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Local Olympians Seek Gold In London

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jul 27, 2012 8:20PM

london2012_logo.jpg The 2012 Summer Olympics in London commence tonight, bringing together over 10,000 athletes to compete in hundreds of events over the next two and a half weeks. No matter the sport, the athletes in London hope to bring home the gold.

A few of the athletes in London are looking to bring their medals back home to Illinois. Nearly three dozen athletes have local ties, whether they grew up in the area, attended college locally or play for one of our professional teams. While most of the local Olympians are suiting up for the USA, there are also a number of competitors suiting up for foreign countries, too. Not surprising given the international flavor of Chicago.

Basketball is well represented on both the men's and women's side. The American "Dream Team" includes Chicagoan Anthony Davis, Springfield-native Andre Iguodala as well as University of Illinois star Deron Williams. They might end up playing against Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng and former Illini star Robert Archibald, who both play for the British national team. The Bulls' Joakim Noah was supposed to play for France and Derrick Rose for the U.S., but injuries are keeping them off the court.

The women's hoops players include former Naperville Central star Candace Parker, who now plays in the WNBA. Tamika Catchings grew up in the north suburbs and began her high school basketball career at Stevenson, winning the state's Miss Basketball award as a sophomore before moving to Texas. They'll join Swin Cash and Sylvia Fowles, who both play for the Chicago Sky, on the team.

And while the hoops stars are perhaps among the most well known Olympians, there are countless from the area who have toiled in virtual anonymity leading up to their moment in the spotlight in London.

The pools will be full of North Shore representatives. Swimmers competing for the USA hailing from the area include Lake Forest's Matt Grevers, Winnetka's Conor Dwyer and Christina Loukas from Riverwoods. Syncronized diver Kelci Bryant come from Chatham. Tyler McGill will travel from Champaign to swim the 100M fly.

Greco-Roman wrestler Ellis Coleman, who made a name for himself with last year's viral "The Flying Squirrel" video, was raised in Oak Park. Jake Herbert wrestled for the Northwestern Wildcats, winning the 2009 Hodge Trophy as the nation's top college wrestler.

Chicagoan Wallace Spearmon will run the 200M spring, while Algonquin's Evan Jager will compete in the 3,000M steeplechase. Downstaters Lance Brooks (Springfield), Dawn Harper (East St. Louis) and Gia Lewis-Smallwood (Champaign) are all competing in track & field events. Brooks and Lewis-Smallwood throw the discus while Harper will be running the 100M hurdles.

Brothers Grant and Ross James will be competing in rowing. Amy LePeilbet is playing on the women's soccer team. She graduated from Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake. Wheaton's Sean Rooney plays for the American volleyball team. Bob Willis, from Chicago, is the only member of the U.S. windsurfing team not from California or Florida.

One local hopeful who will not get a chance to compete in London is gymnast Anna Li. Selected as an alternate for the women's team, she hoped for a chance to compete. Instead, she herself suffered an injury, which knocked her off the squad. At 23, she was a long shot to even make it as far as she did, and this was almost certainly her last shot as following in her parents' steps as Olympians.