10 Military Athletes Who Are Also Olympians: Part 1

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

The wait for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero is almost over! You’re probably excited about watching at least a few of the events this year, so did you know there are a handful of U.S. military members on the 555-person roster? Somehow they manage to find time to serve our country and be world-class athletes. So, to make sure they get the accolades they deserve, here is a little about each one of them (Part 1- be sure to check back for Part 2):

Sam Kendricks, Army:

Army 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks competes in the preliminary round of the men's pole vault on July 2, 2016, at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon. He placed in the prelims and went on to secure a spot on the U.S. Olympic team during the finals. Army photos by David Vergun

Army 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks competes in the preliminary round of the men’s pole vault on July 2, 2016, at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon. He placed in the prelims and went on to secure a spot on the U.S. Olympic team during the finals. Army photos by David Vergun

Army Reservist 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks, 23, of Oxford, Mississippi, didn’t just pole vault himself to Rio this year – he broke an Olympic trials record! Kendricks came in first at the event, clearing the bar at 5.91 meters (19 feet, 4.75 inches for those of us non-metric system users). He’s ranked 2nd in the world at the sport, which bodes well for putting him in medal contention.

Kendricks spent four years in the Army ROTC during college, graduating as a second lieutenant in 2015. He’s currently with the 655th Transportation Company in Millington, Tennessee. Once his Olympic experience is over, he’ll be heading to the Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Lee, Virginia.

Keith Sanderson, Army:

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson, of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, practices at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Army photo by Tim Hipps

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson, of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, practices at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Army photo by Tim Hipps

Sgt. First Class Keith Sanderson, 41, of San Antonio, Texas, is a skilled marksman – so good, in fact, that this is his third Olympics. Sanderson, an infantry noncommissioned officer, will compete as a 25-meter rapid-fire pistol shooter, of which he’s the most decorated in U.S. history – just check out all his accolades here.

Sanderson is part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, but he spent the first eight years of his career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He switched to the Army Reserves, where he continues to serve and instruct soldiers and Marines in pistol marksmanship.

Edward King, Navy:

Edward King will compete this year in Rio on the men’s lightweight four-man crew team. Photo courtesy of navysports.com

Edward King will compete this year in Rio on the men’s lightweight four-man crew team. Photo courtesy of navysports.com

Edward King, 27, Of Ironton, Missouri, didn’t start rowing until he arrived at the U.S. Naval Academy in 2007, but he was a natural. King will compete this year in Rio on the men’s lightweight four-man crew team.

After the academy, King graduated from SEAL training and was eventually transferred to the Navy Information Operations Command at Fort Meade, Maryland. That paved the way for him to be granted an extended leave of absence in which he could get back to pursuing the sport in which he excels. King has a year left on his service contract but told a local newspaper that he plans to remain in the Navy.

Fun fact: A Navy rower hasn’t competed in the Olympics since 1988 – before King was born.

The athletes you see in the next four pics are cross-country track stars with the Army WCAP.

Hillary Bor, Army:

Army Sgt. Hillary Bor is competing in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase in Rio. Army photo by Tim Hipps

Army Sgt. Hillary Bor is competing in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase in Rio. Army photo by Tim Hipps

Sgt. Hillary Bor, 26, is set to run in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase in Rio, having come in second at the Olympic trials. The Kenyan native came to the U.S. for college in 2007 and became a naturalized citizen in 2013 when he joined the Army as a financial management technician. He’s not the only one in his family to do so, either. Bor’s two brothers are also U.S. soldiers.

Paul Chelimo, Army:

Army Spc. Paul Chelimo leads a pack of runners. Army photo by Tim Hipps

Army Spc. Paul Chelimo leads a pack of runners. Army photo by Tim Hipps

Spc. Paul Chelimo, 25, is another Kenyan native who joined the U.S. Army in 2013 after graduating as a track star at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Chelimo finished third at the Olympic trials this year in the men’s 5,000-meter run with a time of 13 minutes, 35.92 seconds. As an Army water purification specialist, Chelimo one day hopes to set up a water treatment plant in his native country.

Shadrack Kipchirchir & Leonard Korir, Army:

Left: Army Spc. Shadrack Kipchirchir. Army photo by Tim Hipps Right: Army Spc. Leonard Korir. Army photo by David Vergun

Left: Army Spc. Shadrack Kipchirchir. Army photo by Tim Hipps
Right: Army Spc. Leonard Korir. Army photo by David Vergun

Spcs. Shadrack Kipchirchir and Leonard Korir both made the Olympic team in the 10,000-meter run, finishing second and third, respectively, at the U.S. trials. Kipchirchir, 27, and Korir, 29, are also from Kenya.

Kipchirchir moved to the U.S. to attend college, where he first started running competitively. He joined the Army in 2014 and works as a financial management technician when he’s off the track. Korir moved to the U.S. in 2009 and ran several track events at Iona College, where he was an eight-time NCAA All-American. He joined the Army in 2015, where he serves as a motor transport operator.

John Nunn, Army: 

Army Staff Sgt. John Nunn will be a three-time Olympian race walker when he competes in Rio. Army photo by Tim Hipps

Army Staff Sgt. John Nunn will be a three-time Olympian race walker when he competes in Rio. Army photo by Tim Hipps

Staff Sgt. John Nunn, 38, of Evansville, Indiana, secured his spot in Rio by winning the 50-kilometer and 20-kilometer race walk trials (yes, that’s really a thing). It’s not his first rodeo, either. This will be his third Olympics, having competed in 2004 and 2012.

Nunn is a noncommissioned officer who works as a dental hygienist in the Army. He was formerly infantry. You might remember him from a segment of NBC’s “Today Show,” where he helped teach Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and other news anchors how it was done.

And just for fun, here’s a military and Olympic veteran who also happens to be an icon:

David Robinson, Navy:

Left: David Robinson backs down a defender during the U.S. Naval Academy men's basketball alumni game Jan. 8, 2011. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad Runge. Right: Robinson poses on the forecastle of the battleship USS Iowa. Courtesy photo

Left: David Robinson backs down a defender during the U.S. Naval Academy men’s basketball alumni game Jan. 8, 2011. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad Runge. Right: Robinson poses on the forecastle of the battleship USS Iowa. Courtesy photo

To anyone who’s a basketball lover, this name is probably familiar to you. David Robinson, 50, was a famous center in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs. He was also an original member of America’s Dream Team, helping the team win gold in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and again in Atlanta in 1996 (he helped win a bronze medal in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988 … but that’s been a bit overshadowed by the golds).

Robinson had the nickname “The Admiral” for a reason. He came from a Navy family and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in the 1980s. While he was drafted first overall by the Spurs in 1987, he didn’t play until 1989 because of his two years of active-duty service in the Navy. The time off from his basketball career didn’t affect his playing, though – he went on to become the NBA’s 1989 Rookie of the Year.

To see the other U.S. athletes who will be joining Team USA in Rio this year, check Part 2 of our blog series here!

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