This is an article from the July 28, 2008 issue
When DARA TORRES(third from left) won her first Olympic gold medal—in Los Angeles in 1984—26 ofthe 42 members of this year's swim team hadn't been born. No wonder 23-year-oldMICHAEL PHELPS (page 68) calls Torres his "sort-of mom." On a team fullof prodigies Torres, 41, who came out of retirement after having a daughter twoyears ago and undergoing shoulder and knee surgeries in the last year, could bethe story of the Games; in her fifth Olympics she'll likely add to her careerhaul of nine medals. NATALIE COUGHLIN (far right), who broke the 100-meterworld backstroke record at the trials in Omaha, tied a record at the 2004 Gameswith five medals (two of them gold)—a total that could be eclipsed by KATIEHOFF (fourth from right), who will swim six events in Beijing. Anotherbackstroke ace is MARGARET HOELZER (third from right), the reigning 200-meterworld champ and world-record holder. Beyond Phelps, the men's team is deep andexperienced. In Athens, AARON PIERSOL (fourth from left) won three gold medals,while RYAN LOCHTE (second from left) took a relay gold and an individualsilver. Then there are newcomers GARRETT WEBER-GALE (far left), 22, a surprisewinner of the 50- and 100-meter freestyles at the trials, and CULLEN JONES(second from right), a Bronx native who set a U.S. 50-meter free record inOmaha. Jones is just the second African-American swimmer to qualify for anOlympic individual event.
Mary BethDunnichay, diving, 15. Dunnichay (pronounced DUN-ih-kay), born Feb. 25, 1993,is five months younger than runner-up Haley Ishimatsu, with whom she'll dive insynchronized platform. Together the two are as old as gold-medalist teammateLaura Wilkinson, 30.
John Dane III,sailing, 58. A first-time Olympian after 40 years of trying, Dane will race inthe Star class with his 30-year-old son-in-law, Austin Sperry. Dane, the CEO ofNew Orleans--based Trinity Yachts, had his house and much of his shipbuildingbusiness destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina but rebuilt both. The oldestwoman is pistol shooter Libby Callahan, 56, a former Washington, D.C., policesergeant. Callahan, who'll be in her fourth Games, is the oldest woman in anysport ever to make a U.S. Olympic team.
Shawn Johnson(opposite), gymnastics, 4'8"—an inch and a half shorter than Mary LouRetton was in 1984.
Dwight Howard,basketball, 6'11", an inch taller than teammate Chris Bosh. Fellow hoopsterSylvia Fowles tops the women at 6'6", edging four-time Olympian Lisa Leslieby an inch.
Michael Phelpshas 4,594 friends on Facebook.
Charlotte Craig,taekwondo. Doctors removed Craig's dysfunctional left kidney when she was ayear old and told her family she should avoid contact sports. Softballshortstop Natasha Watley grew up with severe asthma and spent the first twoweeks of her life on a respirator.
Brittany Hayes,water polo. The Santa Ana, Calif., native is a descendant of the 19th U.S.president, Rutherford B. Hayes.
Jessica Mendoza,softball. After Beijing the 27-year-old Stanford-educated leftfielder will takeover as president of the Women's Sports Foundation.
• Taylor Phinney,track cycling, son of riders Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter-Phinney. At the1984 Games, Davis won bronze in the team time trial and Connie brought homegold in the road race.
• MichelleCarter, shot put, daughter of Michael Carter, 1984 silver medalist in the shotand former Pro Bowl nosetackle for the San Francisco 49ers. The elder Carter isthe only athlete to have won an Olympic medal and a Super Bowl ring in the sameyear.
• Marvell Wynne,soccer defender, son of former San Diego Padres outfielder Marvell Sr.
• Mariel Zagunis,defending gold medalist in sabre fencing and daughter of Cathy and RobertZagunis, who rowed in the '76 Montreal Games.
• ArielRittenhouse, diving, daughter of 1964 swimming silver medalist Sharon Finneranand niece of 1972 Olympic diver Mike Finneran.
• JW Krumpholz,water polo, son of Kurt Krumpholz, who set a world record in the 400-meterfreestyle in the preliminaries of the '72 Olympic trials, then failed to makethe team.
