- Every state has sent homegrown talent to the Olympics at some point in history.
- Michael Phelps, the most successful Olympian ever, was born in Baltimore, Maryland.
- Simone Biles, from Ohio, and Shannon Miller, from Oklahoma, both have seven Olympic gymnastics medals.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Track-and-field athlete Jesse Owens, who was born in Oakville, Alabama, won four gold medals — 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and the 4x100-meter relay — at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He became the first man to break the 8-meter mark in the long jump with 8.13 meters, a record that held for 25 years. His incredible performances came as Europe teetered on the brink of World War II.
"When Owens finished competing, the African-American son of a sharecropper and the grandson of slaves had single-handedly crushed Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy," ESPN's Larry Schwartz reported.ALASKA: Lydia Jacoby, Alaska's first Olympic swimmer, upset the favorites in the 100-meter breaststroke to win gold at the 2020 Olympics.
This year's Olympics saw 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby take a surprise gold in the women's 100-meter breaststroke — it was such an upset that she even shocked herself. She also won silver in the women's 4x100-meter medley relay.
As Insider's Scott Davis reported, Jacoby is from Seward, Alaska, where there isn't an Olympic pool nearby. In fact, there is only one in the entire state.ARIZONA: Kerri Strug was a member of the Magnificent Seven, the first ever women's gymnastics team to win Olympic gold for the USA.
Strug, who was born and raised in Tucson, was just 18 when she went to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Famously, despite an excruciating ankle injury, Strug earned 9.721 on her final attempt at the vault, a score that ensured her team took home the gold.
"I had a lot of talent and I worked really hard. But mentally, whenever all eyes were on me, I'd kind of falter," Strug told ABC News in 2006. "And so the vault signifies a lot more to me personally than a lot of what the public realizes, because in my final international competition at the Olympic Games, it doesn't get any bigger than that."
This year, in light of gymnast Simone Biles withdrawing from some events, some fans saw Strug's historic moment in a different light.ARKANSAS: Basketball great Scottie Pippen won two gold medals in the '90s.
As well as his six NBA championship titles with the Chicago Bulls, Hamburg-born Pippen is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. He won his first while on the original 1992 Dream Team in Barcelona — a team that also included Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Larry Bird. His second gold was in Atlanta in 1996.CALIFORNIA: Shaun White holds the most Olympic gold medals of any snowboarder with three.
California has produced some of the most successful Olympian swimmers of all time, including Dara Torres and Natalie Coughlin — the winners of 12 medals each — and Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi, who each won 11.
But perhaps the most famous Olympian from the Golden State is Shaun White. The San Diego native won his first gold for the halfpipe in 2006, when he was 19, and his most recent in 2018, when he was 31. He's also won 10 ESPY Awards, including the award for best male Olympian in 2018.COLORADO: Amy Van Dyken became the first American woman to take home four gold medals at a single Olympics.
The swimmer, who was born in Englewood in 1973, won the four gold medals in 1996 for the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly, 4x100-meter freestyle relay, 4x100-meter medley relay. She won two more gold medals in Sydney in 2000 and, after retiring from the sport that year, she became a national sports talk radio host.
In 2014, she was riding an ATV in Arizona when she went over a curb and fell from a 6-foot cliff. The accident severed her spine and left her paralyzed from the waist down.CONNECTICUT: Soccer star Kristin Lilly, who was a member of the US Women's National Team for 24 years, won two gold medals and one silver.
The US Olympic Hall of Fame calls Lilly, who is from Wilton, "one of the most legendary and accomplished athletes in women's soccer history." Nicknamed "Queen of Caps," she played 354 international games for the US, a record for any male or female player. She played at three Olympics, winning gold in 1996 and 2004 and silver in 2000.DELAWARE: Wilmington-born basketball star Elena Delle Donne won gold in 2016.
Delle Donne, a two-time WNBA MVP, won gold in 2016, when the US women's team captured their sixth consecutive gold medal. After scoring more than 100 points in six of their eight games in 2016, the team also became the most prolific scoring team ever.
"Is this real life?" Delle Donne said after they won, The News Journal reported. "Just taking it all in, like 'Oh my goodness. Somebody pinch me. Did this really happen?'"
