Wicker applauds Mississippi athletes heading to Rio

Published 7:00 am Thursday, August 11, 2016

Four athletes competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, call our state home. Ten others have connections to Mississippi as alumni, students, or coaches at our universities. Over the next two weeks, we will be watching with pride as they go for gold.

These talented athletes are already part of a winning Olympic tradition, following the extraordinary performances by Mississippi athletes who competed in track and field events during the 2012 London Games. In those Games, Mississippians helped set new a new world record in the women’s 4×100-meter relay and a new U.S. record in the men’s 4×100-meter relay. Gulfport native Brittney Reese made history by winning the gold medal in long jump. She was the first American woman to do so in more than 20 years, since Jackie Joyner-Kersee won gold in Seoul in 1988. 

Meet Our Olympians

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Reese – who attended the University of Mississippi and is five-time world champion – will return to Rio looking to repeat her gold-medal performance. This will be her third Olympics, having finished fifth in long jump at the 2008 Beijing Games. 

Joining Reese in Rio is Tori Bowie, a Sandhill native who attended the University of Southern Mississippi. Bowie will be competing in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4×100-meter track and field events. She won a bronze medal in the 100-meter dash at last year’s world championships in Beijing. 

In the men’s track and field events, Sam Kendricks, an Army reservist from Oxford, will compete in pole vault. Kendricks became a two-time NCAA champion while at Ole Miss and set the pole vault record at the U.S. Olympic Trials earlier this year. 

Hernando’s Ricky Robertson, who also earned accolades as a track and field star at Ole Miss, will compete in high jump. He will attend his first Olympics following an impressive performance at the 2016 USA Indoor Track and Field Championships, where he placed fourth. 

Other athletes from Ole Miss, Southern Miss, William Carey, Mississippi State, and Jackson State will be among more than 11,000 Olympians representing 207 nations in Rio. As part of the 31st Olympiad, they will be participating in a tradition of international goodwill and sportsmanship that traces back to ancient Greece. These athletes include Ole Miss assistant coach Gwen Berry, hammer throw (USA); William Carey’s Mateo Edward, 100 meters (Panama); Mississippi State’s Marta Freitas, 1,500 meters (Portugal); Ole Miss’s Antwon Hicks, 110-meter hurdles (Nigeria); Jackson State’s Anaso Jobodwana, 200 meters (South Africa); Southern Miss’s Mariam Kromah, 400 meters (Liberia); Mississippi State’s Brandon McBride, 800 meters (Canada); Ole Miss’s Raven Saunders, shot put (USA); Ole Miss’s Khadijah Suleman, 4×100-meter relay (Nigeria); and Jackson State’s Michael Tinsley, 400-meter hurdles (USA).

Meet Our Paralympians

Following the Olympic Games, our state will be represented in the Paralympic Games, which begin on September 7 in Rio. Some athletes for Team USA have been announced. One of them is Shaquille Vance from Houston, Mississippi, who won a silver medal for the 200 meters in the 2012 London Paralympics. In addition, Charlie Swearingen, a Gulfport native who attended Millsaps, will compete in sitting volleyball, and Anthony McDaniel from Pascagoula will compete in wheelchair rugby. They will join more than 4,000 athletes competing in 22 sports. 

History is already in the making, since this is the first time for the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games ever to be held in South America. I hope all of these remarkable athletes, whose journey to Rio has included Mississippi, go on to make history of their own.

By Roger Wicker, U.S. Senator