West Virginia is not a state typically associated with producing Olympic athletes. With a population of only 1.8 million people and nicknamed the "Mountain State" for good reason, it would probably not be a destination of choice for most prospective Olympians. And this most certainly holds true for an established athlete training for just about any of the 26 sports currently on the Summer Olympics schedule.
However, West Virginians can take pride in the quality of the small number of Summer Olympians who are natives of the state. My top five includes a pair of world-famous sports figures who rank among the best-ever talents in their respective sports.
From Cabin Creek, West Virginia, West was raised in poverty. After a standout high school career, he produced a brilliant four years of basketball at WVU, including leading his team to a runner-up finish at the 1959 NCAA tournament.
West was selected for the men's Olympic basketball team in 1960. Playing in Rome, West and fellow star Oscar Robertson led the U.S. to the gold medal.
As an NBA player for the Lakers, West went on to a Hall-of-Fame career with ten selections as a first-team All-NBA player. He is probably best known to younger generations as the silhouette figure represented on the official NBA logo.
Mary Lou Retton: Retton, a native of Fairmont, West Virginia, is one of the most famous American athletes of the past three decades.
Competing in women's gymnastics at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Retton won the All-Around gold-the first American woman to achieve the feat-as well as the team silver and three more individual medals.
Deron Williams: Born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, the future NBA star lived in nearby Williamstown into his elementary school years.
Williams has been one of the NBA's top point guards since he entered the league in 2005. A member of the victorious U.S. men's basketball squad at the Beijing Olympics, Williams is playing again for Team USA in London as they pursue their second straight Olympic title.
Vicky Bullett: Growing up in the eastern West Virginia city of Martinsburg, Bullett is arguably the best women's basketball player produced by the state.
She was a member of the 1988 and 1992 women's Olympic basketball teams, with the former taking gold and the latter bronze. Bullett also put together a stellar career in the WNBA.
James Jett: From Charles Town, West Virginia, Jett was a football player and a track star specializing in sprints.
He was awarded a gold for participating in heats for the winning U.S. men's 4x100 meter relay in 1992. Jett later went on to a successful career as a wide receiver in the NFL.
NOTE: I considered West Virginia native Randy Barnes-a two-time Olympic medalist in the shot put-for this list, but decided to omit him due to his multiple suspensions and eventual lifetime ban from competition for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Patrick Hattman is a West Virginia native and covers the Olympics for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
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