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Go Illinois! Land of Lincoln shines in London

August 01, 2012|RedEye

Athletes are forged into legends at the Olympics—and sometimes they just get a nice pat on the back. Either way, if you didn't know these young Illinois athletes making their mark in London before now, what are you waiting for?

MATT GREVERS

The Lake Forest native and Northwestern grad is tough to overlook—partly because the swimmer is 6-foot-8, but mostly because he won gold in the 100-meter backstroke Monday. And in the 400 medley relay, an event in which the Americans are the defending Olympic champs, the 27-year-old will have his teammates' backs. Er, something like that.

Quotable: "I was just thinking about all the sacrifices I've made and my family has made, and it was all so worth it to be up there and experience what I have wanted for so long."

CONOR DWYER

The Winnetka native's effort in the 800-meter freestyle relay Tuesday was crucial in helping a certain superstar earn his record 19th Olympic medal. Swimming the second leg after Ryan Lochte, the 23-year-old Dwyer clocked 1 minute, 45.23 seconds, .29 faster than he swam in the heats. You're welcome, Michael Phelps.

Quotable: "Four years ago I was watching [Phelps] break history and now I got to be a part of it. It's unbelievable."

KELCI BRYANT

Synchronized diving? That's a thing? Yep. Bryant, a 23-year-old Chatham native, teamed with Abby Johnston to win silver in the 3-meter synchronized diving competition Sunday. In doing so, they earned the United States' first diving medals since 2000. Not bad for a pair that had been diving together for only two years.

Quotable: "Our goal was to hit every one of our dives to the best that we could do. We did that. The medal is definitely a good bonus."

GRANT AND ROSS JAMES

Three-tenths of a second. That's all that separated the U.S. men's eight rowing team from a bronze medal Wednesday. The American crew—which includes 25-year-old twins Grant and Ross James of DeKalb—came from last after the first 1,000 meters to take fourth. Better luck next time …

Quotable: "We're still young guys," Grant James said. "I think we still have some time to develop and get better. We didn't want to waste this opportunity, but I feel like we will stick with it."

SARAH ZELENKA

The Itasca native, 25, and her rowing partner, Sara Hendershot, finished fourth in the women's pair event Wednesday. They were in second heading into the last 500 meters before they were overtaken by a pair of boats. Points for effort, though.

Quotable: "When you finish it like this, it gives you a desire to keep going [and compete in 2016]. I'm just so competitive. You get greedy when you want something and you can't have it."

BOUND FOR GLORY?

Don't be surprised to find gold around the necks of these local athletes before the Games are over:

>> Bob Willis (sailing): At 13th, he's in good position to qualify for the medal race in RS:X windsurfing.

>> Amy LePeilbet (soccer): The Americans are 3-0 and the top-ranked team in the world.

>> Andre Iguodala and Deron Williams (basketball): Spain and maybe Argentina could challenge the U.S. men, but it's not likely.

>> Tamika Catchings, Swin Cash, Candace Parker and Sylvia Fowles (basketball): Losing is not in the American women's team's vocabulary.

>> Dawn Harper (track and field): She's the defending gold medalist in the 100-meter hurdles.

>> Sean Rooney (volleyball): The U.S. men are the defending gold medalists and are 2-0 so far at these Games.

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