Ledecky, Swimmers Lead the Way
MoCo Athletes Show Medal(s) at Tokyo Olympics
By Sam Oshtry
They were a year delayed and full of controversy, but the 2020 Olympic Games are now over. Montgomery County was well represented in Tokyo. Here’s how they fared from the pool to the track to the wrestling mat.
“Old” Pro Katie Ledecky, Swimming, Bethesda, MD
Katie Ledecky entered the Olympics with staggering expectations as the best female swimmer on Team USA and perhaps in the entire world. She delivered with dominant and heroic performances throughout her meets.
In the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Ledecky secured four gold medals for team USA. In the 2020 games – taking place in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic that postponed the games – Ledecky did not receive as much gold as her previous stint, but still had remarkable success.
In the 400-meter freestyle, Ledecky swam a tremendous race but was defeated by less than seven-tenths of a second in an epic battle to capture the silver medal. Ledecky’s first gold medal came in the 1500-meter freestyle, an event which was added to the Olympics for the first time this year. Ledecky dominated from start to finish in the inaugural event to stand atop the podium for the first time in Tokyo.
Ledecky’s second and final gold medal of the Tokyo games came in the 800-meter freestyle. She also competed in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay with Team USA. Ledecky was the last leg of the four-person team. She dove into the water with a lot of ground to cover to even have a chance to medal. Ledecky put on a tremendous Ledecky-like performance, climbing back to finish in second place and lock up a silver medal for her and Team USA.
The 2019 Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame inductee finished with two gold and two silver medals in Tokyo to add on to her historic collection. She has won six career gold medals in individual finals, capturing the record among female swimmers at the Olympics. And she’s not done yet. The 24-year-old plans to compete in the 2024 Paris games and in post-meet interviews did not rule out 2028.
First Timer Phoebe Bacon, Swimming, Bethesda, MD
This was Phoebe Bacon’s first Olympic games and she had a successful showing in her lone event for Team USA: the 200-meter backstroke. In the semifinals for the event, Bacon finished in second place, qualifying for the 200-meter backstroke final and an opportunity to medal.
Bacon just missed the podium, finishing in fifth place in the final event. At just 18-years-old, expect to see Bacon in many more Olympic events for team USA for years to come. The Chevy Chase native attended the same high school as Katie Ledecky (Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda) and is now a student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
USA Team “First” Andrew Wilson, Swimming, Bethesda, MD
27-year-old Andrew Wilson was a record holder before he even dove into the water in Tokyo. The Bethesda native was the first Division III swimmer to compete at the Olympics for Team USA, and he put on an impressive run in several events.
Wilson won gold, his first and only medal, with Team USA in the men’s 4×100-meter Medley Relay final. Wilson competed in the prelims but not the final event, but that still qualifies him for a medal. The same applied to the mixed 4×100 Medley Relay as Wilson helped Team USA advance to the finals by competing in the prelims. Team USA placed fifth overall.
In the 100-meter breaststroke, Wilson qualified for the finals and finished in sixth place, but failed to make it to the semifinals in the 200-meter breaststroke.
Comebacker Helen Maroulis, Wrestling, Rockville, MD
Following a long and arduous journey back from a serious concussion, Helen Maroulis reestablished her dominance on the world women’s wrestling mat with a great Olympic run.
Competing in the 57kg freestyle event, Maroulis made it to the semifinals before she was defeated. That left her in the bronze medal match where she won, earning her a trip to the podium in Tokyo.
The 29-year-old Rockville native attended Magruder High School for three years where, as a freshman, she was the first female to place at the state wrestling championships. She was named Most Outstanding Wrestler after she pinned the senior defending champ, a boy. She moved to Marquette, Michigan and graduated from high school there. She totaled 99 victories in her high school career. In college she competed for Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.
Given the hardship she endured, Maroulis was grateful to win the bronze medal and acknowledged how special her journey to the podium in Tokyo was.
Who Knew? Thea Lafond, Track and Field, Silver Spring, MD
At age 27, Thea LaFond qualified for the Olympics to compete in Tokyo for her native Team Dominica. The triple jumper can still fly. The Track and Field athlete has dual citizenship in America and Dominica. When she is not training for the Olympics, LaFond teaches special education at Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, which is also her alma mater.
LaFond had qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but a hamstring injury kept her from competing. But this was a much better year. LaFond set a personal best and Dominica national record in the triple jump and advanced to the triple jump finals where she finished in twelfth place.
Although LaFond didn’t medal, she put on a memorable performance and made her country, and Montgomery County, proud by entering the history books.