After undergoing back surgeries, Delle Donne was not on the 2020 Olympics roster.FLORIDA: Swimmer Caeleb Dressel won five gold medals and set two new world records at the 2020 Olympics.
Dressel, who was born in Green Cove Springs, won gold in the men's 100-meter butterfly, the 100-meter freestyle, the 50-meter freestyle, the 4x100-meter medley relay, and the 4x100-meter freestyle relay. He won two team gold medals at the 2016 Olympics.
In Tokyo, he beat his own world record in the 100-meter butterfly, with a time of 49.45 seconds, to win his first individual gold at the Olympics. NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines — another Florida-born swimmer who won three gold medals at the 1984 Olympics — could not contain his joy.
"HE DID IT!" Gaines said. "YES, SIR!"
With his three teammates, Dressel also set a new world record of 3:26.78 in the men's 4x100-meter medley relay.GEORGIA: Bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor has appeared at the Winter Olympics three times and medaled each time.
Elana Meyers Taylor was born in California but grew up in Douglasville, Georgia. She initially had her heart set on joining the USA's softball team, but after what she called "the worst tryout ever in the history of tryouts," she turned her attention to bobsledding instead. She won bronze in 2010 and took home silver medals in 2014 and 2018.HAWAII: Duke Kahanamoku was an Olympic swimmer turned Hollywood star.
Duke Kahanamoku is considered the father of modern surfing. He won a total of five Olympic medals in swimming from 1912 to 1924, then transitioned into Hollywood stardom as an actor. He is immortalized as a bronze statue at Waikiki Beach in his birthplace of Honolulu.
This year, Hawaii saw another medal-winning surfer: Carissa Moore, who was also born in Honolulu, won the first ever women's gold medal in surfing at the Tokyo Olympics.IDAHO: Picabo Street's Olympic win made her one of the most famous downhill skiers in the world.
Picabo Street was born in Triumph, Idaho. She won a silver medal in downhill skiing at the 1994 Olympics. After recovering from a knee injury, she took home the gold medal in the Super-G slalom event at the 1998 Games, becoming one of the most well-known downhill skiers in the US and the world.ILLINOIS: Dorothy Hamill won the gold medal in ladies' singles figure skating in 1976.
Nicknamed "America's Sweetheart," Dorothy Hamill invented figure skating moves such as the "Hamill Camel." She won the 1976 figure skating World Championships in addition to her Olympic gold that same year. Hamill was born in Chicago, Illinois.INDIANA: Jaycie Phelps was a member of the gold medal-winning Magnificent Seven at the 1996 Olympics.
Jaycie Phelps helped bring Team USA to victory in 1996 at the Olympics in Atlanta with her uneven bar skills. She also had a vault named after her called the "Phelps vault."
Phelps was born in Indianapolis, Indiana.IOWA: Lolo Jones has never won an Olympic medal, but she achieved fame through endorsement deals and her candidness in interviews.
Lolo Jones was born in Des Moines, Iowa. She competed in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics in track and field and the 2014 Winter Olympics in bobsledding.
In a 2012 interview with HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," Jones said, "Harder than training for the Olympics, harder than graduating college has been trying to stay a virgin for marriage." The revelation sparked public interest in her career and personal life.
Her book, "Over It: How to Face Life's Hurdles with Grit, Hustle, and Grace," will be released on July 20.KANSAS: Maurice Greene has won four Olympic medals, and he still holds the world record for the indoor 60-meter sprint.
Sprinter Maurice Greene is a four-time medalist, two of which are gold. He set the world record in the 100-meter dash in 1999 at 9.79 seconds, and he held the record until Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell broke it in 2005 with 9.77 seconds. The record is now held by Usain Bolt at 9.58 seconds.
Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky. He competed in the 1960 Olympics in Rome and won a gold medal in his fight against three-time European champion Zbigniew Pietrzykowski. He went on to become one of the most famous boxers in the world, as well as an activist and philanthropist. Ali also served as the final torch bearer at the 1996 Olympics, and he carried the Olympic flag into the opening ceremony in 2012.LOUISIANA: In 2004, Carly Patterson became the first American woman to win the all-around gold in gymnastics since Mary Lou Retton in 1984.
