A few of the past, present and future Olympians from the Peach State

Photo by Stone Ray | The Signal

The Olympics give people a sense of pride, unity, and internal goodwill. Watching their favorite athletes represent their country and go up against the world’s best on an international stage is something you can’t find anywhere else except during these games.

Ben Stevenson, a member of the United States Olympic water polo team, is one of many looking forward to this year’s Games, which begin this weekend. 

“It means a lot,” Stevenson said in a recent article for Nevada Sports Net. “Ever since I was eight years old, I had the dream of making the Olympic team. To finally make that happen was a dream come true. I was ecstatic about it.”

With the 2021 Tokyo Olympics three days away, the spotlight is on the many athletes representing their respective countries to leave their mark in history. Some of those athletes, in addition to their countries, are representing Atlanta too. 

Henry Cummings Jr.

Originally from Augusta, Cummings was the first Georgian to compete in the Olympics as he was a semi-finalist in the 200-meter dash at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. After his athletics career, he went on to become an assistant professor of political science at the University of Virginia.

Forrest Towns

Towns was the first Georgian to set a world record at the olympic qualifiers in Oslo, Norway, where only needed 13.7 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles. He went on to win the gold medal for the 110-meter hurdles and earned himself a spot in the United States Track Hall of Fame.

Alice Coachman

Coachman attended high school in Albany, making a name for herself on the women’s track and field team. She won an absurd 26 national championships with her AAU team before representing Team USA at the 1948 London Games. Coachman became the first black female to receive a gold medal for the United States when she dominated the High Jump event.

Sam Graddy

Attending Northside High School, Graddy’s speed helped him garner a considerable amount of attention from colleges. He attended the University of Tennessee, where he won the U.S. National Championship in the 100-meter with a time of 10.28 seconds. Graddy also became one of the first Georgians to represent Team USA on its home turf in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. There, he received another gold medal for the 4×100-meter relay dash and silver in the 100-meter.

Gwen Torrence

Born and raised in Atlanta, Torrence quickly earned the reputation for being one of the fastest women alive. She was the first black woman to win a national championship at the University of Georgia and had the honor to represent her countryin front of the city she grew up in during the 1996 games. Torrence’s debut at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics earned her two medals. She won gold in both the 200-meter dashes and the gold 4x100m dash, a tremendous stretch. In her second go-round, in front of her hometown in 1996, she repeated as the winner in the 4×100 meter and earned a bronze medal for the 100-meter dash.

Angelo Taylor

An Albany native, Taylor attended high school in Dekalb County, where he started his track and field career. His future saw him become one of the most decorated Olympians in the state’s history. 

He competed in three Olympic Games in a 12-year span, where he would win a silver medal or better in all of them. In 2000, Taylor took home the gold in the 400-meter hurdles in Sydney. Then, in Beijing, he would earn the gold in both the 400-meter hurdles and 4×400 meter relay in 2008. In 2012, he received a silver medal for the 4x400m at London.

Tokyo will host its fair share of Georgia athletes in a few short weeks as Georgians are set to compete in at least seven events, most of which will feature multiple athletes from the state competing for gold in their respective events. The United States men’s baseball team will feature Tyler Austin from Conyers and Anthony Carter from Lawrenceville. Allisha Gray, raised in Sandersville, will compete for the women’s national basketball team.

Summerville’s Brody Malone will make his Olympic debut in Tokyo for the men’s gymnastics team. Vincent Hancock, a two-time gold medalist and three-time Olympian from Eatonton, will compete for the National Shooting Team in the Skeet Event with fellow Georgians Henry and Jackson Leverett.

Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett, with multiple Olympic appearances and a gold medal from O’Hara, will represent the women’s soccer team following their 2018 FIFA Women’s World Cup victory. The swim team features two Georgians including two-time Olympian Jay Litherland and 20-year-old Brooks Curry, who is making his first appearance this year. They will compete in the 400-meter Individual Medley and the 4×100-meter Freestyle Relay, respectively.

The track and field team will feature six athletes from Georgia, competing in events ranging from the 100m dash to the Hammer Throw. Out of the six athletes, Kendall Williams is the lone Georgian with former Olympic experience, as she ran in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

Georgians have taken home a silver medal or better since the beginning of the modern-day Olympics. With the amount of talent and veteran Olympians coming out of the state that streak looks set to continue over the next few weeks.