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British-born Miles Chamley-Watson will compete on the US fencing team in London. Though he has been in New York since the age of 9, his whole extended family still is in the UK and will be in the stands rooting for him. Chamley's elementary school offered fencing as an after school activity and he took it up at age ten. And he has risen to one of the world's top-ranked members of his sport. He also is majoring in sports management at Penn State University. Good luck, Miles!
Kenyan-born Janet Bawcom will compete in the 10,000 meter run in London and will be the first woman from her country to compete on the American track and field team. This is her first Olympics, though she is well known in the US with national titles in the 10-K, 15-K, 10 mile, 20-K and 25-K distances. Bawcom came to the US to attend little Harding University in Arkansas where she got a degree in health care management. She's now pursuing a nursing license.
I love the story NBC tells about how a chance encounter changed her life:
Bawcom grew up the oldest of eight siblings in a single-parent household in a village near Kapsabet, Kenya where running was culturally unacceptable for females. When she was 19 years old, Bawcom was walking to a bus stop on the way to visit an aunt in the hospital 40 miles away when a stranger offered her a ride. With little money to spare for bus fare, she accepted. That stranger was Peter Rono, the 1988 Olympic 1500m champion. He told her about how running could be a route to American colleges for Kenyans. After that chance encounter, Bawcom began running. Two years later, she was noticed at a local track by a Harding University coach who happened to be visiting his home in Kenya. He offered her a scholarship and she accepted.
Korean-born Kayla Bashore-Smedley is competing in her second Olympics for the American women's field hockey team. It's been a quarter century since the US won a medal in field hockey and 2008 was the first time the team had qualified for the Olympics since 1996 (when the US got an automatic spot for being the host nation). Actually, 2008 was the first time the team had qualified on its own since 1988. And Bashore-Smedley, one of seven 2008 team members on the current roster, played an important role in this comeback.
Vietnam-born Howard Bach and Indonesian-born Tony Gunawan will be competing in the men's doubles event in badmitton for Team USA. Howard made history in 2008 when he and his doubles partner (Bob Malaythong) became the first Americans ever to make the quarter finals in their sport which is still not well known in the US. Howard and Tony were previously partners and made a splash with a 2005 world championship title.
Howard came to the US at the age of three and began playing badmitton at the San Francisco YMCA at the age of 5. He's now competing in his third Olympics.
Tony came to the US in 2002 as a foreign graduate student studying computer science - one of the STEM graduates so much in the news these days. But he couldn't compete with Tony in the Olympics until this year because Tony only got his green card in 2006 and wasn't able to naturalize until last year. Tony didn't just happen in to the sport as a student, however. He won the 2000 Olympic gold medal for Indonesia.
Best of luck, Tony and Howard!
Brazilian-born Tony Azevedo is competing as an attacker (yes, that's the actual name of the position) for the US men's waterpolo team. Azevedo is competing in his fourth Olympics. In 2008, he helped the US men win a silver medal in a year we were not expected to medal at all. Tony competed for Stanford University and was selected NCAA player of the year all four years of college. He's now considered one of the world's top players. His father Rick competed for Brazil in the 1970s and now is a coach of Team USA. Four other aunts and uncles have competed in the Olympics dating all the way back to 1932. Good luck Tony!