Carly Patterson was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In addition to her individual all-around gold medal, she helped win silver for Team USA at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Patterson has also appeared as herself in the gymnastics movie "Stick It" and TV shows such as "Extreme Makeover" and "Celebrity Duets."MAINE: Ian Crocker has won five Olympic medals in swimming, three of which were gold.
Crocker, who is from Portland, Maine, was a member of the US teams that set world records in the 400-meter relay during the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. Crocker also set three world records in 100-meter butterfly events until his teammate Michael Phelps broke the record in 2009.MARYLAND: Michael Phelps is regarded as one of the greatest Olympians ever with a total of 28 medals.
Michael Phelps was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He dominates the record for most Olympic gold medals with 23 wins — more than double any other athlete.
With a wingspan of 6 feet and 7 inches, Phelps has the optimal body type for swimming. He competed in his first Olympics at age 15 but didn't win any medals. In each of his next four Olympics, he became the most decorated athlete.MASSACHUSETTS: Aly Raisman was the captain of both the 2012 "Fierce Five" and 2016 "Final Five" US women's Olympic gymnastics teams.
Raisman is a six-time medalist and two-time Olympian. At the 2012 Olympics in London, she was the most decorated American gymnast. She is also the second-most decorated Olympic gymnast in US history behind Shannon Miller, who has seven Olympic medals.
Raisman has spoken publicly about the abuse she and her team suffered at the hands of USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar from the time she was 15 years old. She announced she was retiring from the sport in January 2020. Since then, she's been a vocal advocate of mental health and healing from past traumas.MICHIGAN: Ice dancing duo Meryl Davis and Charlie White won medals at the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games.
The pair, who were both born and raised in Michigan, were teamed up together in 1997 and went on to compete in two Olympics. They were the first American ice dancers to win gold in an Olympic competition.MINNESOTA: Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn won gold and bronze medals in 2010 and a bronze medal in 2018.
Though famed Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn grew up in Vail, Colorado, she was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is one of the most decorated skiers in history and the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the downhill skiing event. Vonn retired from the sport in 2019.MISSISSIPPI: Tori Bowie is a three-time Olympic medalist.
Born in Sand Hill, Mississippi, Bowie won gold in the 4 x 100-meter relay, silver in the 100-meter, and bronze in the 200-meter. She is also the 2017 100-meter world champion.MISSOURI: Ray Armstead won gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics.
He competed in the men's 4 x 400-meter relay for the United States. Born in St. Louis, the Olympian didn't start competing in track until his senior year of high school.MONTANA: Eric Bergoust is a four-time Olympian who won a gold medal in the freestyle ski jump at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Bergoust grew up in Missoula, Montana, and was inspired by a television show to get into freestyle aerial ski jumping. He went on to win three national championships, the World Cup Championship, World Championship, and an Olympic gold medal before retiring in 1996, according to the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.NEBRASKA: US women's indoor volleyball captain Jordan Larson has both a bronze and silver medal under her belt.
Born in Fremont, Nebraska, Jordan Larson has been a member of the US women's indoor volleyball team since 2009 and competed in two Olympics. When her team won the silver medal in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, she started all eight matches.
This year, Team USA — led by Larson — is still in the running for a medal. They play Serbia in the semifinals on Friday.NEVADA: Krysta Palmer won bronze in her first Olympics this year - the first medal for an American female diver in two decades.
Palmer only took up diving at the age of 20. Now 29, the Carson City native won bronze for the women's 3-meter springboard at the 2020 Olympics. The last time a female diver from the US won an Olympic medal was in 2000, when Laura Wilkinson took home gold.
Palmer was also a member of the 2018 World Cup team and won a bronze medal in the mixed team event. She is also the 2019 national champion in the 3-meter synchro event.NEW HAMPSHIRE: Penny Pitou was the first American skier to win an Olympic medal in the downhill event.
Pitou won two silver medals at the 1960 Olympics. Born in Bayside, Queens, her family moved to Center Harbor, New Hampshire, when she was just three years old.
In high school, she tried out for the boy's skiing team by wearing a hat to disguise her gender. At 17, she was selected for the US Olympic ski team.NEW JERSEY: Figure skater Tara Lipinski won gold at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
Lipinski was born in Pennsylvania but spent her early years in New Jersey. She had a highly successful skating career and was the youngest skater to win the World Professional Figure Skating Championships.
