Give Wyoming some props for its representation in the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
Two athletes from the nation’s least populated state will march at the opening ceremony in London on Friday.
Archer Jennifer Nichols and rower Brett Newlin give the Cowboy State some bragging rights.
Using 2011 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Wyoming is tops in the country for Olympians produced per-capita. Wyoming has one athlete for every 284,079 people living in the state; California finished in second, with an athlete per 294,468 people. Rounding out the top five – Vermont (one per 313,216), Hawaii (one per 343,703) and Oregon (one per 351,987).
Try to catch a glimpse of them on opening night, because despite all the hours of coverage bestowed upon the games, archery and rowing do not bring eyeballs to the screen, especially stateside.
This will be Nichols’ third Olympics but her first since moving from her home of Cheyenne to compete with the Texas A&M club team, perennial champions of U.S. Collegiate Archery, in College Station.
She is the eldest of five children who grew up in an evangelical Christian family in Wyoming.
Nichols took up archery at age 12 and turned professional at 17. She is a three-time Pan American Games champion and a two-time Olympian entering London, advancing to the quarterfinals in 2004 and to the second round in 2008.
A win in London and she would blow up larger than Katniss Everdeen of “The Hunger Games.”
That’s unlikely to happen. South Korea, India and China are projected to collect all the medals in women’s archery.
Yet Nichols has a bigger date in front of her. She’s preparing for a Sept. 1 wedding to Chris Hardy, an A&M graduate attending South Texas College of Law. In fact, she’s getting a jump on the ceremony with her Olympic Games quiver, which reads “Hardy USA.”
Nichols, 28, has spent countless days during the past three years on the A&M archery range anticipating one more chance at gaining an Olympic medal.
Newlin, a 2000 Riverton graduate and former standout swimmer for the Wolverines is a member of the U.S. men’s eight rowing team. He competed in the 2008 games in Beijing as a member of the men’s four team, where the U.S. finished ninth.
A higher finish is projected this time, but not in the top three.
Newline, 30, won’t lack for personal motivation.
A group totaling about 15 – family members, along with Brett’s fiancee and her family – will be at Dorney Lake to cheer on the men’s eight team. Opening heats are Saturday, with the final scheduled for Aug. 1.
Yet it’s easy to get disenchanted with the games before they begin.
First there’s the rampant commercialization of the Olympics. NBC will shoehorn events in between trumpeting its upcoming fall TV schedule and airing commercials to try and break even for the billions it pays in broadcast rights fees.
NBC and the media in general also focus too much on the eye-candy factor. This occurs in all televised sports, but it spikes during the Olympics. Visual images that are superficially attractive and entertaining but intellectually undemanding are the norm.
That’s why Lolo Jones, 29, is gracing so many magazine covers and sitting down for so many interviews prior to arriving in London. The attractive Jones made headlines by asserting that she is still a virgin. She’s also looking for redemption after clipping the ninth of 10 hurdles in the 100-meter hurdles final in the 2008 Beijing Olympics on her way to finishing a disappointing seventh.
It’s why women’s beach volleyball garners so much airtime.
And it’s also why American swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte will be shown so much in and out of the pool.
Yet these games will provide a welcome and needed respite in the aftermath of the penalties handed out to Penn State following the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the mass killings in Aurora, Colo.
These games are arriving at just the right time for many.
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