The 15: Maryland's Best Olympians
By Joe Platania
It's a grand, sweeping, colorful sight, which can stir passion in even the most cynical observer: the Parade of Nations at the start of any Olympic Games.
That parade will be taking place July 27 at Wembley Stadium in London as the 30th edition of the Summer Games opens in the British capital, the third time it will have hosted the event (1908, 1948).
The Games have hosted the best from all over the world since the modern Olympiads began in 1896 in Athens, Greece, and a fair share of standouts on the all-time United States teams have lived and/or trained in Maryland. Here are the most notable from the Old Line State.
1. MICHAEL PHELPS, SWIMMING, BALTIMORE
Even though these athletes are not listed in any particular order, it really wouldn't make sense to have anyone else at the top of the list. Phelps, who turned 27 June 30, has 16 total medals (14 gold), two short of the all-time Olympic record Soviet Union gymnast Larisa Latynina set. He will swim seven events in London as he concludes his Olympic career.
2. SUGAR RAY LEONARD, BOXING, PALMER PARK
After winning his gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Games, Leonard moved his official base of operations to Baltimore as he began his climb up the professional ranks, eventually holding six titles before a detached retina forced him to leave the sport. But it was at the Olympics where the world first got a glimpse of Leonard's fast hands, quick feet and omnipresent smile.
3. THERESA ANDREWS, SWIMMING, BALTIMORE
One of the first to stake a Charm City claim in the pool, Andrews was the author of a long-remembered gesture. She won two golds at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. After taking the win in the 100-meter backstroke, she removed her medal and presented it to her 19-year-old brother, Danny, who had been paralyzed in a bicycle accident.
4. DOMINIQUE DAWES, GYMNASTICS, SILVER SPRING
Dawes medaled in three consecutive Games -- the first in her sport to accomplish that -- as part of a true golden era in American women's gymnastics. In Barcelona (1992), she and her teammates took a bronze medal in the team all-around competition before returning in Atlanta (1996) to take the gold. All told, she took that one gold and three bronze medals between those two Olympiads and Sydney in 2000.
5. KATIE HOFF, SWIMMING, ABINGDON
Hoff may have missed out on her third Olympiad, but she has a strong resume already behind her. She didn't medal in two events at Athens in 2004, but returned in Beijing four years later to race six times and win a silver (400-meter freestyle) and two bronze medals, one of them in the always-grueling but marquee event that is the 400-meter individual medley.
6. VICKY BULLETT, BASKETBALL, COLLEGE PARK
One of the finest Terps to play for former coach Chris Weller -- Bullett played for the 1989 team that advanced to the Final Four -- Bullett was a member of the American team in both Seoul and Barcelona, winning a gold and a bronze medal. She went on to a long and prosperous career in the WNBA before embarking on a teaching job near her West Virginia childhood home.
7. ANITA NALL, SWIMMING, TOWSON
A graduate of the late Towson Catholic High, Nall was one of the standouts of the 1992 Games in Barcelona, taking one medal of each metal, when she was a mere 16 years old. She went on to attend Arizona State University and is now a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
8. ROBERT GARRETT, TRACK AND FIELD, BALTIMORE
This 20-year-old standout was Charm City's first-ever Olympics summer standout, taking the gold in both the discus and shot-put at the Athens Games in 1896, as well as silvers in the high jump and long jump. Garrett returned four years later at the 1900 Games in Paris and won two more medals, another in the shot put and one in the standing triple jump.
9. ANDREW MAYNARD, BOXING, LAUREL
Maynard won a gold medal in the light-heavyweight division at the 1988 Seoul Games after already making a name for himself as the United States Amateur champion and winning a bronze medal at the 1987 Pan-American Games in Indianapolis. A pressure-oriented fighter, who signed with Leonard's team as a pro, he went 26-13-1 before retiring.
10. BETH BOTSFORD, SWIMMING, BALTIMORE
Like Phelps, Hoff, Nall and so many others, Elizabeth Anne Botsford is a product of the NBAC program. During the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Botsford, a graduate of Garrison Forest School, was a double gold-medal winner at the tender age of 15, getting to the top of the podium in the 100-meter backstroke and the 4x100 medley relay.
11. BERNARD WILLIAMS, TRACK AND FIELD, BALTIMORE
The Carver graduate was part of one of the more electrifying relay teams the United States has ever fielded, the gold-medal-winning 400-meter relay quartet from the 2000 Games in Sydney. One of Williams' teammates used steroids and the medal was stripped, but Williams came back four years later in Athens and took silver in the 200.
12. LLOYD KEASER, WRESTLING, BROOKLYN PARK
Keaser was a true pioneer, the first-ever African-American to win an Olympic wrestling medal, taking silver in Montreal in the 149.5-pound weight class. But Keaser was hardly an unknown to the wrestling community, having won two All-American berths and a world championship while winning major honors at the United States Naval Academy.
13. JESSICA LONG, SWIMMING, MIDDLE RIVER
Long's legs were amputated when she was a child, and she became one of the most visible and successful athletes in the Paralympic movement. She has won every competition available to her, as well as taking seven Paralympic gold medals, three of them in 2004 and four more in 2008.
14. ARTHUR COOK, SHOOTING, COLLEGE PARK
Cook made his mark at the 1948 Games, which were also held in London. At the age of 20, he won the gold in the small-bore rifle competition (prone position). He scored 599 of a possible 600 points, but still won the gold by a narrow margin. Cook went on to form the U.S. Deaf Olympic Team and formed the Air Force Marksmanship Training Program.
15. DEBBIE MEYER, SWIMMING, ANNAPOLIS
Even though Meyer has lived most of her life in Sacramento, Calif., she taught herself to swim in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay before moving west. That helped during her three-gold-medal performance in Mexico City (1968), where she won the freestyle at all three intermediate lengths, the 200-, 400- and 800-meter races.
Issue 175: July 2012