Of the nearly 600 American athletes heading to London for the 2012 Summer Games, five have ties to the state of Iowa. The highest profile of those athletes is the highly decorated track star, Lolo Jones. The Des Moines native broke on the scene as a gold-medal hopeful in the 2008 Beijing Games, however, contact with the second-to-last hurdle led to a tragic spill. Jones is back in 2012, qualifying again for the 100-meter hurdles. The preliminary heats begin for Jones on August 6. (Follow Lolo Jones on Twitter @lolojones)
Another decorated athlete competing in London has strong northwest Iowa roots. Track and field star A.G. Kruger was born and raised in Sheldon before taking his skills to Morningside College. In 2004, he broke through in the hammer throw to earn a spot in the Athens Games, then returned in 2008 to finish 14th in Beijing. An eleven-time national champion in the hammer and weight throws, Kruger will begin competition for the hammer toss in London on August 3 with the qualification rounds.
One of the youngest athletes representing America is a sharpshooting female from Des Moines. 19-year-old Miranda Leek will compete in women’s archery. The recent graduate of Dowling Catholic began shooting with her father at the age of five, and last year, helped Team USA to a World Cup silver medal, while also winning two silvers individually. The archery competitions begin on Day 1 with the ranking rounds of the individual and team events.
Another legendary Iowa Olympian is gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson. While Johnson has moved on to starring in reality TV competitions, the gym she operates in West Des Moines has produced another high-profile athlete, Gabrielle Douglas. Originally from Virginia Beach, Gabby, as she’s more affectionately called, makes her residence in the Iowa capital and will make her Olympic debut in London. Douglas qualified to represent Team USA in both the individual and team competitions. Douglas and USA gymnastics opens competition on Sunday with the individual qualifications portion, to be followed on Tuesday with team events. (Follow Gabrielle Douglas on Twitter @gabrielledoug)
Iowa has long been known as a mecca in the sport of wrestling. Out to defend that honor is former Iowa State Cyclone, Jake Varner. The two-time NCAA champion and four-time finalist will be making his Olympic debut on August 12, when he opens the qualifying rounds of the 96 kilograms (211.5 pounds) competition. (Follow Jake Varner on Twitter @JakeVarner211)
The final Iowa representative to the American flag hales from northwest Iowa. Lisa Uhl began running on the streets of Ft. Dodge, and kept running right on into the record books at Iowa State University. A national champion in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races, Uhl is also the only athlete in Big 12 Conference history to win a single event in four straight years. She will run the 10,000 meters on August 3.
Some additional Olympians with ties to Iowa are set to compete on behalf of other nations. Guor Marial, a distance runner for Iowa State, was recently granted permission to run the under the Olympic flag. Heather Arseth is from Plymouth, Minnesota and will be a sophomore at Iowa this coming fall, however, she will spend the next two weeks swimming for the nation of Mauritius. Roman Trussov will join the Iowa swim team this fall, but first he will swim in London for Kazakhstan. Two Iowa track stars will run in the 30th Olympiad, Diane Nukuri-Johnson will represent Burundi and Kineke Alexander will carry the flag of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The state of Minnesota will boast connections to 15 US Olympic athletes. Aside from the aforementioned swimmer, Heather Arseth, natives of the Land of 10,000 Lakes include female wrestler Ali Bernard from New Ulm and Greco-Roman wrestler Chas Betts (Minneapolis). In the pool you will find 18-year old Rachel Bootsma (Eden Prairie), along with divers Kelci Bryant (Minneapolis) and Brittany Viola (St. Paul), daughter of Minnesota Twins hero, Frank Viola. The track and field team will consist of marathoner Kara Goucher (Duluth) and triple-jumper Amanda Smock (Melrose). Alise Post (St. Cloud) is set to ride in the women’s BMX, Susie Scanlan (St. Paul) will compete in fencing, and Lindsey Berg (Minneapolis) is a member of Team USA volleyball. Lastly, both US basketball teams consist of Minnesota athletes. Lindsey Whalen is originally from Hutchinson, and teammate Seimone Augustus plays for the Minnesota Lynx, while Kevin Love represents the Minnesota Timberwolves.