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Oklahoma Olympians

03/25/2016

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Oklahomans have strong connections to the Olympics. While a medal from the winter games remains elusive, several Oklahomans have taken the winners’ podium during the summer games. Athletes are still battling it out for spots on the U.S. national team in several sports, but expect to see some Oklahomans show up on the roster. Here are some of the notable Oklahoma Olympians to know.

Nadia Comaneci

Sport: Gymnastics
Games: 1976 in Montreal and 1980 in Moscow

Nadia Comaneci was the first gymnast in modern times to score a perfect 10. She performed her perfect routine on the uneven bars. She is from Romania and competed with the Romanian national team twice, winning nine Olympic medals. In 1976, she won gold for her all-around individual performance, the uneven bars and the balance beam. She also earned a bronze for the floor exercise. In 1980, she won gold for the balance beam and floor exercise, and a silver for her all-around individual performance. She won silver medals as part of her team in 1976 and 1980. Today, she lives in Norman with her husband, gymnast Bart Conner.

Learn More: Today, Nadia Comaneci and her husband have several businesses and speak at events around the world.

Bart Conner

Sport: Gymnastics
Games: 1976 in Montreal, 1980 in Moscow and 1984 in Los Angeles

Though Bart Conner competed twice before, he is best known for his dramatic comeback during the 1984 games. Conner had suffered from two torn biceps injuries, but he battled back to score a perfect 10 on the parallel bars. His performance helped propel his team to its first gold. Conner, originally from Illinois, came to Oklahoma to attend the University of Oklahoma where he was an All-American and a member of two national championship teams.

Learn More: Bart Conner and his wife coach future Olympic gymnasts at the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy.

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden

Sport: Basketball
Games: 2012 in London

Three key Thunder players joined the 12-man roster during the 2012 tournament, where the men’s team won gold. Kevin Durant averaged 19.5 points per game, the second highest of the tournament. He also notched 1.6 steals per game, tied for eighth highest of the tournament. Harden was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets less than three months later.

Learn More: Kevin Durant discussed the future of his Olympics participation with Sports Illustrated.

Bob Kurland

Sport: Basketball
Games: 1948 in London and 1952 in Helsinki

Bob Kurland was a native of Missouri who was recruited by Henry Iba to play basketball at Oklahoma State University, then known as Oklahoma A&M. He was 7 feet tall and played center for the Cowboys, who won national titles in 1945 and 1946. He was a key player for the U.S. basketball team and was chosen to carry the American flag during the closing ceremonies of the 1952 games. Kurland became the first player to win two gold medals for basketball. He played on teams that won golds by beating France in 1948 and the Soviet Union in 1952.

Learn More: The Oklahoma State University Library completed an oral history project with Kurland in 2008.

Madeline Manning Mims

Sport: Track and Field
Games: 1968 in Mexico City, 1972 in Munich, 1976 in Montreal and 1980 in Moscow (though the team boycotted the event)

Madeline Manning Mims blew away the competition in the women’s 800 meter race during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. She won by more than 10 meters and set an Olympic record of 2:00.90. She is still the only American to have won the gold in that event. Four years later, she was on the silver medal team in the 1,600-meter relay. She is a native of Ohio but has lived in Tulsa most of her life, and has been a chaplain for U.S. Olympians for many years.

Learn More: TulsaPeople profiled Madeline Manning Mims in 2012.

Shannon Miller

Sport: Gymnastics
Games: 1992 in Barcelona and 1996 in Atlanta

Shannon Miller has seven Olympic medals – the most of any American gymnast. In 1992, she had an amazing experience at the games when she took home a silver medal in the all-around individual competition. She also earned a silver medal for the balance beam and bronze medals in the floor exercise and uneven bars. She and her teammates earned bronze in the overall competition. However, she is probably most famous for her performance in 1996, when she was the highest scorer on the team, despite suffering from tendinitis and a pulled hamstring. She won gold in the balance beam, and the American team won gold overall. Miller attended Edmond North High School and still lives in Edmond.

Learn more: Shannon Miller has written several books and tours as a national speaker.

Shannon Miller performs her gold-medal routine in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Photo credit: Dave Black

Shannon Miller performs her gold-medal routine in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Photo credit: Dave Black

Kenny Monday

Sport: Wrestling
Games: 1988 in Seoul, 1992 in Barcelona and 1996 in Atlanta

Kenny Monday was the first black athlete to win a gold medal in wrestling. Monday graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, where he went defeated. He then moved on to Oklahoma State University, where he won a national championship. Four years later, he defeated the world champion, who was wrestling for the Soviet Union. He also earned a silver medal in 1992. He returned to OSU to coach. Learn More: Kenny Monday did an extensive interview with Wrestling Stories.

