16 Olympic athletes with Charlotte-area connections you should be cheering for

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2016 U.S. Olympic swim team members (Left-Right) Katie Meili, Anthony Ervin, Cammile Adams, Ryan Lochte, Kathleen Baker and Jimmy Feigen on Friday, July 8, 2016 at SwimMAC Training Center at Charlotte Latin School in Charlotte, NC. The six members of SwimMAC Team Elite and CEO & Director of Coaching, SwimMAC Carolina's David Marsh will represent the United States in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Marsh will be the women's swim team coach.

Notable athletes with a Charlotte connection who will compete in the Oympic Games for Team USA in Rio de Janeiro:

Swimming

(These six swimmers compete for SwimMAC’s Team Elite, which is based in Charlotte. They will be joined in Rio by David Marsh, coach of Team Elite and, for these Olympics, the U.S. women’s swimmers).

2016 U.S. Olympic men and women's swim team members (from left) Ryan Lochte, Anthony Ervin, CEO & Director of Coaching, SwimMAC Carolina David Marsh, Jimmy Feigen, Katie Meili, Kathleen Baker and Cammile Adams.
2016 U.S. Olympic men and women’s swim team members (from left) Ryan Lochte, Anthony Ervin, CEO & Director of Coaching, SwimMAC Carolina David Marsh, Jimmy Feigen, Katie Meili, Kathleen Baker and Cammile Adams.

Cammile Adams

Event: Women’s 200 butterfly.

Competes: Aug. 9-10.

What you should know: This is Adams’ second Olympics; she finished fifth in the same event in 2012. She will get married in her home state of Texas shortly after these Olympics, and her twin sister is helping plan the wedding.

Kathleen Baker

Event: Women’s 100 backstroke.

Competes: Aug. 7-8.

What you should know: Only 19, Baker grew up mostly in Winston-Salem but has been living in Charlotte most of the time since age 14 to train with SwimMAC. She has overcome Crohn’s disease – a chronic gastrointestinal disease – to make the U.S. team.

Anthony Ervin

Events: Men’s 50 freestyle; 400 freestyle relay.

Competes: Aug. 7, 11, 12.

What you should know: At 35, Ervin is the oldest member of the U.S. swim team and undoubtedly the one with the most extreme life experiences. He first made an Olympic team at age 19, then he left the sport for almost all of his 20s. His autobiography “Chasing Water” details his struggles with drugs, alcohol and Tourette syndrome.

Jimmy Feigen

Event: Men’s 400 freestyle relay.

Competes: Aug. 7.

What you should know: A powerful, playful Texan who is 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Feigen will compete in the same relay as SwimMAC teammate Ervin. While Ervin glides through the water like a barracuda, Feigen overpowers it. Feigen won a silver medal in the same relay in 2012.

Ryan Lochte

Event: Men’s 200 individual medley; 800 freestyle relay

Competes: Aug. 9, 10, 11.

What you should know: An 11-time Olympic medalist, Lochte is by far the most well-known of the Carolinas’ Olympic contingent. A nagging groin injury nearly short-circuited his Olympic trials. He hopes to be fully healed for Rio.

Katie Meili

Event: 100 breaststroke.

Competes: Aug. 7-8.

What you should know: Meili’s last name rhymes with “Smiley,” and she was all smiles after making the Olympic team in an upset. From Texas, Meili also has an Ivy League degree from Columbia in psychology and loves “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Canoe/Kayak

Casey Eichfeld

Event: Men’s single canoe and doubles canoe.

Competes: Aug. 7-9; Aug. 11.

What you should know: Eichfeld moved to Charlotte eight years ago to train and work at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. This is his third Olympics – his best previous Olympic finish was 11th. But this is the first time he was able to qualify in two events.

Michal Smolen

Event: Men’s kayak.

Competes: Aug. 10.

What you should know: Smolen has lived in the Gastonia area for the past eight years and also trained regularly at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Born in Poland, Smolen is coached by his father. Rafal Smolen, a former Polish national team member in canoe/kayak, also coaches Eichfeld.

Michal Smolan, left, and Casey Eichfeld train at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.
Michal Smolan, left, and Casey Eichfeld train at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.

Women’s Gymnastics

Ashton Locklear

Event: Uneven bars.

Competes: She won’t, unless one of the five primary U.S. women’s gymnasts gets hurt. Locklear is an alternate but does get to travel to Rio just in case.

What you should know: Locklear, 18, who trains at Everest Gymnastics in Huntersville, is one of the best in the world at the uneven bars. She would have to be added to the U.S. lineup before competition begins Aug. 7 or else she will be sitting out and watching these Olympics.

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Track and Field

Tavis Bailey

Event: Men’s discus

Competes: Aug. 12-13.

What you should know: Bailey played football and threw the discus and shot put at A.L. Brown in Kannapolis. He originally went to Lenoir-Rhyne on a football scholarship before transferring to Tennessee to concentrate on track and field.

Notable foreign athletes with Charlotte connections:

Nic Batum, France

Event: Men’s basketball.

Competes: Aug. 6-21.

What you should know: Batum will be one of the stars for the French national team. The Charlotte Hornets gave Batum the richest contract in Charlotte pro sports history – $120 million over five years – in July to make sure he stuck around after he helped lead the Hornets to the playoffs in 2015-16.

Nic-Batum
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Kirsty Coventry, Zimbabwe

Event: 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke.

Competes: Aug. 7-8, Aug. 11-12.

What you should know: Coventry, 32, is about to compete in her fifth Olympics. She has won seven individual swimming medals over the years for Zimbabwe, where she is treated like Michael Phelps. Coventry has been training with Charlotte’s SwimMAC Elite group since 2014.

Dion Dreesens, The Netherlands

Event: Men’s 200 freestyle, 800freestyle relay.

Competes: Aug. 7-9.

What you should know: Dreesens trains with SwimMAC Elite in Charlotte and also has swum for Queens. In 2016, Dreesens was the NCAA Division II Swimmer of the Meet after winning three championships in the 200-, 500- and 1000-yard freestyle events.

Patricia Castro-Ortega, Spain

Event: Women’s 200 and 400 freestyle; 800freestyle relay.

Competes: Aug. 7-10.

What you should know: Castro-Ortega earned four national Division II records with Queens this year in four different individual events. She was also an Olympian for Spain in 2012.

Shermaine Williams, Jamaica

Event: Women’s 100 hurdles

Competes: Aug. 16-17.

What you should know: Williams is a two-time Olympian as well as a Johnson C. Smith graduate (she still trains at the school). She also has a younger sister who is usually a better hurdler than she is. But in Jamaica’s Olympic Trials, younger sister Danielle hit a hurdle and lost her rhythm, and only older sister Shermaine qualified.

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Kendra Clarke, Canada

Event: Women’s 400; women’s 1600 relay.

Competes: Aug. 13-15, Aug. 19-20.

What you should know: Clarke, a current Johnson C. Smith student, is only 19 years old and has a lot of college track honors still ahead of her. Although not a serious medal threat, making an Olympic team this early in her career is impressive.

Want more? You can find a list of of Olympic athletes with North and South Carolina ties here. And read even more about the local Olympian’s in Scott Fowler’s column.

Featured photo: Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer. Other photos: Jeff Siner; Mark Hames/Charlotte Observer; T. Ortega Gaines/Charlotte Observer; Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

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