From 1908 to 2016, nearly eighty athletes with ties to Arkansas (either natives/residents or affiliated with the state through its universities) have participated in the Olympic Games. Summer Olympians have competed in track and field, basketball, boxing, baseball, rowing, shooting, cycling, kayaking, modern pentathlon, swimming, golf, and art. One Winter Olympian competed in short-track speed skating.
Thirty-five Arkansas-affiliated Olympians have won medals. Veronica Campbell-Brown leads this group, with eight medals. A former sprinter at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), the Jamaican native won a silver medal for Jamaica in the 4×100-meter relay in 2000, gold medals in the 200 meters and the 4×100-meter relay and a bronze medal in the 100 meters in 2004, a gold medal in the 200 meters in 2008, a silver medal in the 4×100-meter relay and a bronze medal in the 100 meters in 2012, and a silver medal in the 4×100-meter relay in 2016.
Arkansas natives Bill Carr, Jim Hines, and Scottie Pippen follow Campbell-Brown with two gold medals each. Carr, of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), won gold medals in the 400 meters and the 4×400-meter relay in 1932. Hines, of Dumas (Desha County), garnered gold medals in the 100 meters and the 4×100-meter relay in 1968. Former Chicago Bulls small forward Scottie Pippen of Hamburg (Ashley County) played on the gold-medal-winning basketball teams of 1992 and 1996. Army marksman John Boles of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) won gold and bronze medals, respectively, in the individual and team running-target single-shot events in 1924. Shot putter Dallas Long of Pine Bluff won bronze and gold medals, respectively, in 1960 and 1964. Charlie Greene of Pine Bluff garnered the bronze medal in the 100 meters and a gold medal in the 4×100-meter relay in 1968. Freestyle swimmer Keena Rothhammer of Little Rock (Pulaski County) captured the bronze medal in the 200 meters and the gold medal in the 800 meters in 1972. Former UA triple jumper Mike Conley secured the silver medal in 1984 and the gold medal in 1992.
Eddie Hamm of Lonoke (Lonoke County) won the gold medal in the long jump in 1928. Former UA basketball players Gordon “Shorty” Carpenter of Saddle (Fulton County) and Robert (R. C.) Pitts, a Mississippi native, won gold medals in 1948. Joe Benner of Paragould (Greene County) won the gold medal in the fifty-meter free pistol in 1952. Another basketball gold medal went to Jim Barnes of Tuckerman (Jackson County) in 1964. Maxie Parks of Arkansas City (Desha County) anchored the 4×400-meter relay to a gold medal in 1976. Former Arkansas State University (ASU) triple jumper Al Joyner won the gold medal in 1984. UA basketball players Alvin Robertson and Joe Kleine won gold medals in 1984. Fort Smith’s Ryan Franklin pitched the United States to a gold medal in baseball in 2000.
James Rector of Hot Springs (Garland County) won the silver medal in the 100 meters in 1908. Former UA high hurdler Clyde Scott won the silver medal over 110 meters in 1948. Thomas Hill, formerly of ASU, garnered the bronze medal in the 110-meter hurdles in 1972. Heavyweight boxer John Tate of Marion (Crittenden County) won the bronze medal in 1976. Former ASU pole vaulter Earl Bell won the bronze medal in 1984. Intermediate hurdler Calvin Davis, formerly of UA, won the bronze medal over 400 meters in 1996. Jermain Taylor, a middleweight boxer from Little Rock, won the bronze medal in 2000. Former UA high jumper Matt Hemingway won the silver medal in the high jump in 2004. That same year, former UA distance runner Deena Kastor won the bronze medal in the marathon. Little Rock native Michael Tinsley won a silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles in 2012 and competed in the event in 2016. Jeff Henderson, who was raised in McAlmont (Pulaski County) won the gold medal in the long jump in 2016. Jonesboro (Craighead County) native Kyle Clemons won gold in the 4×400-meter relay in 2016. Baseball infielder Terry Tiffee of North Little Rock (Pulaski County) won a bronze medal in 2008. Former UA sprinter Tyson Gay was awarded a silver medal in the 4×100-meter relay in 2012 (though he was later stripped of the medal after testing positive for steroids the following year) and competed in the event in 2016. UA-trained pole vaulter Sandi Morris won the silver for the United States in 2016, and Taylor Ellis-Watson won the gold medal in the 4×400-meter relay in 2016. Jamaican hurdler Omar McLeod, who trained at UA, won gold in the 110-meter hurdles in 2016. Kayle Browning of Greenbrier (Faulkner County) took silver in trap shooting in 2020. UA volunteer track coach Ryan Crouser took gold in shot put, while Kelsey Plum, a UA graduate assistant serving the women’s basketball team, also took gold in 3×3 women’s basketball. Baseball players affiliated with the Arkansas Travelers and Northwest Arkansas Naturals took medals in the 2020, including Eric Filia (silver), Derek Starling (silver), Jack Lopez (silver), and Julio Rodriguez (bronze). Former UA swimmer Anna Hopkin won gold in the 4×100 relay.
