July 23, 2021
Over the next three weeks, Philadelphia will have a voice on the world stage at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
It will offer a doorway for notable sports icons like legend Dawn Staley to step into new realms, as head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team. The 51-year-old Dobbins Tech grad was a three-time Olympic gold medalist as a player (1996, 2000 and 2004) after being named two-time National Player of the Year when she was at Virginia (1991 and 1992).
Staley, currently the head coach at the University of South Carolina, where she won a national championship in 2017, will be among the many familiar faces from the area that bear watching during the Tokyo games.
Here’s a look at some (but not all) of the other Team USA locals to keep an eye on as the Olympics unfold:
Casey Kaufhold, archery | Lancaster, Pa. | Age: 17
Kaufhold is a rising senior at Conestoga Valley High School. She will be a part of a three-member women’s team and also compete on the United States’ mixed team, a new Olympic sport. Archery is a part of the Kaufhold family. Her parents, Robert and Carole, own Lancaster Archery Supply. Robert made two national U.S. field teams. Casey won bronze at the women’s individual recurve at the 2019 Pan-Am Games, where she also won gold in mixed team and women’s team events. She is the third-youngest U.S. Olympic archer.
Payton Ridenour, BMX racing | Pottstown, Pa. | Age: 19
A 2020 Owen J. Roberts graduate, Ridenour will be one of the younger athletes to compete in Tokyo. The COVID shutdown actually benefitted her, enabling her a year’s time to prepare, which she did in her home. She will be the youngest rider on the U.S. BMX racing team. She is a seven-time USA BMX national champion and won the UCI Red Bull Pump Track World Championship in 2019. Among junior elite women in 2019, Ridenour placed fourth in the world.
Jake Hoyle, fencing | Wallingford, Pa. | Age: 27
Hoyle is the top-ranked American male with the epee and ranked 12th overall in the world. A graduate of Strath Haven, in Wallingford, Delaware County, Hoyle was a walk-on to the Columbia University fencing team. Hoyle began fencing as a sixth grader at Strath Haven Middle School. At the Pan-Am games, he won bronze as a member of a gold-medal winning team. In 2019 by winning a bronze medal at the Qatar Grand Prix, Hoyle became the first U.S. men’s epee fencer to reach either a World Cup or Grand Prix medal podium since two-time Olympian Soren Thompson in 2011.
Justin Best, rowing | Kennett Square, Pa. | Age 23
Julian Venonsky, rowing | Malvern, Pa. | Age: 27
A graduate of Unionville and Drexel, Best teamed with Venonsky, a Malvern Prep and University of California grad and the team coxswain, to finish fourth at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in the men's heavyweight eight. The U.S. once had a strong history in rowing, winning 12 gold medals in men’s heavyweight eight rowing dating back to 1900. But the team hasn’t won gold since 2004. The last time the U.S. heavyweight eight medaled in the Olympics was in 2008, when they took bronze.
Ariana Ramsey, rugby | Philadelphia, Pa. | Age: 21
Kristen Thomas, rugby | Philadelphia, Pa. | Age: 28
Ramsey attended Upper Merion, where she graduated in 2018 before attending Dartmouth, and Thomas ran track for Hallahan, where she graduated in 2011. Both will play for Team U.S.A.’s Rugby 7s. Ramsey was introduced to rugby in high school and has a history of running track, wrestling, and cheerleading. Thomas was introduced to the sport through a friend when she attended the University of Central Florida. Australia is considered the favorite in Tokyo.
Joe Kovacs, shot put | Bethlehem, Pa. | Age: 32
Kovacs, it seems, has done everything in the shot put except take home Olympic gold. A graduate of Bethlehem Catholic, where he played football and stood out in the shot put, discus and javelin, Kovacs was coached by his mother Joanna in high school. He won silver medals at the 2017 World Championships and the 2016 Rio Olympics. He’s currently coached by his wife, Ashley, and graduated in 2012 from Penn State, where he was a four-time All-American.
Phillip Dutton, equestrian | West Grove (Chester County), Pa. | Age: 57
You probably have never even heard of the Olympic event called, well, “eventing,” which is the equestrian equivalent of a triathlon, combining the specialties of dressage, cross country and show jumping. Dutton, who resides in Chester County, will hold the distinction of being the oldest U.S. Olympian. Born and raised on an Australian sheep and cattle farm, Dutton will be making his seventh Olympic appearance. As a member of Team Australia, he won golds in 1996 and 2000. He settled in West Grove in the 1990s and eventually made the switch to Team U.S.A., winning a bronze in 2016 to become the oldest U.S. Olympic medalist since 1952. Dutton will be relying on a 13-year-old horse named “Z” to win another medal in Tokyo. Dutton won the 2018 eventing world championships—riding Z.
Carli Lloyd, women's soccer | Delran, N.J. | Age: 39
Julie Ertz, women’s soccer | Philadelphia, Pa. | Age: 29
Lloyd, the local soccer legend, keeps defying time. The 2000 Delran High School grad already owns a pair of Olympic gold medals, as part of the U.S. team that won gold in 2008 and 2012. It was Lloyd who scored the game-winning goals for both of those Olympic teams. Lloyd was also a key player on the U.S. women’s World Cup championship 2015 and 2019 teams. Ertz, the wife of Eagles’ tight end Zach Ertz, was a teammate of Lloyd’s on the U.S. 2015 and 2019 World Cup champions and was on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team that lost to Sweden on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals.
Ajeé Wilson, track | Philadelphia, Pa. | Age: 27
Wilson trains with coach Derek Thompson at the Juventus Track Club in Philadelphia. She went from sixth place to third to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in the 800 meters, where she currently holds the U.S. record at 1:55.61. She graduated Neptune High School and Temple, and her third-place finish at the U.S. Olympic trials of 1:58.39 was her fastest time this year. Running ahead of Wilson will be her teammate and strong medal contender 19-year-old Athing Mu, from Trenton.
Athing Mu, track | Trenton, N.J. | Age: 19
The last American woman to win Olympic gold in the 800-meter run was Madeline Manning in 1968. Mu has a chance to become the first American woman since Manning to break that 53-year streak. A freshman at Texas A&M who turned pro by signing with Nike two weeks ago, Mu is a graduate of Trenton Central High School, where she didn’t run track at the behest of her personal track coach to compete on the AAU circuit. Mu won the U.S. Olympic 800-meter finals in a scorching 1:56.07, snapping the previous trials record of 1:57.04 that had stood since 1996. Mu is the second youngest of seven children and was born in the Sudan in 2002. Her family immigrated to the United States in 2003 and settled in Trenton.
BONUS: Jay Wright, men's basketball | Villanova, Pa. | Age: 59
He might not be playing, but it's worth mentioning this local coaching legend. In May 2021, Wright was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The two-time NCAA national champion Villanova coach will be part of head coach Gregg Popovich’s U.S. Olympic staff with Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors head coach) and Lloyd Pierce (Indiana Pacers assistant). The U.S. has won gold in 15 of 18 Olympic tournaments it has entered (the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics). The U.S. lost to the Soviet Union in 1972 on a controversial, last-second shot, and finished with the bronze in 1988 at the Seoul Olympics, Team U.S.A.’s lowest finish to that point in any Olympic basketball tournament that prompted the inception of the Dream Team. This star-studded coaching staff may not be able to rescue this version of the U.S. Olympic squad, which seems mired in indifference.
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