. team include Alan and Shayne Culpepper, a marathoner and a5,000-meter runner, respectively, and Ben and Danika Holbrook,whowill row in quadruple sculls.COLOR PHOTO: TODD BIGELOW/AURORA (RHODE) PET LOVERS Two-time trapshooting medalist (one gold) Kim Rhode, a CalPoly Pomona veterinary student, has a 16-inch bearded dragonnamed Fred who changes color from dark brown to light brown.Rhode isn't the only Olympian with a fondness for pets. HurdlerGail Devers practices starts against her Pomeranian, Kaleb. And17-year-old judoka Ronda Rousey has a cat whose Games-inspiredname needs updating: Thinking she wouldn't make the U.S. teamuntil 2008, Rousey dubbed her cat Beijing.COLOR PHOTO: PORTFOLIO BY MICHAEL O'NEILL Pool Sharks Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin (page 96) aren't the U.S.'sonly gifted swimmers. Among the others on a team that could win30 medals (from left): 100-meter butterfly favorite Ian Crocker,21, who loves restoring his 1971 Buick Riviera and listening toBob Dylan music; three-time Olympic butterflier Tom Malchow, 27,who, aptly, is taking flying lessons and has an Akita named Fly;200 freestyler Lindsay Benko, 27, a two-time Olympian who'llmarry Canadian swimmer Mike Mintenko next spring; KaitlinSandeno, 21, of USC, who'll swim three individual events;three-time Olympian Gary Hall Jr., who at age 29 has the year'sfastest 50-free time; Katie Hoff, 15, surprise winner of the 200and 400 individual medleys at the U.S. trials; Brendan Hansen,22, who set world records in both breaststrokes at the trials;Rachel Komisarz, 27, a 100-fly swimmer from the Louisville clubthat produced alltimegreat butterflier Mary T. Meagher; andAaron Peirsol, 21, world-record holder in the 200 backstroke,who--like Crocker and Hansen--swam for Texas, under men's Olympiccoach Eddie Reese.B/W PHOTO: BILL FRAKES (BROWNE)B/W PHOTO: U.S. FENCING (KELSEY)B/W PHOTO: USA SHOOTING (GRAVES)COLOR PHOTO: PORTFOLIO BY MICHAEL O'NEILL HOOK 'EM, HORNS Divers Troy Dumais and Laura Wilkinson are Texas standouts whotrain together near Houston, but they're an unlikely pair. Thehigh-octane Dumais, from Ventura, Calif., is a car racing buff;the quiet Wilkinson, a Houstonian, loves growing roses. "A fewyears back I started getting bored, and seeing her win theOlympics set off a spark in me," says Dumais, who'll compete inthree-meter springboard and synchronized springboard. Wilkinsonwill defend her 10-meter platform title.COLOR PHOTO: PORTFOLIO BY MICHAEL O'NEILL THE OTHER DREAM TEAM The U.S. has won two straight women's basketball golds andheads to Athens with a roster that includes not only veteranstandouts like guard Dawn Staley (rear), center Lisa Leslie andforward Sheryl Swoopes but also hot-shot newcomers like guardsDiana Taurasi and Sue Bird and forward Tamika Catchings (front).Catchings, the 2002 WNBA Rookie of the Year, is especially toughon defense. "She's so unassuming, she doesn't need to be a star,"says assistant coach Gail Goestenkors. But even on this stellarteam, Catchings will be one. B/W PHOTO: PORTFOLIO BY MICHAEL O'NEILL The Juggernaut Two straight Olympic gold medals, a No. 1 world ranking for 18consecutive years, only five losses in international play since1986--it might seem as if the U.S. women's softball team has runout of challenges. But coach Mike Candrea found one last October,when he put his 18 players through the Navy SEAL training coursein San Diego. First baseman Leah O'Brien-Amico says of theexperience, which included doing hundreds of push-ups and holdingboats overhead, "We were all dying, but finding some way,somehow, to push through." The training has paid off so far: In53 pre-Olympic games, the team was undefeated and outscoredopponents 476-14 (top hitters: third baseman Crystl Bustos, witha .500 average and 94 RBIs, and outfielder Kelly Kretschman, witha .481 average). The pitching aces are Lisa Fernandez, 33, whowas 13-0 with a 0.21 ERA in pre-Olympic play, and 23-year-oldJennieFinch, who had a 0.27 ERA. Says Fernandez, "Othercountries are getting better and coming after us, but you alwayswant to be the best. The SEALs reminded us of that." (Front row,left to right: CF Laura Berg, 2B Lovieanne Jung, O'Brien-Amico,OF Nicole Giordano. Second row: UT Amanda Freed, P Cat Osterman,Fernandez, Finch, C Stacey Nuveman. Third row: P Lori Harrigan,OF Jessica Mendoza, Kretschman, Bustos, UT Tairia Mims Flowers, CJenny Topping, SS Jaime Clark, SS Natasha Watley. Not pictured:Lauren Lappin.)