By Kate Billingsley
Athletes from the DMV area made a splash at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. With 34 athletes reigning from DC, Maryland and Virginia, 16 medals were won. Twelve gold, three silver, and one bronze medal were earned by DMV athletes. Many of these athletes are alumni of Fairfax County Public Schools.
One DC area athlete who exceeded expectations is Olympic gold medalist and swimmer Kathleen “Katie” Ledecky, from Bethesda Maryland, a graduate from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. In an interview with NBC, Ledecky said “I never dreamed I would make the Olympics, but I started setting goals from a really early age and worked toward those, and goal-setting never ends,” After her gap year, in which she focused on her swimming, she will begin swimming for Stanford University. Ledecky came home with four gold medals, and one silver.
Baltimore, Maryland native, Michael Phelps is another DMV swimmer who was successful at the Rio Olympic Games. Phelps attended Towson High School and went on to swim for the University of Michigan. He won six medals, including three individual medals and three medals from relays. This makes Phelps’ medal count a whopping twenty-eight Olympic medals. After coming out of retirement specifically for the Olympics, Phelps said “You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get.” Not only does this reference his success at the games, but also the birth of his son, Boomer.
Another standout athlete who participated in the Rio games is Springfield, Virginia’s own, Ginny Thrasher, who earned the first gold medal of the 2016 games in Three-Position Rifle. Thrasher’s love for shooting blossomed from going hunting with her grandfather when she was young. She graduated from West Springfield High School, where her passion for shooting grew after learning she could shoot for her school. Thrasher is currently a sophomore at West Virginia University, where she continued her shooting career. In an interview with NBC, Thrasher said “I am very focused while I’m competing and that’s how you have to be.” Thrasher credits some of her success to her ability to remain focused in stressful situations.
Matt Miller is another DMV athlete who attended the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. Miller is a rower in the men’s coxless four. Not only is Miller from Fairfax County, but he is also an alumnus of West Springfield High School. He began rowing in 2004 during his freshman year at West Springfield, and hasn’t stopped since. In 2011, Miller graduated from the University of Virginia, where he also rowed. Miller placed fourth and seventh in Rio for his events.
The high performance by DMV athletes reminds us that anything is possible. Any athlete can achieve a goal if they’re willing to put in effort. Director of Student Activities, Brian Garvey says “Set goals. Start with those that can be achieved in the near future and then expand on them. Every Olympian started small, started as a beginner and set goals along the way. Everyone has a different path, but it all begins with the effort and the willingness to start.”