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Olympians winners at more than sports

August 21, 2012
By Sen. Carl Levin , Daily Press

WASHINGTON - There's a little something for everybody in the Olympics: drama, competition, pageantry and spectacle, stories of victory and of triumph over adversity. For Michigan in the 2012 Games in London, there was all that and more.

Our state was exceptionally well-represented at the just-completed games. Eleven athletes with Michigan ties won medals in London, including 10 Americans and one Canadian. But the Olympic Games are about more than victory and gold. Michigan athletes gave us valuable lessons, not just about hard work and dedication on the field or in the pool, but about how to overcome tough circumstances and handle adversity with poise.

Michigan cheered remarkable triumphs. Swimmer Michael Phelps, who perfected his legendary training routine in Ann Arbor, cemented his place as one of the all-time greats in Olympic history with four gold and two silver medals, bringing his all-time medal count to 22.

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Sen. Carl Levin

Another swimmer, Allison Schmitt of Canton, also ranks among the most successful Olympic athletes ever. She won five medals, three gold, in London, giving her six in her career. Only six American women have won more.

Swimmers and University of Michigan graduates Davis Tarwater and Charlie Houchin helped the United States win gold in the men's 800 meter relay, and former U-M competitor Tyler Clary won gold in the men's 200 meter backstroke. Betsey Armstrong, another U-M graduate, helped the U.S. women win gold in water polo. Rochester native Peter Vanderkaay won bronze in the 400 meter freestyle.

Our state was well represented in track and field as well: Lauryn Williams, a Detroit native and former silver medalist sprinter, helped the U.S. women win the gold medal in the 400 meter relay.

Michigan athletes stood out not just for their success in competition, but for their compelling stories.

Boxer Claressa Shields is a student at Flint Northwestern High School. Just 17 and barely old enough to qualify for the games, she defeated a boxer nearly twice her age, and far more experienced, for the middleweight gold medal. It was the first gold medal for the United States in women's boxing, and Shields impressed observers in London with her enthusiasm and poise as well as her skill in the ring.

Gymnast Jordyn Wieber, a student at DeWitt High School, came to London with high hopes. But she left London with prizes more precious even than a gold medal: admiration and respect. Hampered by a leg fracture that required her to wear a protective boot after competition ended, she suffered disappointment in the individual events, but bounced back to help the U.S. women win their first team gold medal in gymnastics in 16 years.

Wieber handled the scrutiny of the Olympic spotlight with dignity and maturity far beyond her years.

We're justifiably proud of all Michigan's Olympic athletes - no matter where they finished, the moment they set foot in London they achieved the rare honor of competing at the highest level.

We thrilled to their victories, and we felt the pain of their disappointments. But most of all, we are proud of the way they represented Michigan and America: with dignity, determination and grit.

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Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan.

 
 

 

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