Dave and Mark Schultz

Sport: Wrestling
Games: 1984 in Los Angeles

Brothers Dave and Mark Schultz each won a wrestling gold medal during the 1984 games. Dave won the 163-pound division, and Mark won the 181-pound division. The brothers, originally from California, came to Oklahoma for college. Dave wrestled at Oklahoma State University before transferring to the University of Oklahoma. He also worked as an assistant at OU. Mark wrestled first at UCLA and then also transferred to the University of Oklahoma where he was named the outstanding senior male student-athlete.

Learn More: The brothers’ lives were the focus of the 2014 movie “Foxcatcher.”

Marcia Jones Smoke

Sport: Kayaking
Games: 1964 in Tokyo, 1968 in Mexico City and 1972 in Munich

Marcia Jones Smoke was the first Oklahoma woman to win a medal. She earned a bronze in the 500-meter individual kayaking race. Both Smoke and her sister were competitive swimmers, though they didn’t qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in 1960. That’s when they started training for kayaking on Lake Hiawassee. Smoke graduated from Casady High School.

Learn More: The Oklahoman published a profile in 2012 about Marcia Jones Smoke and her career.

Jim Thorpe

Sport: Track and Field
Games: 1912 in Stockholm

Jim Thorpe, a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, was born in Pottawatomie County and attended Prague High School. Thorpe won the pentathlon and decathlon in 1912, proving he was one of the most versatile athletes of all time. Altogether, he competed in 15 events and placed first in nine and tied for first in another. He decimated his competition. After the games, it was discovered he played two seasons of semi-professional basketball, and the International Olympic Committee stripped him of his medals. He played professional football and baseball until the Great Depression. His Olympic medals were eventually restored in 1983.

Learn More: The Baseball Hall of Fame published an article about Jim Thorpe’s accomplishments and the legacy of his career.

Wayman Tisdale

Sport: Basketball
Games: 1984 in Los Angeles

Tisdale graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, and attended the University of Oklahoma where he was a three-time All American. He was part of the U.S. men’s team that won gold in 1984 while he was still in college. He was the second overall draft pick by the Indiana Pacers the next year. He went on to play for the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns before leaving the sport in 1997 to focus on his second career, music. Tisdale played jazz bass guitar. He was diagnosed with cancer in his knee in 2007 and died two years later. Today, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association honors the country’s top freshman player with the Wayman Tisdale Award.

Learn More: ESPN profiled Wayman Tisdale after he lost part of his leg to cancer.

Other Oklahoma Olympic Medal Winners of Note

  • Col. Charles H. Anderson, originally from California, won equestrian gold in 1948 for the three-day team event. He had been stationed at Fort Sill.
  • Jim Barnes, who attended Stillwater High School, won basketball gold in 1964. He attended Cameron University.
  • Bruce Baumgartner, a former Oklahoma State University assistant coach, won four medals for freestyle wrestling: gold in 1984, silver in 1988, gold in 1992 and bronze in 1996.
  • Lew Beck, originally from Oregon, won basketball gold in 1948. Beck played for the 66ers.
  • Doug Blubaugh, who attended Ponca City High School, won wrestling gold in 1960. He attended Oklahoma State University.
  • J.K. Boles won gold and bronze in the running deer individual shooting events in 1924. He was the Oklahoma small-bore rifle champion.
  • Everett Bradley, of Cherokee, earned silver in the pentathlon in 1920.
  • Harold Cagle, who attended Shawnee High School, earned silver in the pentathlon in 1936. He attended Oklahoma Baptist University.
  • Gordon Carpenter, originally from Arkansas, won basketball gold in 1948. He played for the 66ers.
  • Ed Caruthers, who was born in Oklahoma City, earned a silver medal for the high jump in 1968.
  • Will Claye won silver in the triple jump and bronze in the long jump in 2012. He attended the University of Oklahoma for two years, when he won the triple jump national championship and set a new American junior record of 56 feet, 4¾ inches.
  • Kendall Cross, who wrestled for Mustang High School and Oklahoma State University, won gold in 1996.
  • Jack Daniels, originally from California, won silver in the 1956 team pentathlon and bronze in the 1960 team pentathlon. He coached track at Oklahoma City University in the 1960s.
  • Chuck Darling, originally from Iowa, won basketball gold in 1956. He played for the 66ers.
  • Ira Davenport, of Tonkawa, earned a bronze medal in wrestling in 1912.
  • Gene Davis, originally from Montana, earned a bronze medal in wrestling in 1976. He attended Oklahoma State University.
  • Tommy Evans, who attended Rogers High School, earned silver in wrestling in 1952. He attended the University of Oklahoma.
  • Jeff Farrell is a native of Michigan but attended the University of Oklahoma where he was a seven-time All-American in swimming. He won two swimming gold medals in 1960, one in the 4x100-meter medley and the other in the 4x200-meter freestyle relays. He qualified for those teams six days after an emergency appendectomy.
  • Ross Flood, who attended Blackwell High School, earned silver in wrestling in 1936. He attended Oklahoma State University.
  • Chuck Fortenberry, originally from Texas, won basketball gold in 1936. He played for the 66ers.
  • Marcus Frieberger, who attended the University of Oklahoma, won basketball gold in 1952.
  • Burdette Halderson, originally from Minnesota, won basketball gold twice, once in 1956 and again in 1960. He played for the 66ers.
  • Joe Henson, of Tulsa, earned bronze in wrestling in 1952.
  • Dan Hodge, who attended Perry High School, earned silver in wrestling in 1956. He attended the University of Oklahoma.
  • Bill Hougland, originally from Kansas, won basketball gold twice, one in 1952 and again in 1956. He played for the 66ers.
  • Johnathan Horton (below), a native of Houston, won a silver in the high bar and a team bronze in 2008. He was the top team performer in those games. Horton was a gymnast for the University of Oklahoma, where he met his wife, gymnast Haley DeProspero.
OPTIMIZED-Johnathan-Horton-OU

