With the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio looming, it is only appropriate that we reflect on some of the greatest athletes to come out of the Windy City.
Let’s revisit some of the greatest Chicagoans to compete in the Olympic Games. Here are five:
Mike Conley Sr. – Track and Field
After growing up in Chicago and attending Luther High School, Mike Conley Sr. was off to Arkansas University, where he won 16 NCAA long jump and triple jump titles. He was ranked number one in the world six different times.
Once graduated, he participated in two Olympic games: 1984 in Los Angeles, where he won a silver medal for the triple jump, and 1992 in Barcelona, where he captured that elusive gold medal.
Conley currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of World Sport Chicago, the group trying to land Chicago as future Olympic games site. After his great career, which included being inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame, he has found a career as a sports agent. He represents NBA players only, including his son Mike Conley Jr., who recently signed the most lucrative, by year, deal in NBA history. It’s safe to say that he’s still doing pretty well.
Dorothy Hamill – Women’s Figure Skating
Born in 1956 in Chicago, Dorothy Hamill would go on to accomplish great things in the figure skating world. Starting lessons when she was eight years old, her parents took her craft as seriously as she did, pushing her to constantly work at the sport. At the age of 12, Hamill won the U.S. Novice Skating Championship, showing her first signs of immense potential. From 1974-76 she was the USA Women’s Skating Champion, earning a medal each of those years at the World Championships for Skating.
Her lone Olympic medal was in 1976, at the Innsbruck games, where she took home the coveted gold medal. She also became a pop culture icon for her hair style: a short-cut bob. That, coupled with her success as an American athlete, made her quite the star.
After retiring from the skating world, Hamill continues to do what she loves. She has a principal role with Broadway On Ice, and also competed on the popular television show, Dancing With The Stars.
Bart Conner – Gymnastics
Having attended Niles West High School, and frequenting the city, Bart Conner grew up knowing Chicago very well. He started gymnastics at the age of 10, and would compete locally. After setting almost every record for gymnastics at Niles West, he would go on to Oklahoma University and become the most decorated gymnast in the school’s history, including his winning of the Nissen Award, the highest honor for a collegiate gymnast.
After attempts previously to qualify, Conner made the 1984 USA Olympic team, coming back from an injury. His skills helped the U.S. men’s team win its first ever gold medal in men’s gymnastics, and it was seen as a huge deal in the sport. Conner helped ensure the win for the U.S. team with his perfect 10 score on the parallel bars.
Post retirement, Conner has been active in charity work, trying to raise awareness and money for muscular dystrophy. He also makes regular appearances on WGN News during the Labor Day Telethon for the cause and is seen as a commanding personality.
Evan Lysacek – Men’s Figure Skating
Even with Dorothy Hamill already on the list for figure skating, it’s hard to pass by Evan Lysacek, who is one of the greatest American men’s figure skaters of all time. Growing up in Naperville, and attending Neuqua Valley High School, Lysacek skated his entire life. He found his start as a hockey player, but after taking figure skating lessons to strengthen his skating ability, found it to be his true calling.
After winning the Men’s Novice Title in 1999, he moved up to the Junior ranking, only to win the Junior championships in 2000. He stayed at that level until 2005, when he officially became a member of the Senior circuit, competing in the highest stakes events. He went on to win the men’s singles gold at the world championships in 2007, and 2008, as well as winning the team trophy at the world competition in 2009, where he took home gold.
With all his accolades to that point, his greatest achievement is when he won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. After the win, it was said that he was arguably the best U.S. men’s skater of all time.
After his career he has been active in charity work, most notably of AIDS research. He has also taken up dancing as a serious hobby, as its movements mirror skating very closely. He made it onto Dancing With The Stars, much like Hamill, and made it to the finals where he was eventually defeated.
Dwyane Wade – Basketball
What would this list be without D-Wade, arguably the best basketball player to ever have been born in Chicago? Growing up on the South Side, Wade’s mother was a drug user when he was a kid, so he turned to basketball to help him cope and keep him out of trouble.
He attended Richards High School in Oak Lawn, where his game, modeled after his hero Michael Jordan, began to take off. After averaging 27 points and 11 rebounds a game as a senior, he went on to Marquette University, where he blossomed throughout his time there, leading him to be selected as the fifth overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Wade has done a lot in the NBA, but also at the Olympics. He earned a bronze medal in the Athens games in 2004 and a gold medal in Beijing in 2008. He was an instrumental member of the gold medal team, often being the catalyzing member of the team’s offensive spurts.
While he didn’t participate in the 2012 games, and doesn’t plan on being on the 2016 Rio team, he has still done great things in the NBA. He is a three-time NBA champion, a 12 time all-star and recently left his longtime Miami Heat team to sign with his hometown Chicago Bulls for the next two years of his career.
It’s clear that Chicago’s pedigree as a hotbed for athletic talent is no fraud whatsoever, as it has produced these great athletes. The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio start on August 5th, and the USA is one of the favorites to win the highest aggregate medal count.