• ShalaneFlanagan, 10,000 meters, daughter of ex-marathon world-record holder CherylTreworgy, now a track and field photographer who often shoots Shalane inaction.
Lovieanne Jung,softball. The second baseman was named for Gilligan's Island characters LoveyHowell (the millionaire's wife) and Mary Anne Summers. Sadam Ali, a132-pounder, will be not only the first Arab-American Olympic fighter but alsothe first Ali to box in the Games for the U.S.—the 1960 gold medalist was stillCassius Clay.
THE SUPER SIX
Of the half-dozenmembers of the soon-to-be-famous women's gymnastics team, four are from theMidwest—Shawn Johnson (West Des Moines, Iowa), Chellsie Memmel (West Allis,Wis.), Samantha Peszek (Indianapolis) and Bridget Sloan (Pittsboro, Ind.)—andtwo are coached by their fathers. Nastia Liukin (opposite) trains in Plano,Texas, under dad Valeri, a four-time Olympic medalist for the Soviet Union, andMemmel is coached by dad Andy, who runs a gymnastics gym.
Fencing. JasonRogers was a finalest for a Rhodes Scholarship. Emily Cross won the worldjunior title in foil in '05 and then passed up senior worlds to finish hersophomore year at Harvard. Sada Jacobson has a history degree from Yale. TimMorehouse is a Brandeis grad and former teacher. It's no wonder the siblings onthe team, who work in finance in New York City, are named Keeth and ErinnSmart.
Eric Shanteau,swimming. In June, a week before the start of the U.S. trials in his sport,Shanteau, a 24-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., was told by his doctors that he hadtesticular cancer. They cleared him to swim at the trials, where heunexpectedly made the team, edging close friend, world-record holder andUniversity of Texas--based training partner Brendan Hansen for second place inthe 200-meter breaststroke. Shanteau, whose cancer was detected early, willhave weekly blood tests and CT scans and—unless doctors see a worsening of hiscondition—will compete in Beijing.
• Before MattReed married fellow triathlete Kelly Rees in 2003, he helped nurse her back tohealth after she was struck by a 15-ton construction truck while biking inBoulder, Colo.
• TriathleteHunter Kemper went on his first date with future wife Val the day she was cutfrom the 2000 U.S. Olympic volleyball team.
• Casey Burgener(whose berth on the team is pending) proposed to fellow weightlifter NatalieWoolfolk while the two were riding an elephant after last year's worldchampionships in Thailand. The pair plans to marry in California this fall.
After Matt Emmonslost a gold medal at the 2004 Games by firing his final 50-meter rifle shot atthe wrong target, Czech shooter Katy Kurkova came over to offer sympathy andwas impressed with the way he handled the disappointment. The pair married lastyear in the Czech Republic.
Natasha Kai,soccer. The Hawaii native's 19 tattoos include hibiscus flowers, the HawaiianIslands, turtles, her initials written in a tribal language and the names ofassorted family members. Greco-Roman wrestler Jake Deitschler has Chinesecharacters that translate to "God, wrestler warrior" tattooed under hisright armpit.
Nine activemembers of the military qualified for the shooting team. In addition, modernpentathlete Eli Bremer (nephew of L. Paul Bremer, the former head of U.S.rebuilding efforts in Iraq), is a reservist after having served as an Air Forcecaptain; Greco-Roman wrestler Dremiel Byers is an Army staff sergeant; Grecoteammate Adam Wheeler spent five years in the Coast Guard; and fencer SethKelsey is a second lieutenant in the Air Force.
Judoka AdlerVolmar, a onetime Navy medic, served as a bodyguard last year in thepresidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. When Volmar was growing up in Haitihis father worked briefly as a driver for that country's then dictator,Fran√ßois Duvalier.
Bryan Volpenhein,rowing. After winning gold as a member of the men's eights boat at the 2004Athens Games, Volpenhein took a year off to attend culinary school in Seattle.He cooks for teammates and provides a monthly recipe to the U.S. Rowingwebsite, which posts video of him preparing it.
