Most of the coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games has rightfully focused on how well athletes, their families, and media members will deal with disturbing circumstances and questionable security once they arrive in Brazil. When the Games kick off this Friday, much of the world will be holding its breath.
That being said, it's time we give a little more attention to the athletes, many of whom are from right here in South Florida. One of the greatest parts of the Olympics is hearing the individual stories of triumph and perseverance that led these athletes to represent the United States. Here are just a few of the local heroes who, beginning Friday, will take the biggest sports stage in the world.
Hometown: Coral Springs
As a 12-year-old in 2007, Lexi Thompson became the youngest golfer to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open. Since becoming the youngest-ever winner of
Tennis phenom Sloane Stephens turned pro in 2010 and as of last week was ranked 25th in the world. Stephens has won four singles titles on the WTA Tour. During her semifinals run at the 2013 Australian Open, she defeated Serena Williams. Stephens' father, John Stephens, was selected by the New England Patriots in the first round (17th overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft.
Brianna Rollins graduated from Miami Northwestern Senior High in 2009 and went on to compete in track and field at Clemson University, from which she graduated in 2013. She burst onto the Rio Olympics radar after defeating reigning Olympic champion Sally Pearson to win the 100-meter hurdles gold medal at the 2013 World Championships. Rollins will compete in the 100-meter hurdles at the Rio Games.
Hometown: Pembroke Pines
Arman Hall attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School, where he was named an All-USA
Sylvia Fowles won two state basketball championships as a student at Miami Edison Senior High School. She currently plays for the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx. Nicknamed "Baby Shaq," Fowles was an All-American all four years at Louisiana State University, the alma mater of Shaquille O'Neal. She was named the 2008 SEC Player of the Year. Fowles won
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale
Foluke Akinradewo attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School, where she was named Florida Dairy Farmers Volleyball Player of the Year in 2005. Upon graduation, she joined the U.S. Women’s National Indoor Volleyball Team and played collegiately at Stanford University.
Angelica Delgado is first-generation American whose family immigrated to Miami from Cuba. Her father, Miguel Delgado, was part of the Cuban National Judo Team and got her into the sport when she was 9 years old. Delgado is ranked the number one under-52 kilogram female judo participant in the United States and 19th in the world. Delgado won national judo championships in 2010, 2013, and 2014.
Dave Hughes was a U.S. Olympic Team sailing coach at the 2012 London Games, but this is his first time participating. In 2012, Hughes was coaching his Coconut Grove housemate and teammate Trevor Moore, who left the U.S. Sailing Center in Miami in a 15-foot inflatable powerboat and never returned. Moore’s belongings were retrieved, but he was never found. "Competing for Trevor is no small part of what drives me," Hughes told NBC Sports. "He will be there with me in Rio.”
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Ashleigh Johnson is a water polo goalkeeper for Team USA and is attending Princeton University in hopes of becoming a doctor. She was
At 20 years old, Pedro Pascual is the youngest member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic sailing team. Pascual attends Florida Atlantic University, where he studies mechanical engineering. He finished in tenth place in the RS:X at the 2014 ISAF Youth World Championships and dominated in the Techno 293, an under-17 pre-Olympic sailing league.