ST. PAUL, Minn. (Valley News Live) Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith on Friday recognized the 16 athletes with ties to Minnesota preparing to compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith praised the athletes for their accomplishments and wished them luck as they prepare to compete in the Rio Games.
“On behalf of all Minnesotans, I send our state's Olympians our heartiest congratulations for their amazing achievements,” said Governor Dayton. “We are proud to send our very best wishes to Minnesota's athletes and to the entire Team USA.”
“These Minnesota athletes are talented and tenacious competitors. They have dedicated years of their lives to achieving the goal of competing in the Rio Olympic Games,” said Lt. Governor Smith. “We all congratulate our Minnesota Olympians, and we all look forward to the competition, and cheering on our home grown heroes!”
Minnesota’s Summer Olympians will compete in a variety of different sports including: badminton, basketball, BMX biking, cycling, Greco-Roman wrestling, rhythmic gymnastics, rowing, rugby, track and field, and triathlon.
Minnesotans can learn more about their hometown athletes and follow their events by clicking the links attached to this story.
Paula Lynn Obanana, Badminton
Obanana, a native of the Phillipines, grew up in Arden Hills. She will compete in the Badminton women’s double competition in Rio. Obanana now trains with her partner Eva Lee in South California. They won the gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games. They are ranked 29th in the world entering the Rio Games.
Seimone Augustus, Basketball
Augustus grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and played in college at Louisiana State University. She currently stars for the Minnesota Lynx. Augustus is a two-time Olympic champion winning gold medals in London in 2012 and Beijing in 2008.
Sylvia Fowles, Basketball
Fowles was raised in Miami, Florida. She played college basketball at Louisiana State University. Today, she plays professionally for the Minnesota Lynx. Fowles is a two-time Olympic champion winning gold medals in London in 2012 and Beijing in 2008. Notably, she was the first woman to ever dunk in international competition.
Maya Moore, Basketball
Moore is a Lawrenceville, Georgia native. She starred at the University of Connecticut in college. Moore currently plays for the Minnesota Lynx. She previously won a gold medal at the 2012 London Games. Moore is among a handful of players to have won an Olympic gold medal, world championship gold, NCAA title and WNBA championship.
Lindsay Whalen, Basketball
Whalen grew up in Hutchinson, before starring at the University of Minnesota. In January 2004, Whalen became the University of Minnesota’s all-time leading scorer. She also lead the University of Minnesota to its first Final Four appearance. Since 2010, Whalen has played for the Minnesota Lynx – winning four WNBA championships. In international competition, she won a gold medal at the 2012 London Games.
Alise Post, BMX Biking
Post was raised in St. Cloud. She is a graduate of the University of San Diego. She has won six consecutive American titles and is currently ranked third in the world. Post finished 12th during the 2012 London Games after a crash in the semifinals.
Kelly Catlin, Cycling
Catlin was raised in Arden Hills and is a 2014 graduate of Mounds View High School. She is currently a student at the University of Minnesota, majoring in biomedical engineering and Chinese. Catlin competed in the 2015 Pan American Games. At the 2016 World Championships she won a gold medal as part of the team pursuit competition. This is her first time competing in the Olympics.
Andy Bisek, Greco-Roman wrestling
Bisek is from Chaska. He finished third in the 2004 State Wrestling Tournament. In college, Bisek wrestled at the University of Northern Michigan. He won bronze medals at the 2014 and 2015 world wrestling championships. He enters the Rio Games ranked 5th in the world. This is Bisek’s Olympic debut.
Kiana Eide, Rhythmic Gymnastics
Eide is from St. Francis. She currently attends Glenbrook North High School in Illinois (home of the US national team). At the 2015 World Championships, she was a member of the rhythmic gymnastics team that gave the United States’ its first earned Olympic spot in rhythmic group competition with a 13th place all-around finish.
Megan Kalmoe, Rowing
Kalmoe was born in Minneapolis and raised in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. She picked up rowing in college at the University of Washington. Kalmoe has won a gold medal and two silver medals at World Championship competitions since 2011. She finished 5th at the 2008 Beijing Games in the double sculls competition. Kalmoe also won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Garrett Bender, Rugby
Bender was born and raised in Minneapolis. In high school, Bender helped lead Washburn High School to a state rugby title. He played football at St. Cloud State University, before focusing exclusively on rugby. In 2015, Bender was part of the U.S. squad that won a bronze medal at the Pan American Games. This will be his first time competing in the Olympics.
Kathryn Johnson, Rugby
Johnson is a Hopkins native and a 2010 graduate of Hopkins High School. In 2012, she founded a Minneapolis-based rugby club. Johnson was part of the U.S. squad that won a bronze medal at the 2013 World Championship. In 2015, the team won a silver medal at the Pan American Games. The Rio Games will be Johnson’s Olympic debut.
David Plummer, Swimming
Plummer is a Norman, Oklahoma native. He swam in college at the University of Minnesota, where he was a 14-time All-American. Plummer currently lives and trains in Minneapolis. He won a silver medal at the 2011 World Championships in the 4x100 meter medley. In 2012, Plummer missed an Olympic berth by 0.12 seconds. Plummer won a silver medal at the 2013 World Championships. This is his first time competing in the Olympics.
Ben Blankenship, Track and Field
Blankenship grew up in Stillwater and was a two-time state champion in the one-mile. At the University of Minnesota, Blankenship was a four-time All American and three Big Ten tiles. In 2010, he became the first runner in state history to run a sub 4-minute mile (3:57). Blankenship finished 1st in the 2016 USA 1 Mile Road Championships. He finished 4th in the 2015 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 1,500 meters. He will compete at 1,500 meters in his Olympic debut.
Hassan Mead, Track and Field
Born in Somalia, Mead moved with his family to the United States in 2000. He attended Minneapolis South High School, where he was a state cross-country champion. After high school, Mead went to the University of Minnesota, establishing himself as a six-time All-American. He was named Big Ten Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year in 2009. Mead competed in the 2015 Outdoor World Championships, finishing 15th in the 10,000 meter race. He will be running the 5,000-meter in his first Olympic appearance.
Gwen Jorgensen, Triathlon
Jorgensen was raised in Waukesha, Wisconsin. In college, she competed for the University of Wisconsin – Madison in track, cross-country, and swimming. Jorgensen currently lives and trains in St. Paul. She began competing in the triathlon in 2010. Jorgensen’s performance earned her 2010 USA Triathlon Rookie of the Year honors. She also has won the ITU World Triathlon Series world championships twice, and was named the USA Triathlon Elite Olympic –Distance/ITU Athlete of the year in 2014 and 2015. At the 2012 London Games, she finished 38th after a flat tire in the biking portion of the competition.