New Jersey Olympians who brought home medals
Maya Hughes, South Jersey Journal | 8/23/2016, 4:55 p.m.
While the world tuned in to watch the United States compete in various games during the 2016 Summer Olympics, back home – many people in New Jersey were cheering on their own in the competitions. Whether these Olympians medaled, made history, or competed in the Olympics for the first time, what they accomplished brought a country together. Here is an Olympic recap of the Olympians who did New Jersey proud:
Maplewood native and sabre fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made history in Rio by becoming the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics. In individual sabre, Muhammad won her first qualifying round bout, and was defeated in the second round by Cécilia Berder of France. She earned the bronze medal as part of Team USA in the Team sabre, becoming the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics.
Camden native Jordan Burroughs arrived in Rio as a three-time world champion and defending Olympic champion in wrestling. His goal was to eventually win three Olympic gold medals so that he would surpass Team USA wrestler John Smith, who won four world and two Olympic titles. Due to a random draw, the No. 1-ranked Burroughs, who came in considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the world, faced No. 2-ranked Russia’s Aniuar Geduev in the quarterfinals. Geduev defeated Burroughs 3-2. Burroughs, 28, was then in the uncomfortable position of pulling for Geduev to advance to the final, which he did, putting Burroughs into the repechage. However, Burroughs lost to No. 10 Bekzod Abdurakhmonov of Uzbekistan 11-1.
Union Catholic senior Sydney McLaughlin became the youngest American track Olympian in four decades. McLaughlin, who recently turned 17, didn’t reach the semifinals of the 400-meter hurdles. She finished fifth in the 400 meter hurdles with a time of 56.22. McLaughlin is hoping to compete again in the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
Eight years ago, Voorhees native English Gardner career looked like it was over after she tore her ACL and MCL in her right knee. After recovering from her injury, Gardner won the 100-meter dash in 10.74 seconds, one of the best times to earn a spot in Rio. During the Olympics, Gardner ran a blistering third leg to help set up a gold medal victory in the women’s 4x100-meter relay for the Americans. The team of Tianna Bartoletta, Allyson Felix, Gardner and Tori Bowie won in 41.01 seconds, the second-fastest time in history behind the world-record setting 40.82 recorded by the U.S. at the London Olympics in 2012.
It’s been a great year for Montclair Kimberley Academy graduate Kyrie Irving. Irving helped USA Basketball win their third consecutive gold medal at the Olympic Games. With this latest championship under his belt, Irving joined a short list of NBA greats to win both an Olympic gold medal and a NBA championship in the same year. The former Duke Blue Devils standout now joins fellow Cavaliers teammate LeBron James as well as Chicago Bulls legends Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as the only players to accomplish this particular feat.
Pleasantville High graduate Nia Ali made her first Olympic team when she placed third behind USA teammates Brianna Rollins and Kristi Castlin in the women’s 100 hurdles in 12.55 seconds. While at the Olympics, Ali won a silver medal. The United States was the first country to win gold, silver, and bronze in the women's 100 hurdles in the Olympics. This was also the first time American women achieved such a sweep in any Olympic event.
Old Bridge Township native Laurie Hernandez competed as a member of the U.S. women's “Final Five” gymnastics team during the Olympics. Hernandez, who is only 16-years-old, scored a 15.200 on the vault, a 15.366 on the balance beam, and a 14.800 on the floor exercise, qualifying to the balance beam event finals. Hernandez won gold in the team event and a silver medal in the Balance Beam event final with a score of 15.333. She placed ahead of teammate Simone Biles, who placed 3rd and behind Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands, who won gold.