The Olympics is a worldwide phenomenon, pitting nation against nation through athletic competition, sportsmanship and goodwill. Athletes fly their national flags, accepting medals on behalf of the unity they represent. In America, a very broad national culture means each athlete comes from a diverse and distinct region, and more specifically, state. Arizona's Olympic athletic tradition stretches back to its official year of statehood, and remains strong to the present day--with dozens of native and affiliated athletes vying for Olympic gold at the 2012 London Summer Games.
Top Five Arizonan Summer Olympians of All Time
Of the many Summer Olympic Arizona Olympians, the following five athletes best their contemporaries past and present; with their achievements and perseverance placing them head and shoulders above the rest of the pack:
1. Lewis Tewanima - A long distance runner and Native American member of the Hopi Nation, Tewanima won the silver medal in the 10,000m run at the 1912 Olympic Summer Games in Stockholm, Sweden. Tewanima ran for the Carlisle Indian School, where he was a teammate of Jim Thorpe. The Hopi Nation still holds a memorial run for Tewanima on Second Mesa during the Labor Day holiday.
2. Michael Carbajal - Carbajal was raised on the tough streets of Phoenix's inner city, where he learned to fistfight in order to protect himself. Nicknamed 'Little Hands of Stone,' Carbajal won a silver medal as a light flyweight at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea. For many years now, Carbajal has been influential in helping Phoenix's inner city youth get off of the streets and into the ring, trading gang violence for sport and hope.
3. Gary Hall, Jr. - Hall, whose father Gary Hall, Sr. and uncle Charles Keating III were also Olympic swimmers, medaled ten times in ten races in the 1996 Atlanta summer games, 2000 Sydney summer games, and 2004 Athens summer games. His medal count includes five gold, three silver, and two bronze in various individual and group relay events. Hall is also remembered for his professional wrestler-like introductions and appearances; including walking poolside in boxer shorts and robes, shadow boxing and flexing for the audience.
4. Kerri Strug - Strug was one of Bella Karoli's 'Magnificent Seven' at both the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, winning the bronze and gold medals respectively. Strug vaulted herself into mythical status when, during the 1996 games in Atlanta, she severely injured her ankle, only to come back and secure the gold medal for her and her teammates with a 9.712 score on her next vault -- with merely a wince on her face.
5. Amanda Beard - An NCAA Division I swimming champion at the University of Arizona, Beard competed in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, 2000 Sydney Games, 2004 Athens Games, and 2008 Beijing Summer Games, winning a total of seven medals in her Olympic career. Her medal count includes two gold, four silver and one bronze won in various individual and relay events. Only 14 years old during her first Olympic appearance, Beard became famous for carrying her teddy bear, Harold, with her to the starting blocks and also on the medal stands.
Arizonan Athletes in London 2012
There are almost fifty current Olympians at the London summer games either native to or affiliated with Arizona. These include Brady Ellison, the world's best archer who fell short of placing in individual competition, and Sarah Robles, the highest ranked female weightlifter competing in her first ever Olympics -- and doing so despite her battle with Madelung's deformity, which causes her significant pain during her lifts. A complete list of the 2012 London Summer Olympic athletes with ties to Arizona can be found here.
They and their predecessors represent Arizona's as well as America's finest athletic competitors from all walks of life and disciplines; including track and field, swimming and diving, wrestling, cycling, basketball, soccer, weightlifting, bow sports and coaching.