A guide to Floridians in the London Olympics
When the massive delegation of U.S. Olympians march down the track in the lavish Opening Ceremony Friday night, Florida will be well-represented.
To be specific, 31 athletes call the state their current home, behind only California (127), Texas (33), New York (35) and Pennsylvania (35).
That gives Florida roughly 17 percent of the 529 Americans from 45 states participating in the 2012 London Olympics.
If you plan to watch the ceremony, it will air at 7 p.m. ET on NBC (though will actually take place live at 4 p.m. due to the five-hour time difference in London).
And if you’ll be watching the competition in any of the 32 sports, taking place Saturday through Aug. 12, we thought you might like to know about some of the Floridians dreaming of a spot on the podium.
You know these names already — Venus and Serena Williams. Serena (Palm Beach Gardens) is coming off her fifth Wimbledon championship last month. And if she wins the women’s singles title in London, she’ll become the first female to win all the Grand Slam events (the Australian Open, Wimbledon, French Open and U.S. Open) as well as an Olympic gold medal in both doubles and singles.
Venus (Coral Gables) has won the Olympic gold medal in singles and doubles as well as winning the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. The Williams sisters have both trained over the years at IMG Academies in Bradenton.
On the men’s side, keep an eye on the Bryan Brothers — twins Bob and Mike of Wesley Chapel and the No. 3-ranked men’s doubles team in the world. They finished second in Wimbledon doubles but took bronze four years ago in Beijing. The Saddlebrook Resort-based tandem have won 11 Grand Slam titles but are looking for their first Olympic gold medal.
John Isner, the 6-9 former University of Georgia star, is a player to watch in the single’s competition. He’s ranked 11th in the world and will have his hands full trying to get past Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. But Isner, who also trains at Saddlebrook, has a power game that makes him a contender, and he’ll also team with Andy Roddick in doubles.
Track and field
One of the dramatic stories to watch in these games focuses around the men’s 100-meter dash. Will Jamaica’s Usain Bolt run away with another Olympic title or will Justin Gatlin of Pensacola complete his amazing comeback and win Olympic gold again? Eight years ago, Gatlin won the men’s 100 meters in Athens but was subsequently banned from the sport when he tested positive for a doping violation.
Gatlin, who bitterly objected to the ruling, was away from the sport for four years. But he let the world know he’s back last month by winning the U.S. Time Trials in a blistering 9.8 seconds. Gatlin thinks he can win gold again, which means having to beat Bolt and world champion Yohan Blake of Jamaica.
In the men’s 400 meters, West Palm Beach’s Tony McQuay of the University of Florida is a three-time NCAA champion and 2011 national champion. He finished second the Track and Field Trials, which also qualified him to run in the 4x400 relay.
On the women’s side, pole-vaulter Lacy Janson (Sarasota) earned her first spot in the Olympics with a third-place finish at the Trials, clearing 14 feet, nine inches. She was once ranked No. 1 in the country and was USA Indoor Champion in 2010. Janson was also a six-time All-American at Florida State University.
Ryan Lochte (Daytona Beach) should get plenty of screen time in London. His resume speaks volumes: six-time Olympic medalist with four world records. He’s also a bona fide threat to beat mega-champion Michael Phelps, having often finished second or third behind the man who won a record eight medals in Beijing.
Lochte earned his own haul of gold at the 2010 Pan-American Games, winning six first places. He also won five golds in the 2011 World Championships. So the stage is set for a Phelps-Lochte showdown in London. Lochte’s events are the 200 back, 200 IM, 400 IM, 200 free and 800 free relay. Stay tuned.
No sport has more Floridians involved than sailing, with seven altogether. They certainly aren’t household names. But in case you’ll be tuning in, here’s a rundown of who’s who on out on the sea.
Brian Fatih (Miami), crew, Star Class: Best finish — third in the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championship, Perth, Australia.
Sarah Lihan (Fort Lauderdale), Women’s 470 Class: Best recent finish — third, Women’s 470, 2011 Sail Melbourne, AUS (ISAF Sailing World Cup). Highlights: 2009 ICSA Women’s National Champion, 2007 Lauderdale Yacht Club Sailor of the Year.
Mark Mendelblatt: (Miami, graduate of St. Petersburg High School) Skipper, Star Class: Best recent finishes — First, Star, 2010 US Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR (ISAF Sailing World Cup); first, Star, 2009 Kiel Week, Kiel, Germany (ISAF Sailing World); first, Star, 2008 Kiel Week, Kiel (ISAF Sailing World Cup). Highlights: Eighth in the Laser Class 2004 Athens Olympics, three-time ICSA College All-American, College National Single-handed champion.
Trevor Moore (Naples), 49er Class, crew: Best recent finish — Second, 49er, U.S. Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Miami OCR (ISAF Sailing World Cup). Highlights: 2007 College Sailor of the Year, 2006-07; Hobart College’s Francis C. “Babe” Kraus Memorial Award.
Paige Railey (Clearwater, graduate of Clearwater High and University of South Florida) Laser Radial: Best recent finishes — First, Laser Radial, 2011 Laser Radial Women’s North Americans, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. First, Laser Radial, 2011 Rolex Miami OCR, Miami, Fla. (ISAF Sailing World Cup). Highlights: 2010 US Sailing’s SportsWoman of the Year; 2010 Florida Women’s Sailing Association Young Sailor the Year.
Zach Railey (Clearwater, graduate of Clearwater High and University of Miami), Finn Class: Best recent finishes — First, Finn, US Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Miami OCR (ISAF Sailing World Cup); first, Finn, 2011 U.S. National Championship, Long Beach, Calif. Highlights: 2010, 2009, 2008 US Sailing’s Sportsman of the Year; 2008 Olympic silver medalist, Finn.
Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation) Elliott 6M, Skipper: Best recent finishes — First, Elliott 6m, 2012 US Olympic Team Qualifying Regatta, Weymouth, England; first, Elliott 6m, French Olympic Sailing Week, Hyeres, France (ISAF Sailing World Cup); first, Elliott 6m, Princess Sofia Trophy, Palma de Mallorca, Spain (ISAF Sailing World Cup). Highlights: 2011 US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year; 2011 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year.
Rest of the Florida field
Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation), volleyball, middle blocker
Laura Bennett (North Palm Beach), triathlon
Chris Colwill (Brandon), diving, 3m
Phil Dalhausser (Ormond Beach), volleyball, beach
Sylvia Fowles (Liberty City), basketball, center
Jared Frayer (Clearwater), wrestling, freestyle 66kg
Ryan Harrison (Bradenton), tennis, men’s singles
Manuel Huerta (Miami), triathlon
Hunter Kemper (Longwood), triathlon
Tina Konyot (Palm City), equestrian
Danell Leyva (Homestead), gymnastics
Emil Milev (Tampa), shooting, rapid-fire pistol
Karen O'Connor (Ocala), equestrian, eventing – individual
Robin Prendes (Miami), rowing. Lightweight Four
Brittany Viola (Orlando), diving 10m