Watch for these Olympians in Rio with ties to the Commonwealth - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Watch for these Olympians in Rio with ties to the Commonwealth

Opening Ceremony is Aug. 5. (Source: NBC Olympics) Opening Ceremony is Aug. 5. (Source: NBC Olympics)
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Virginia has a long list of athletes heading to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Here are the people to look for:

SWIMMING

Townley Haas, Henrico (now lives in Texas): This will be Haas' first appearance at the Olympics. A student at the University of Texas, Haas won the 200m freestyle at his first-ever Olympic Trials in 2016 by one one-hundredth of a second over 2012 Olympian Conor Dwyer. He beat out 11-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte for an individual berth to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Leah Smith, Charlottesville (originally from Pennsylvania): Leah Smith comes from an athletic family: all three siblings swam for their universities and her dad was a collegiate pole vaulter. Plus, Smith’s great uncle, Bill Conn, was the World Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion, and her great-grandfather Jimmy Smith was an infielder on the 1919 World Series Champion Cincinnati Reds. She finished second to Katie Ledecky in two events at U.S. Olympic Trials, the 400m and 800m freestyle, and additionally will race the 4x200m freestyle relay in Rio.

TRACK AND FIELD

Francena McCorory, Hampton: McCorory has established herself as a force in the 400m, both outdoors and indoors. Outdoors, she was a member of the U.S. 4x400m team that won a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Indoors, she was the 400m gold medalist at the 2014 World Indoor Championships.

LaShawn Merritt, Portsmouth: Merritt defeated his 400m rival, Jeremy Wariner, to claim the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also teamed with Wariner to win the 4x400m relay gold medal in Beijing. But at the 2012 London Olympics, a hamstring injury forced him to withdraw from the 400m preliminary heats.

David Verburg, Lynchburg (now lives in Florida): Verburg has gathered an impressive collection of 4x400m gold medals. He took home the event’s top prize at the 2010 World Junior Championships, 2013 World Championships, 2014 World Indoor Championships, and 2014 and 2015 World Relays.

Byron Robinson, Chesapeake (now lives in Texas): Event - 400m hurdles

Kendell Williams, Arlington: Event - Heptathlon

Maria Elena Calle, Richmond: Maria Elena Calle recently learned she qualified to run the marathon at the summer games, but she won't be running for Team USA. She will actually represent her home country of Ecuador. Calle is a VCU grad and has lived in Richmond for 20 years.

GYMNASTICS

Gabby Douglas, Newport News: Gabby Douglas became the star of the 2012 Olympic women’s gymnastics team when she won all-around gold at 16 years old. She was the first U.S. gymnast to win gold in both the Olympic all-around and team competitions.

VOLLEYBALL

Reid Priddy, Richmond (now lives in Las Vegas): Third appearance at the Olympics. Reid Priddy joined the U.S. men’s national team in 2000 and made his Olympic debut at the 2004 Athens Games. The veteran player competed again at the 2008 Beijing Games where the U.S. men won gold and at the London Games where the U.S. placed fifth.

RUGBY

Carmen Farmer, Richmond (now lives in Maryland): First appearance at the Olympics. The U.S. men's and women's rugby sevens teams both qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics by winning continental qualifying championships. The women beat Mexico in the NACRA title game on the same day. 

TENNIS

Brian Baker, McLean (originally from Tennessee): As a youth, Brian Baker was something of a tennis prodigy, reaching World No. 2 in the junior rankings. He turned pro at age 18 in 2003, but suffered serious injuries in 2007. Numerous hip and elbow surgeries meant he did not return to professional tennis until 2011. He has since dealt with intermittent health issues.

Denis Kudla, Arlington (now lives in Florida): Denis Kudla began playing tennis at 7 years old. He is primarily a singles player who will compete in the category at the Rio 2016 Games, his first Olympics. Kudla's best result at a Grand Slam tournament was advancing to the fourth round of Wimbledon's men's singles competition in 2015.

SHOOTING

Virginia Thrasher, Springfield: Virginia Thrasher is a rifle shooter for the U.S. She competes in collegiate shooting for the University of West Virginia.

Lucas Kozeniesky, Fairfax (now lives in North Carolina): Lucas Kozeniesky is a rifle shooter for the U.S. The North Carolina State University standout is making his Olympic debut in Rio.

EQUESTRIAN

Lauren Kieffer, Middleburg: Lauren Kieffer was hooked on riding after receiving lessons for her sixth birthday. By the time she turned 18, she was training under Olympians Karen and David O’Connor. In 2015, she won eventing gold at the Pan American Games.

CANOE

Casey Eichfeld, Richmond: At 5 years old, Casey Eichfeld was already racing in whitewater slalom events. By the age of 8, he was the youngest National Slalom Cadet Team member and solo competitor at the U.S. Whitewater Slalom National Championships.

ROWING

Meghan O’Leary, Charlottesville: A four-time national team member, Meghan O’Leary won the double sculls at the 2015 National Selection Regatta I and the 2014 National Selection Regatta II with teammate Ellen Tomek. Internationally, O’Leary and Tomek won silver in the double sculls at the 2015 World Rowing Cup II.

Matt Miller, Springfield (now lives in New Jersey): Event - Men’s four with Seth Weil, Henrik Rummel and Charlie Cole

SOCCER

Ali Krieger, Dumfries (now lives in Maryland): The early years of Ali Krieger’s career were plagued by injuries, including a torn ACL and blood clots in her leg and lungs. Despite these injuries, she has established herself as a regular on the U.S. roster, starting every game of the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Morgan Brian, Charlottesville: Center midfielder for Team USA. She burst onto the scene at the 2015 Women’s World Cup at the age of 22, starting every knockout stage game, including the World Cup Final.

Becky Sauerbrunn, Charlottesville: Co-captain of Team USA. She partnered with Julie Johnston to form a near impenetrable center back partnership at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, where the U.S. allowed just three goals in seven matches.

FIELD HOCKEY

Stefanie Fee, Virginia Beach (now lives in Pennsylvania): Stefanie Fee is a defender for Team USA. The Virginia Beach native debuted with the national team in 2012 after playing four years at Duke University.

Michelle Vittese, Charlottesville: Attacking midfielder for Team USA. She made her Olympic debut at the London Games, during which she took time off from college to compete.

GOLF

Rickie Fowler, Purcellville (originally from California): A mostly self-taught linksman, Rickie Fowler has always done things his own way. Entering his first ever Olympics – and the first time golf has been in the Games since 1904 – Fowler looks to add a medal to his three PGA tournament victories.

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