She went on to provide commentary for professional skating competitions.NEW MEXICO: Chainey Umphrey competed at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, helping the US men's gymnastics team reach fifth place.
Umphrey, who was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, competed in the 1996 Olympics on the men's gymnastics team, leading them to a fifth place finish — the best showing the team had had since the 1984 games.NEW YORK: Caitlyn Jenner won a gold medal for the decathlon at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and was called "the world's greatest athlete."
Jenner set a world record and earned a gold medal with 8,617 points in the decathlon, which consists of 10 track and field events, including pole vault, long jump, 100 meter race, discus, and javelin.
Of course, Jenner is now best known for her relationship to the Kardashian-Jenners, including her time on "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," and for coming out as transgender in 2015. But before reality TV, Jenner was one of the world's greatest athletes.
And even before that, Jenner was just a kid growing up in Mount Kisco, New York.NORTH CAROLINA: Michael Jordan is not just the greatest basketball player of all time, he's also a two-time gold medalist.
Jordan, who grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, appeared in two Olympics. First, in 1984 at the Los Angeles games before he became a professional NBA player. Then, famously at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as part of the "Dream Team."
The Dream Team consisted of Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, and more. They easily dominated the competition, and were called "the greatest collection of basketball talent on the planet."NORTH DAKOTA: Twins Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux have three medals in ice hockey to their names.
The Lamoureux sisters competed in three Olympic games together: the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
At their first two appearances, they earned silver medals with the team, but in Pyeongchang, the two sisters pulled out a win in the final game — Monique scored a goal to secure a tie, and then Jocelyne scored the winning shoot-out goal.
The twins, who have since retired, grew up in Grand Forks, North Dakota.OHIO: Simone Biles is regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, with seven Olympic medals to her name. She added two of those this year.
She made her first Olympics appearance in Rio in 2016 and took home five medals, and she made history at the 2020 Olympic Trials when she won, becoming the only woman in history to do so twice.
The Tokyo Olympics were a little rockier — Biles withdrew from five events, citing her mental health and the "twisties," a condition where gymnasts experience a feeling of getting lost in the air. However, she made a triumphant return to the balance beam event, where she won bronze. She also headed home with a silver medal in the team competition.OKLAHOMA: Biles has now tied with Shannon Miller for the most American women's gymnastics medals in Olympic history.
Miller also won seven medals: two golds, two silvers, and two bronze.
Miller appeared at two Olympic Games: 1992 in Barcelona and 1996 in Atlanta. But before all that, she grew up in Edmond, Oklahoma.OREGON: Tonya Harding might be more infamous than famous - but she competed in two Winter Olympics.
Harding performed at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville and the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer before getting banned from the sport entirely in June 1994 due to her role in an attack on fellow ice skater Nancy Kerrigan — you can watch "I, Tonya" for the details.
But before her ice skating career ended, Harding was prolific. She was the first American woman to successfully land a triple axel in competition, and the second woman ever.
Harding was born and raised in Portland, Oregon.PENNSYLVANIA: Among his many accolades, Kobe Bryant was a two-time gold medalist.
Bryant was born in Philadelphia and went to high school in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, before moving out west to play for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time.
During that time, Bryant also led the US men's basketball team to its first gold medal in eight years in 2008, and then another one in 2012, before retiring from the national team.
Beisel, who hails from Saunderstown, Rhode Island, appeared in three Olympics before retiring. She medaled at the 2012 Olympics in London, earning a silver medal for the 400-meter individual relay and a bronze for the 200-meter backstroke.
This summer, instead of competing in Tokyo, she will attempt to become the first woman to swim to Block Island. She also competed on season 39 of "Survivor" in 2019.SOUTH CAROLINA: Joe Frazier, one of the most prolific boxers of all time, won a gold medal in 1964.
The South Carolina native made it to the 1964 Olympics held in Tokyo, where he took home the gold medal in heavyweight boxing, besting Germany's Hans Huber.
He'd later be the reigning heavyweight champion of the world from 1970 to 1973, and was the first boxer to ever defeat Muhammad Ali in what was called the "Fight of the Century" in 1971.SOUTH DAKOTA: Native American Billy Mills was an underdog going into the 1964 Olympics but became a superstar when he won the 10,000-meter race.