Point guard JasonKidd, who played in the Sydney Games but missed Athens, is the only player onthe men's basketball team who is one-for-one in gold medals.
Based on 2007--08salaries, that would be Kidd, who earned $19.728 million, just ahead of the$19.491 million taken home by Kobe Bryant. By contrast, a typical athlete atthe U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs receives free room andboard and a monthly stipend between $1,000 and $3,000.
The USOC will payathletes bonuses of $25,000 for every gold medal they win, $15,000 for everysilver and $10,000 for every bronze.
The colleges withthe most team members (current students or alums) are Stanford (31), UCLA (19),USC (19), Texas (17), Cal (14) and North Carolina (13).
Valerie Gotay,judo. At the 1992 Barcelona Games, Gotay, then 18, became seriously ill (shethinks from cutting weight for the 106-pound class) and couldn't compete.Plagued by medical problems for two years, she retired. She has since married,had two daughters, separated and returned to judo, building a gym in her barnin Harlingen, Texas. In June she made her second Olympic team—16 years afterher first—at 125 pounds.
The five-memberarchery team has a five-time Olympian (Butch Johnson), a four-time Olympian(Khatuna Lorig), a three-time Olympian (Vic Wunderle), a two-time Olympian(Jennifer Nichols) and a first-time Olympian (Brady Ellison).
The tennis teamhas two sets of siblings: identical twins Bob and Mike Bryan, the world's No.2--ranked men's doubles team, and Venus and Serena Williams, the 2000 doubleschamps.
Shawn Estrada,the middleweight boxer, has 15 siblings and half-siblings.
Team USA includesathletes who were born in 28 other countries. These 36 Olympians include:
• Bernard Lagat,the world 1,500- and 5,000-meter champ, who won two Olympic medals for Kenyabefore becoming a U.S. citizen in 2004.
• Lopez Lomong,an 800-meter runner and one of the Lost Boys of Sudan; he was separated fromhis family when fleeing militia members at age six and spent a decade in arefugee camp in Kenya before coming to the U.S. in 2001 with the help of an aidgroup.
• Bob Malaythong,badminton, who came to the U.S. from Laos in 1989 at age eight with his sisterand mother; he eventually worked as a dishwasher, cookie baker and burritomaker to support himself. His badminton teammates Eva Lee and Howard Bach wereborn in Hong Kong and Vietnam, respectively.
Determined to bea U.S. Olympian someday, backstroker Matt Grevers, then 19, turned down anoffer to switch countries and swim for the Netherlands, birthplace of hisparents, in the Athens Games. The gamble paid off: At this year's U.S. trialsGrevers, an underdog, out-touched star Ryan Lochte in the 100 back to earn aberth in Beijing.
WIN SOME, LOSESOME
The men's soccerteam has Ghanaian-born Freddy Adu, Brazilian-born Benny Feilhaber andScottish-born Stuart Holden, but it failed to land U.S.-born Giuseppe Rossi.The gifted 21-year-old striker, who grew up in Clifton, N.J., as the son ofItalian immigrants, has dual citizenship and decided to play for Italy.
The U.S. now hastop-level foreign-born coaches in many of the 28 Summer Olympic sports. WhileRomanian-born women's gymnastics team director Martha Karolyi (wife of formerOlympic coach Bela) may be better known to American fans, the head coach withthe biggest global following is women's volleyball's "Jenny" Lang Ping,who starred for China's gold-medal team at the 1984 Games and remains anational hero in her homeland.
Marcie Van Dusen,wrestling. In January the 121-pounder ended the 10-year, 119-matchinternational winning streak of 2004 Olympic champ Saori Yoshida of Japan.
STATE OF THESTATES
Based onhometowns, California produced more members of Team USA (175) than any otherstate. The runners-up were Texas (44), Pennsylvania (28), Florida (27), NewYork (25), Washington (19), Illinois (17), Georgia (16), New Jersey (16) andOhio (16). No team member is from Montana, North Dakota or West Virginia.
Brad Vering,Greco-Roman wrestling, grew up in Howells, Neb. (pop. 632).
The only men'swater polo player not from California is goalkeeper Brandon Brooks of Hawaii.Including Brooks, the U.S.'s starting water polo goalie at five of the last sixOlympics has been from Hawaii.