Kimberly Derrick, the only Arkansas native to compete in the Winter Olympics, is a short-track speed skater from Blytheville (Mississippi County); she won a bronze medal in the 3,000-meter relay in 2010. Swiss native and Fayetteville resident Dominik Maerki competed for Switzerland in 2018, with his team winning a bronze medal in curling.
Arkansas natives who have participated in the Olympic Games without winning medals include javelin thrower Arthur Tuck of Benton (Saline County) and cyclist James Freeman of Little Rock in 1920; high jumper Arnie Betton of Brinkley (Monroe County) and oarsman Louis McMillan of Little Rock in 1952; quarter-miler Jim Lea of Little Rock in 1956; oarsman William Long of Little Rock in 1960; kayaker Robert Mitchell of Monticello (Drew County) in 1972; light middleweight boxer Chuck Walker of Marion in 1976; high jumper Kenny Evans of Pine Bluff in 2000; sprinter Muna Lee of Little Rock in 2004 and 2008; and modern pentathlete Margaux Isaksen of Fayetteville in 2008, 2012, and 2016, and her sister Isabella Isaksen (also a modern pentathlete) in 2016. Pole vaulter Lexi Weeks of Cabot (Lonoke County) competed in 2016.
Olympians affiliated with UA who participated without winning medals include distance runners Godfrey Siamusiye in 1992 and 1996; Alistair Cragg in 2004, 2008, and 2012; Amy Yoder Begley in 2008; Kemoy Campbell in 2016; Christine Kalmer in 2016; Dominique Scott in 2016; and Natasha Wodak in 2016. UA-trained middle-distance runners include Niall O’Shaughnessy in 1976; Niall Bruton and Brandon Rock in 1996; Nicole Teter in 2004 and 2008; Christin Wurth-Thomas in 2008; and Chrishuna Williams in 2016. Also competing were pole vaulters April Steiner Bennett in 2008, and Tina Sutej in 2012 and 2016; steeplechaser Daniel Lincoln in 2004; sprinters LaShaunte Moore in 2000 and 2008, and Wallace Spearmon in 2008 and 2012; and triple jumpers Brian Wellman in 1988, 1992, and 1996, Jerome Romain in 1996, and Clive Pullen in 2016. UA-trained golfers Stacy Lewis of the United States, David Lingmerth of Sweden, and Gabby Lopez of Mexico competed in the 2016 games. Jarrion Lawson competed for the United States in the long jump and the 4×100-meter relay in 2016, and Sparkle McKnight of Trinadad and Tobago competed in the 400-meter hurdles in 2016. In 2020, Kemar Mowatt of Jamaica (400-meter hurdles), Phillip Lemonious of Jamaica (110-meter hurdles), Tina Sutej of Slovenia (pole vault), Dominique Scott-Efrud of South Africa (5000 and 10,000 meters), Shafiqua Maloney of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (800-meters), Kris Hari of Denmark (4×100 meters), and Gabby Lopez (golf) also competed. Sandi Morris (pole vault) withdrew from competition, as did Sparkle McKnight, who contracted COVID-19.
Former ASU pole vaulter Jeff Hartwig competed in 1996 and 2000.
From 1912 to 1948, the Summer Olympic Games held art competitions. In 1932, Benjamin Brown of Marion participated in mixed painting, displaying his piece The Ski Jumper.
Several Arkansas Olympians went on to become professionals. Track and field gold medalist Jim Hines played professional football with the Miami Dolphins of what was then the American Football League (AFL) from 1969 to 1970. Basketball gold medalist Jim Barnes played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1964 to 1971, while Alvin Robertson played in the NBA from 1984 to 1996, and Joe Kliene played from 1985 to 2000. Baseball gold medalist Ryan Franklin played major league baseball from 1999 to 2011, and bronze medalist Terry Tiffee played from 2004 to 2008. Boxing bronze medalists John Tate held the World Boxing Association (WBA) Heavyweight title from 1979 to 1980, and Jermain Taylor held the World Middleweight title from 2005 to 2007.
For additional information:
Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. http://www.arksportshalloffame.com/ (accessed April 12, 2023).
“BoxRec Champions.” BoxRec.com. https://boxrec.com/en/champions (accessed April 12, 2023).
International Swimming Hall of Fame. http://www.ishof.org/ (accessed April 12, 2023).
“Major League Baseball Statistics and History.” Baseball Reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com/ (accessed April 12, 2023).
Naismith Memorial National Basketball Hall of Fame. http://www.hoophall.com/hall-of-famers-index/ (accessed April 12, 2023).
“NBA & ABA Basketball Statistics and History.” Basketball Reference.com. http://www.basketball-reference.com/ (accessed April 12, 2023).
“Pro Football Statistics and History.” Pro Football Reference.com. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ (accessed April 12, 2023).
Wallechinsky, David, and Jaime Loucky. The Complete Book of the Olympic Games. 2012 ed. London: Aurum Press, 2012.
Adam R. Hornbuckle
Spring Hill, Tennessee
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