At the 1964 Olympics, Australian Ron Clarke was widely expected to be the winner of the 10,000-meter race, as he held the world record. On the other hand, Mills, who grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, was a nobody. In fact, an announcer introduced Mills at the game as, "Billy Mills of the United States is in there — a man no one expects to win this particular event."
But in a huge upset, Mills broke from the pack at the last second and won the race, beating the record holder. He became an instant superstar.
"The tape breaks across my chest," Mills told NPR in 2020, as he retold the story. "'I won. I won. I won.' An official came up and said, 'Who are you?' And I said, 'Oh, my God, did I miscount the laps?' He said, 'Finished. Finished. You're the new Olympic champion.'"TENNESSEE: Kristin Armstrong is the most decorated female cyclist in US history.
Armstrong is from Memphis, Tennessee and went on to participate in three consecutive Olympics between 2008 and 2016 as a cyclist. She earned three gold medals throughout those years and became the most decorated American female in her sport.TEXAS: Simone Manuel was the first Black woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal in swimming.
At the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Manuel made history when she won the 100-meter freestyle, the first Black woman to do so. The Sugar Land, Texas, native has won two gold medals and two silver medals.
This year, as co-captain of the US women's team, she added a bronze medal to her list of achievements for the women's 4x100-meter freestyle relay. However, after being diagnosed with overtraining syndrome earlier this year, she failed to add any individual medals. Still, she's far from defeated.
"A victory is not giving up. I had the courage to go out there and try and possibly fail," she said, the Associated Press reported. "I've learned so much about myself. What I do know is that I'm a fighter."UTAH: Dorothy Poynton-Hill was once the youngest person to ever win an Olympic medal.
Just after turning 13, Poynton-Hill won an Olympic silver medal after diving from the springboard at the 1928 Olympic Games. At the time, she became the youngest Olympic medalist and returned for two more Olympics.
At the end of her career, she had earned two gold medals, one silver, and one bronze.VERMONT: Kelly Clark is the most accomplished snowboarder in the sport.
Clark — a West Dover, Vermont, native — first went to the Olympics in 2002 and won gold. She returned to the games four more times, earning two more bronze medals. Although she is now retired, she is still considered the best in her sport.VIRGINIA: Gabrielle Douglas made a name for herself when she became the first Black woman with the Olympics all-around.
At the 2012 games in London, Douglas made history when she won the individual all-around event, cementing her place in Olympic history. The Newport News native returned for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio — which was unheard of at the time — and scored another gold medal with her team, which became known as the "Final Five."WASHINGTON: Apollo Ohno is the most decorated Winter Olympian in the US.
Ohno started his career in speed skating at just 14 and entered the Olympics for the first time in 2002. He returned two more times and earned a total of two gold medals, two silver, and four bronze.
After his Olympic career, Ohno won "Dancing with the Stars" in 2007 and went on to become a best-selling author.WEST VIRGINIA: Mary Lou Retton was known as America's sweetheart when she became the first American woman to win the all-around competition.
Retton — a Fairmont, Virginia, native — only participated in one Olympic Games, but it catapulted her into superstardom. When she entered the games in 1984, she was known as America's sweetheart and then made history as the first American woman to win the individual all-around competition. At those games, she also won two silver medals and two bronze medals.
After the Olympics, Retton was the face of a cereal brand, appeared in a few TV shows, and her hometown even named a street and a park after her.WISCONSIN: Eric Heiden set an Olympic record for every race he skated in during the 1980 games.
Heiden first went to the Olympics in 1976, but the speed skater's return in 1980 is what put him down in history. In all five races that year, he won gold and set an Olympic record. Hailing from Madison, Wisconsin, Heiden became the first person in Olympic history to win five gold medals in one year and win every race that was available to him.WYOMING: Rulon Gardner made a name for himself when he won gold in wrestling at the 2000 games.
In 2000, Gardner won his match against Russia's Aleksandr Karelin — who remained the champion for 13-straight years. Coming from a dairy farm in Wyoming, Gardener quickly became a star after what is now known as one of the most historic upsets in Olympic history.
Gardner went on to win a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics.