The 2012 Summer Olympics are set to start in London in just over a month (we hear there’s going to be a torch, or something). The country will livestream track-and-field events in their cubicles and chant “U-S-A! U-S-A!” every time they go out for drinks, and we’ll be introduced to a slew of top-tier athletes that may not necessarily be household names. Before Bob Costas and Ryan Seacrest tell us which of this year’s Olympians has a peanut allergy or got a “B” in eighth-grade geometry, here’s a look at Philadelphia’s track record (see what we did there?) at the Summer Olympics.
John Baxter Taylor. YouTube didn’t exist when Taylor became the first African-American to win a gold medal in 1908. No one had an iPhone handy to capture the Penn grad’s 49.8 split as he ran the 400-meter third leg of the American medley relay team. Those games were also in London. Taylor died of typhoid pneumonia later in 1908.
Kobe Bryant. Kobe may have had more of an international childhood, but he was at Lower Merion long enough to take Brandy to prom and get Nike to sell his high-school jersey. We hear he’s not terrible at basketball. Say what you want about him, but the man took over the 2008 Olympic final game in Beijing to help the U.S. earn a gold medal.
Joe Frazier. Smokin’ Joe has always meant a lot to the city of Philadelphia. But, in 1964 he helped the nation swell with pride when he won a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. And he did it with a damaged left thumb.
Carl Lewis. Many people may know Carl Lewis because he spent an eternity trying to get on the ballot to become a state senator in Jersey or because he’s terrible at singing the national anthem. For a time, though, most people knew him because he was fast as hell and could jump really far. The man won nine Olympic gold medals and managed to medal in four consecutive summer games.
Jack Kelly. Grace Kelly’s father, Jack, won three Olympic gold medals in rowing. He was the first man to do so. He later lost a bid for mayor of Philadelphia in 1935. You can see a statue erected in his honor along the Schuylkill River.
Tyrell Biggs. Biggs played basketball at West Philadelphia High, but is mostly known for winning a gold medal in the Super Heavyweight boxing division at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Kim Glass. Glass won a silver medal with the United States women’s national volleyball team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. She graduated from Conestoga Valley High School and went on to play at the University of Arizona. Oh, and did we mention she’s a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model? Because, she’s a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.
Jon Drummond. The Philly-born Drummond ran the opening leg of the 4 x 100 meters relay team for the United States at the 1996 games in Atlanta and the 2000 games in Sydney, earning silver and gold respectively. But, the sprinter is probably best known for his “I did not move!” quote at the 2003 World Championships in Paris. Drummond was disqualified after an alleged second false start. He protested by lying down on the track and delaying the start of the race by nearly an hour.
Teresa Edwards. The Georgia native spent some time on the Philadelphia Rage—the city’s team in the short-lived American Basketball League. She also won four gold medals—and a silver—playing for the U.S. women’s national team.