This Week in ‘Merica: Military Olympian Edition

There’s nothing God-fearing ‘Mericans like more than being better at things than other people. Why else would we pay athletes millions of dollars to throw balls around in tight pants? Or have elections? Or Instagram? So when the whole world gets together to find out who’s the best at sportsing, you better believe that the U.S. is going to tune in.

But aside from the obvious (the athletes in the red, white and blue who aren’t from France, or the Netherlands, or Croatia, or Cuba, or New Zealand, or the UK or Serbia, or any of the other freaking countries who loved our national colors so much that they borrowed them before we even had them), who to root for? The Olympics are about one thing: athletes copulating in the Olympic Village and creating the perfect species of human. But if there were another thing, it would be about the athletes’ stories. Finding out who these special people are in the real world, and why we should be rooting for them, is half the fun. There are 15 Olympians even more worth rooting for than the rest of them. Each is a current member of the active duty military.

Most are members of two special military programs called World Class Athlete Programs (WCAP). The Army and Air Force both have WCAP programs, which allow active duty personnel to take a break from regular military duties like blowing things up and practicing endless bureaucracy, and focus full-time on their sport. To qualify, the athlete’s sport has to be an Olympic sport, and each applicant to the WCAP program has to prove through a sometimes-lengthy application process that they are already performing their sport at a world-class level. But those accepted into the programs are given access to the kind of facilities often reserved for sponsored athletes in smaller sports, or full-time professionals in the major events. Many of them are assigned full-time to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In and out of competition, WCAP athletes serve as military ambassadors, both in their respective sports, and also to the hundreds of thousands of potential military recruits that see them on TV. They also travel around the country visiting camps, schools or team practices, giving clinics, and inspiring the next generation of potential military recruits.

It’s not just the WCAP programs that allow military personnel to focus full-time on their sport either, as several members of the USA shooting team are a part of an elite Army group called the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU). Like WCAP athletes, USAMU team members are full-time active duty soldiers who teach marksmanship to other soldiers, travel to international competitions, and even deploy–several of the USA’s shooting Olympians traveled to Afghanistan in 2011 to teach marksmanship principles to the Afghanistan National Army.

Here are all 15 athletes. And if you don’t tune in and cheer them on, the terrorists have already won.

Hillary Bor, Army

Event: 3,000 meter steeplechase

-Sergeant Hillary Bor is one of several Kenyan natives to immigrate to the United States, become citizens, and now compete for the good guys.

First Lieutenant Cale Simmons, Air Force

Event: Pole vault

Glenn Eller, Army

Event: Shotgun-double trap

-Eller is a 10-year member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and won a gold medal in double trap in 2008.

Edward King, Navy

Event: Crewing (rowing)-lightweight 4s

-Despite the Naval Academy’s strong crew presence at the collegiate level, King is the first Navy rower in the Olympics since 1988. The certified badass is also a BUD/S graduate, which is the entry level Navy SEAL training, and serves in a highly classified job in the Navy.

Daniel Lowe, Army

Event: 10-meter air rifle, 50-meter three-position rifle

-While the US has historically performed well in the three-position rifle competitions, we have never medaled in the 10-meter standup event, something Lowe plans on rectifying.

Josh Richmond, Army

Event: Shotgun-double trap

Keith Sanderson, Army

Event: 25-meter rapid fire pistol shooting

– Sanderson has spent over 16 years in the military–the first 8 in the Marines and now as a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. This will be his third Olympics.

David Higgins, Air Force Academy

Event: 50-meter prone rifle

-Higgins is the first active Air Force Academy cadet to qualify for the Olympics.

Michael McPhail, Army

Event: 50-meter prone rifle

Shadrack Kipchirchir, Army

Event: 10,000-meter race

-Had no experience running track until he moved to the United States from Kenya to attend Western Kentucky University.

Leonard Korir, Army

Event: 10,000-meter race

Sean Furey, Navy

Event: Javelin throw

-If the announcers don’t say the phrase, “Sean threw that javelin with great vengeance and Fureyous anger,” they’re pretty much wasting everybody’s time.

Paul Chelimo, Army

Event: 5,000-meter race

Nathan Schrimsher, Army

Event: Pentathalon

-The homeschooled Schrimsher already had enough college credits when he graduated high school to be labeled a college sophomore.

John Nunn, Army

Event: 50,000-meter race walk


Follow Marc on Twitter, or find more ‘Merican Olympic coverage at his military blog, 30 Mike Mike.

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.