With this year’s Summer Olympic Games rapidly approaching, there’s no time better than the present to explore—and celebrate—the remarkable accomplishments of our country’s military Olympic athletes.
Competing across a broad range of categories, from running to basketball, boxing, and beyond, these under-recognized titans of sport owe their success to their tenacity, their discipline, and—in some cases—special military Olympic-level athletic training programs.
What better way to celebrate those who served (and brought home Olympic medals) than by learning more about their respective legacies?
Let’s dive in and explore the triumphs of these incredible military Olympians in greater depth.
Colonel Willie Davenport – Gold Medalist
1968 Summer Olympics, Mexico City, Mexico
A case study in perseverance, sprint runner Willie Davenport rose through the ranks of the military over the course of his decades-long career—beginning as a US Army private and culminating as a Colonel in the US Army National Guard.
But military success wasn’t the only thing Colonel Davenport, who passed away in 2002, was after.
He competed in not one, not two, but four different Olympic games. Undeterred by his initial loss at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Davenport went on to win gold just four years later in Mexico City, besting other athletes from across the globe in a 110-meter hurdle.
Sergeant Shauna Rohbock – Silver Medalist
2006 Winter Olympics, Turin, Italy
An active-duty soldier in the US Army National Guard, Sergeant Shauna Rohbock was an accomplished soccer player before redirecting her athletic energies elsewhere. (Before her Olympic pursuits, she played professional soccer for the now-defunct San Diego Spirit in California.)
A few years after her soccer career concluded, the Utah native joined forces with teammate Valerie Fleming to compete in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, where the duo claimed silver medals for bobsledding.
Another impressive accomplishment on Rohbock’s resume? Serving on President Donald Trump’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition in 2018.
Specialist Alejandro Sancho – TBD
2021 Summer Olympics, Tokyo, Japan
What about the military Olympic athletes of the next generation?
Specialist Alejandro Sancho, who just won a spot on the US Olympic Wrestling Team this past April, is one such shining star.
The 27-year-old Miami, Florida native will compete for a gold medal in the men’s Greco-Roman 67kg weight class in Tokyo just a few short weeks from now, when the summer games begin.
A member of the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), an initiative of the US Army that supports Olympic-level athletes in their quest for gold, Sancho is just one example of the military supporting its own to pursue their personal goals.
We may not be able to compete at the same level that they do athletically, there’s plenty that we can do to stay active.
Plus, we can all derive inspiration from these Olympians’ strength in the face of challenges, as well as their desire to do right by their country at any cost.