Arizona's Top 10 Summer Olympians

Arizona's most famous #phelpsface.EXPAND
Arizona's most famous #phelpsface.

The 2016 Summer Olympics have begun, and a slew of Arizona athletes are in Rio, going for gold. Arizona State University's athletic department alone has reportedly sent at least 20 athletes who'll compete in everything from swimming to tennis to volleyball and track and field events.

Fact is, when it comes to Olympians past and present, Arizona is on the map in a big way.

For your sporting pleasure, New Times has compiled a list of the most famous Olympians who call the Grand Canyon State home. Here, then, are the Top 10 — well, 11, actually — Olympic athletes who hail from or made their home in Arizona...

10. Brady Ellison, archery 
Arizona native Brady Ellison is the state's best-known archer. He's also the world's top-ranked archer. Born in Glendale, Ellison later moved to Globe and took up bow sports at a young age. He competed in his first Olympics in 2008, and was a member of the 2012 U.S. squad that brought home the silver medal from London — a feat the 2016 team has already duplicated in Rio. At age 27, Ellison, whose appetite for gold earned him the nickname "The Prospector" during last year's world championships — and who has been celebrated for his resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio — is vying for gold in the individual competition. In April of this year, he married Slovenian archer Toja Cerne.

9. Amanda Borden, gymnastics 
Amanda Borden was just 19 when she became the captain of the "Magnificent Seven" squad that struck gold at the 1996 summer games in Atlanta. As a gymnast, the Cincinnati native was known for her clean form and technique, as well as her vivacious personality. In 1995, she was named Sportswoman of the Year by USA Gymnastics. After the requisite round of media appearances that followed her Olympic triumph, Borden moved to Arizona, where she earned a degree in early childhood development from Arizona State. She and her husband run Gold Medal Gym in Tempe, where Borden coaches gymnastics.

8. Gary Hall Sr. and Gary Hall Jr., swimming
For Gary Wayne Hall Sr. and son Gary Jr., medaling in the Olympics is a family sport. Combined, the pair earned 13 medals and was the first father-and-son duo to each compete three times at the Olympics and bring home medals. In 1968, Hall Sr. represented the U.S. in the games in Mexico, earning a silver medal in the men's 400-meter individual medley. In 1972, during the summer games in Munich, he took home silver again, this time in the 200-meter butterfly. Four years later, in Montreal, it was a bronze in the 100-meter butterfly. Then he moved to Arizona, married, attended medical school, and opened an ophthalmology practice in Phoenix. Gary Hall Jr. would eclipse his father's Olympic success, scoring 10 medals (five gold, three silver, two bronze) in the 1996, 2000, and 2004 summer games. The younger Hall was known to strut across the pool deck, playing to the crowd and the cameras. Hall Jr. capped his Olympic career at age 29 with a gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle in Athens in 2004. His father's legacy is less glorious. In 2009, following a series of complaints, investigations, and lawsuits, the Arizona Medical Board permanently revoked his license.

7. Anthony Sanders, baseball
Growing up in Tucson, Anthony Sanders was a three-sport athlete and a member of the student council and the honor society at Santa Rita High School. The Toronto Blue Jays picked him in the seventh round of the 1992 MLB draft, and after bouncing around the minors for the next half-dozen years, he made it to the bigs for the proverbial cup of coffee with the Jays and, later, the Mariners. But it was in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney that Sanders helped make history, as the United States beat highly favored Cuba to win its first (and only) baseball gold. The Olympics had added baseball as an official sport in 1992, but for the 2000 games two significant changes were made: The event went from aluminum bats to wood, and teams were allowed to field professional players. Because the MLB wouldn't permit any players to participate if they were on a big-league roster, the 2000 squad, managed by Hall of Fame skipper Tommy Lasorda, was a mix of marginal players, old timers, and up-and-comers. After playing part of the 2001 season with the Yokohama BayStars of the Japanese Central League, Sanders switched to coaching. For the past decade-plus, he has worked as a coach and manager in the Colorado Rockies' minor-league system. He splits his time between Colorado and Arizona, where he regularly volunteers his time in youth sports.

6. Allison Schmitt, swimming
This summer's Rio games mark Allison Schmitt's third Olympic appearance. In 2008, Schmitt made her debut in Bejing, taking home a bronze medal in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. Four years later she won five medals — three of them gold — in London, setting a new Olympic record in the 200-meter freestyle. Last year, she moved to Tempe, following famed Olympic coach Bob Bowman, who moved from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club to Arizona State University. When the 2016 games are over, Schmitt intends to return to Tempe to earn a master's degree in psychology at ASU.



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