Melanie Roach,weightlifting. The 117-pounder—one of 20 mothers on the team—finally made herfirst Olympics at age 33. Roach set a world record of 250 pounds in the cleanand jerk in 1998 but in 2000 suffered a seemingly career-ending herniated disk.Today, the former gymnast runs a gymnastics school in Sumner, Wash., with herhusband, Dan, a four-term state representative. The couple has three kids,including a son who is autistic.
If the women'ssoccer team triumphs, midfielder Shannon Boxx and her sister, Gillian, acatcher on the '96 softball team, will be the first U.S. sisters to win gold indifferent sports.
T.C. Dantzler,Greco-Roman wrestling. The 37-year-old runs TC logiQ, a background-screeningcompany that he founded in Colorado four years ago. The firm has grown fromthree employees to 23, and Dantzler plans to take it public in three years.
• Cullen Jones,swimming, hopes to write for a men's fashion magazine such as GQ.
• Amy Acuff, highjump, is studying to become an acupuncturist and a doctor of Orientalmedicine.
• BenWildman-Tobriner, swimming, majored in biomechanical engineering at Stanfordand wants to be a surgeon.
• RaynellWilliams, boxing, plans to be an accountant.
Several baseballplayers are accustomed to the media spotlight. Outfielder Colby Rasmus batted.417 for the Phenix City, Ala., team that lost to Japan in the 1999 LittleLeague World Series final. Lefthanded pitcher Clayton Richard playedquarterback at Michigan. And power-hitting outfielder Matt LaPorta was the keyprospect acquired by the Cleveland Indians from the Milwaukee Brewers on July 7in exchange for the American League's reigning Cy Young Award winner, C.C.Sabathia.
Sanya Richards,track. The 400-meter star wears a childhood gift from her mother: a necklacewith a pendant of a bullet.
LIVING UP TO HISREP
If sprinterJeremy Wariner defends his title in the 400 in Beijing, he'll equal the feat ofMichael Johnson, who won the 400 in 1996 and 2000—and is Wariner's manager.
Jill Kintner, aBMX cyclist from Seattle, graduated from California College of the Arts and hasa website that showcases her sketches, action photography and graphic designskills. Women's water polo goalkeeper Jaime Hipp designs and sells her own lineof jewelry.
Rebecca Ward,fencing. The 2006 sabre world champion was introduced to her sport at age ninewhen she went to the wrong place for a gymnastics practice in her hometown ofBeaverton, Ore., and stumbled upon a fencing class instead.
• Reese Hoffa,shot put, can solve a Rubik's Cube in 45 seconds.
• Donny Robinson,BMX, performed in musical theater until age 17.
• Pia Sundhage,women's soccer, is a guitarist who serenaded the U.S. players with The TimesThey Are A-Changin' when she took over as coach last year.
• ShannonRowbury, track, competed in Irish dancing before she became an elite miler.
• David Neville,400 meters, played drums in the Indiana University marching band for a yearbefore joining the track team.
• Scott Parsons,kayak, brews beer at his Bethesda, Md., home.
• Greta Gould,mountain biking, can juggle and ride a unicycle and auditioned for the RinglingBros. circus three times; she never made the cut.
Not every memberof the swim team was born a fish. Michael Phelps took his first lessons on hisback because he was afraid to put his head underwater. The mother of Katie Hoffhad to wash her daughter's hair as little as possible because Katie didn't likewater either.
Leonel Manzano,who'll run the 1,500 meters in Beijing, stands 5'5" but according to hisdoctors has a heart the size of a 7-foot man's. (They have told him it's theresult of his intense training and is perfectly healthy.)
• Kate (Tiki)Barber, field hockey captain, was given that handle when she was playing forNorth Carolina and the future NFL running back was at ACC rival Virginia.
• Bershawn(Batman) Jackson, 400-meter hurdler, earned the moniker as a kid because he hadbig ears, but keeps using it because he now flies over the hurdles; he has thenickname on his license plate.
• Michael(Meatball) Friedman, cycling, has—as the name suggests—an un-Lance-likephysique.
