As 2012 Games Begin, Stories from North Carolina's Olympic Past

Joey Cheek waving the American flag at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

There’s been a great deal of buzz around North Carolina athletes participating in the 2012 Summer Olympics. From the record number of swimmers with North Carolina ties to the prominence of athletes from UNC-Chapel Hill in the games, the Tar Heel state has made quite a splash in the run up to this year’s Olympics.

Several great Olympians of the past have come from North Carolina, and in celebration of the opening of the London games, we’ve gathered a few of their stories below.

  • Though born in New York City, Michael Jordan was raised in Wilmington. After a legendary three years at UNC-Chapel Hill, Jordan went on to play for the Chicago Bulls and was part of two gold medal-winning basketball teams in 1984 and 1992.
  • Originally from California, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi resided in Raleigh while her husband played for the Carolina Hurricanes. After winning two consecutive world titles in 1991 and 1992, Yamaguchi won a gold medal in the 1992 Albertville games.
  • Sugar Ray Leonard originally hails from Rocky Mount and grew up in Wilmington. In addition to winning the 1976 gold medal for boxing in the light welterweight category, Leonard won five titles and was the first boxer to earn more than $100 million in purses.

A few lesser known Olympians from North Carolina have also made a mark on history:

  • A runner from High Point, Harry Williamson was the first North Carolinian to participate in an Olympics. Though he didn’t win a medal for his 800-meter run in the 1936 Berlin games, he was part of a world record 4 x 800-meter team later that year.

These stories represent only a small part of the storied history of North Carolina sports.

You can explore the lives of Olympians and other renowned athletes, and see artifacts from Tar Heel sports at the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, located on third floor of the N.C. Museum of History. NCpedia also has a wonderful collection of sports biographies worth checking out.

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