Scott Horton performs the iron cross. Photo credit: OU Athletics

  • Henry Iba coached the U.S. men’s basketball team for three Olympic games: 1964, 1968 and 1972. The team won gold during his first two games, but lost in a heart-breaker to the Soviet Union in 1972. Iba coached at Oklahoma State University from 1934 to 1970, and won two national titles there.
  • Bob Jeangerard, originally from Illinois, won basketball gold in 1956. He played for the 66ers.
  • Johnny “Lam” Jones, born in Lawton, won gold in the 4x100-meter relay in 1976.
  • Jamill Kelly, who wrestled for Oklahoma State University, won silver in 2004.
  • James King, originally from Louisiana, won basketball gold in 1968. He played for Oklahoma State University.
  • Lester Lane, who attended Purcell High School, won basketball gold in 1960. He attended the University of Oklahoma.
  • Frank Lewis, who attended Cushing High School, won wrestling gold in 1936. He attended Oklahoma State University.
  • Clyde Lovellette, originally from Kansas, won basketball gold in 1952. He played for the 66ers.
  • David Maggard, who was born in Hominy, earned a bronze for the shot put in 1968.
  • W. Mashburn, who attended Capitol Hill High School, won silver in the 1600-meter relay in 1956.
  • Terry McCann, originally from Illinois, won gold in 1960 for wrestling. He lived in Tulsa.
  • Loren Murchison, who attended Muskogee High School, won gold in the 400-meter relay in 1920 and 1924.
  • Bobby Pearce, who attended Cushing High School, won wrestling gold in 1932. He attended Oklahoma State University.
  • C. Pitts, originally from Arkansas, won basketball gold in 1948. He played for the 66ers.
  • Jack Ragland, originally from Kansas, won basketball gold in 1936. He played for the 66ers.
  • Cab Renick, who attended Marietta High School, won basketball gold in 1948. He attended Oklahoma State University.
  • Dave Roberts, who was born in Stillwater, earned a bronze in 1976 for pole vault.
  • Coleman Scott earned bronze for freestyle wrestling in 2012. He attended Oklahoma State University where he was a national champion and a four-time All-American.
  • Jerry Shipp, who attended Blue High School, won basketball gold in 1964. He attended Southeastern State.
  • John Smith, of Del City High School, won gold twice for wrestling, one in 1988 and again in 1992. He attended Oklahoma State University where he was a two-time national champ. He coached at OSU for 18 years.
  • Michele Smith, who was a left-handed pitcher for Oklahoma State University, was part of two gold-winning softball teams, the first in 1996 and the second in 2000. She’s also well known for being the first female commentator for a Major League Baseball game that was broadcast nationwide.
  • Jack VanBebber, who attended Perry High School, won wrestling gold in 1932. He attended Oklahoma State University.
  • Albert Vandeweghe won silver in the 100-meter backstroke in 1936. He was only 16 at the time. He lived in Tulsa.
  • Yojiro Uetake wrestled for Oklahoma State University, going undefeated in three of his seasons there. Uetake won two gold medals in wrestling, one in 1964 and one in 1968. He is a native of Japan but returns to Oklahoma each year to visit.
  • Jim Walsh, originally from California, won basketball gold in 1956. He played for the 66ers.
  • C. Wayne, of Dacoma, won basketball gold in 1952.
  • Wayne Wells, who attended John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City, won wrestling gold in 1972 despite injuries to his ribs, spleen and knee. He attended the University of Oklahoma where he was a national champion.
  • Shelby Wilson, who attended Ponca City High School, won wrestling gold in 1906. He attended Oklahoma State University.

As Team USA prepares for Brazil this summer, athletes will appear at events across the county. The Oklahoma City Boathouse District is one of nine stops on the Team USA Road to Rio Tour. Several events are planned for May 7-8, including USA Canoe and Kayak Olympic Trials for Whitewater Slalom, USRowing Central Youth Championships and the grand opening of Riversport Rapids.

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