World200-meter-dash champion Allyson Felix, whose schoolmates at Los Angeles BaptistHigh used to call her Chicken Legs, was featured in both Vogue's Shape Issueand Glamour's 11 Greatest Bodies on Earth.
• Paul and MorganHamm, the twin-brother gymnasts and returning medalists, were contestants onthe Japanese obstacle-course game show Ninja Warrior. (Neither won.)
• Dara Torres,swimming, worked as a reporter for ESPN and Fox News and hosted a sportssegment on the Discovery Channel science and technology show The Next Stop.
• MistyMay-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, the reigning Olympic champions in beachvolleyball, played themselves on an episode of CSI: Miami.
• Shawn Crawford,the defending 200-meter gold medalist, raced a zebra and a giraffe on Fox'sreality show Man vs. Beast. He beat the giraffe but lost to the zebra.
Softball pitcherJennie Finch appeared on the celebrity edition of The Apprentice and was firedby Donald Trump in the fourth week.
Six teammembers—softball players Vicky Galindo, Lauren Lappin, Jessica Mendoza andStacey Nuveman, 15-year-old swimmer Elizabeth Beisel and race walker PhilipDunn—were among the 130 international athletes who in June signed a letter toPresident George W. Bush, Chinese President Hu Jintao and other world leadersasking them to try to ensure that during the Games an Olympic truce is observedin Sudan, home to the violence-torn Darfur region. The letter was given to Bushby former Olympic speedskating champion Joey Cheek, the head of aninternational athletes' organization called Team Darfur.
Throughappearances and promotion of a website (crohnsandme.com), sprint kayaker CarrieJohnson works to raise awareness of Crohn's Disease, a chronic and oftendebilitating inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract from which she andsoftball infielder Tairia Flowers (and an estimated 500,000 other Americans)suffer.
Ben Askren,wrestling. The former University of Missouri star is known for the long blondcurls that he braids or styles into a mullet for matches. "I actually don'treally like my hair that much, but I'm a man of realism, and I realize peoplelike gimmicks," he says. "[In Beijing] my hair's going to be mygimmick. Hopefully, I'll get a sponsorship or two, maybe get some money out ofhaving stupid, curly hair."
Anna Willard willcompete in Beijing as the American-record holder in a new Olympic track event,the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase. Four years ago, during the Games inAthens, she was waiting tables at the Fish Monger in Woods Hole, Mass.
In June, SHEILATAORMINA blogged about her desire to torpedo the idea that "a person is tooold at age 39 to learn new sports and ... that it takes 10 years or more tolearn a sport." Mission accomplished. In the last four years the 1996swimming relay gold medalist and 2000 and '04 triathlete picked up shooting,fencing and riding; she'll be the first U.S. woman to compete in three Olympicsin three different sports.
The women'sall-around gold could come down to a battle between SHAWN JOHNSON (left) andNASTIA LIUKIN (right), gymnastics' dream duo. Johnson, 16, is the reigningworld champ; Liukin, 18, the daughter of two former Soviet gymnasticschampions, has held the U.S. uneven bars title since 2004. Bitter rivals? Notquite. "We've always had a close relationship," says Liukin. "We'reteammates and friends first." On the men's side, PAUL HAMM (center), theonly U.S. man to win a world or Olympic all-around title, tries to defend his2004 gold, assuming he can recover from a broken bone in his right handsuffered in May.
The U.S. has wonall three golds since the sport joined the Games in 1996—and outfielder LAURABERG (bottom row, fourth from left) has been on each of those squads. Sheshould go 4 for 4 this year; Team USA is stacked. In 2004 third baseman CRYSTLBUSTOS (bottom row, far left) set Olympic records with five home runs and 10RBIs. Ace CAT OSTERMAN (top row, third from left) pitched the title-clinchinggames at the 2006 worlds and '06 and '07 World Cups. The rotation also hasJENNIE FINCH (bottom row, fifth from left) and MONICA ABBOTT (top row, fourthfrom left), who went 6--0 for the U.S. team last year and didn't allow a run.The full squad: (top row, left to right) catcher STACEY NUVEMAN, outfielderCAITLIN LOWE, Osterman, Abbott, third baseman VICKY GALINDO, outfielder JESSICAMENDOZA, infielder TAIRIA FLOWERS; (bottom row, left to right) Bustos,infielder ANDREA DURAN, catcher LAUREN LAPPIN, Berg, Finch, shortstop NATASHAWATLEY, outfielder KELLY KRETSCHMAN, second baseman LOVIEANNE JUNG. Because theIOC voted to drop softball from the Games after '08 (but will reconsider itnext year), "we've got two things in mind: win gold and get softball inpeople's minds," Berg says. "There are 128 countries that play thesport. It is important the IOC sees that."
