After a one-year delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, some of the biggest names in the sports world are gathering in Tokyo in coming weeks for the Olympic Games, and some of those massive stars have deep connections right here in the Midwest.
Whether they’ve achieved incredible feats on the courts and fields in the professional ranks, or if they’ve shone brightly on the big stage in previous Olympics, the group of athletes that hail from this part of the country is a strong and decorated assemblage of talent, and they’ll be looking for more gold in the weeks to come.
Here are some of the big names that will be competing in Tokyo while representing the Midwest:
Skylar Diggins-Smith – Women’s Basketball
A South Bend, Indiana native who attended the University of Notre Dame, Diggins-Smith has made a massive impact on every single team she’s been a part of. She is a five-time WNBA All-Star, was a two-time First-Team All-American in college, and even captured a gold medal in the 3-on-3 world basketball championships in 2012.
Stefanie Dolson – Women’s 3-on-3 Basketball
Dolson joined the Chicago Sky in 2017, and made the WNBA All-Star Team in her very first season. She was a standout player at UConn, averaging 11.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, and she’ll be hoping her skills translate to the 3-on-3 game, as she’ll hope to guide Team USA to gold in the inaugural edition of the event.
Julie Ertz – Women’s Soccer
The Chicago Red Stars standout has had an incredible career in both the NWSL and in international play. She has captured the US Soccer Female Player of the Year award on two different occasions, and was part of two different Women’s World Cup championship squads. Now, she’ll be looking to capture Olympic gold for the first time.
Todd Frazier – Baseball
A two-time All-Star, Frazier also played for parts of two seasons with the Chicago White Sox, with 56 home runs and 142 RBI’s to his credit in 1,001 plate appearances with the South Siders. He’ll be looking to add an impressive line to his resume in these Olympics, as he has previously won titles at the Little League (with Tom’s River in the 1998 Little League World Series) and the international (2006 World University Championship) levels.
Lilly King – Women’s Swimming
King is hoping for more Olympic gold in Tokyo, as the Evansville, Indiana native will seek to build on her impressive performance in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. In those Olympics, she captured gold in the 100-meter breaststroke, setting an Olympic Record with a time of 1:04.93, and a gold in the 4x100-meter medley relay.
Zach LaVine – Men’s Basketball
After briefly finding himself in health and safety protocols prior to the Games, the Chicago Bulls star is ready to showcase his skills on the world stage. He set career highs in points per game (27.4), rebounds per game (5) and assists per game (4.9) during the 2020-21 season with the Bulls.
Tamyra Mensah-Stock – Women’s Wrestling
Mensah-Stock, who was born in Chicago, is looking to make a big stagement in these Olympics. She is the reigning world champion in the 68-kilogram freestyle weight class, and she has captured gold medals in the Pan American Games in 2019 and the Pan American Championships in the last three years.
Ryan Murphy – Men’s Swimming
Murphy has an incredible run in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, capturing three gold medals in the 100 and 200-meter backstroke, as well as the 4x100-meter medley. The Palos Heights-native will be looking to defend his golds in both backstroke events this time around.
Rajeev Ram – Mixed Doubles Tennis
Ram, who attended the University of Illinois, has had a stellar career since during pro in 2004, capturing three Grand Slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles, and also won the silver medal in the 2016 Olympics in Rio when he teamed up with Venus Williams. This time around, he’ll team up with Frances Tiafoe in the men’s doubles event.
Gable Steveson – Men’s Wrestling
Steveson is the reigning NCAA Division I wrestling champion, capturing the crown in the 285-pound division at the 2021 tournament. He will compete in the men’s freestyle wrestling event at 125 kilograms, and after the Olympics he will join World Wrestling Entertainment.
Justin Thomas – Men’s Golf
Born in Louisville, Thomas is a former number one player in the world, and he’ll be looking to capture Olympic gold this summer. He has won 14 times on the PGA TOUR, including the 2017 PGA Championship, and he is also the reigning champion at The Players Championship.
Mariel Zagunis – Women’s Fencing
Zagunis is getting ready to compete in her fourth Olympics, having secured gold medals in both 2004 in Athens and in 2008 in Beijing. She also was part of teams that won bronze medals in 2008 and in 2016 in the sabre discipline. The University of Notre Dame alum also had the honor of serving as the United States’ flag bearer during the 2012 Opening Ceremonies in London.