Pro wrestling fanREESE HOFFA (second from left) used to wear a black mask to meets and callhimself the Unknown Shot Putter. No more: By the end of the Games, Hoffa, whobeat world champ Adam Nelson at the U.S. trials in Eugene, Ore., could be oneof many household names on a team that should dominate. In Eugene, decathleteBRYAN CLAY (far left), the 2005 world champ, had the world's highest score infour years. ALLYSON FELIX (third from right) sprints for gold in the 200 metersand the 100- and 400-meter relays. Four years after taking up the pole vault,JENN STUCZYNSKI (second from right)—the leading career hoops scorer at NAIARoberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, N.Y.—is already the U.S.-record holderand a gold contender. LASHAWN MERRITT (far right) upset reigning Olympic400-meter champ Jeremy Wariner at the trials. And 110-meter hurdler TERRENCETRAMMELL (third from left), a two-time Olympic silver medalist and part-timereal estate speculator, will try to close the deal at his third Games.
HEATHER O'REILLY,KATE MARKGRAF and new coach PIA SUNDHAGE (left to right) lead a team withplenty of experience; eight members won gold in 2004. Team USA also has a hugehole to fill—top scorer Abby Wambach will miss the Games after breaking herleft leg last week—and something to prove. The last time they visited China,the U.S. women, who are ranked No. 1 in the world, finished third in the 2007World Cup.
In 1983 JulioLopez, a suburban Houston architect and a Chuck Norris fanatic, enrolled hiseight-year-old son, Jean, in what he thought was a karate class. It wastaekwondo, as it turned out, and the rest is history. Jean now coaches youngersiblings MARK, DIANA and STEVEN LOPEZ (left to right), the first U.S. Olympicsibling trio since 1904. Steven is a two-time gold medalist; Mark and Dianawill make their Games debuts.
RONDA ROUSEY (far left) may have golden genes. Her mom, AnnMaria DeMars, is theonly U.S. woman with a world judo title.
The U.S. sends two current world champs to Beijing: flyweight RAU'SHEE WARREN(second from left), 21, the only U.S. holdover from the 2004 Games; andwelterweight DEMETRIUS ANDRADE (third from left), 20.
She missed the 2004 Games with a torn ACL, but freestyler MARCIE VAN DUSEN(left) is back—and is a 121-pound medal hope.
A junior star, SARAH HAMMER (right) quit cycling in 2002 and sold her gear oneBay. But watching the 2004 Games rekindled her interest—and her skills cameback as easily as, well, riding a bike: Hammer, 24, won world individualpursuit titles in '06 and '07.
She's happy tohelp people in her sales job at The Home Depot, but on the water MICHELLEGUERETTE (left) works alone. The 2005 world single sculls bronze medalist isaiming for the event's first U.S. Olympic title.
An Olympic goldisn't California dreamin' for goalie and Michigan grad BETSEY ARMSTRONG(right). She and attacker HEATHER PETRI (middle) led the U.S. to the 2007 worldtitle; Armstrong is the only national-team player from a non-Cali college.
U.S. Olympians inneed of tour guides in Beijing should seek out the table tennis team: All fourmembers—GAO JUN (above), Crystal Huang, Wang Chen and David Zhuang—were born inChina. Gao, 39, who won an Olympic doubles silver for China in 1992, became aU.S. citizen in 1994. This year she led Team USA, which has never won a medalat the Games, to its highest finish (12th) at the world championships since1989.
For profiles ofgymnast Shawn Johnson and other U.S. Olympians, go to SI.com/Olympics.