With great, year-round weather and impressive sports facilities like Nathan Benderson Park, Selby Aquatic Center and IMG Academy, the Sarasota region is a breeding ground for athletes. Former Major League pitcher Bobby Seay, a Sarasota High School grad, won Olympic gold in 2000 playing baseball for the U.S. team. Tripp Schwenk, a former Sarasota Sharks swimmer, is a two-time Olympian, winning gold and silver medals in 1996. Tennis star Maria Sharapova, who owns a home on Longboat Key and trained at IMG, won a silver in the 2012 Olympics.
And this year, at the summer Tokyo Olympics, we have six local athletes competing: skateboarder Jake Ilardi, swimmer Emma Weyant, rifle shooter Mary Tucker, rower Clark Dean and golfers—and sisters—Nelly and Jessica Korda.
The Tokyo Games will be marked by many firsts, but for the first time, skateboarding will make its Olympic debut. Jake Ilardi, 24, grew up in Osprey, where he trained on streets and in parks, including Sarasota's Payne Park. Ilardi recently claimed his spot on the U.S. Olympic skateboarding team through his performance at the World Street Skateboarding Championships in Rome, Italy. He ranks seventh in the world and second in the United States. He'll put Sarasota in the spotlight, competing in the street category for the U.S. team.
Swimmer Emma Weyant, 19, graduated from Riverview High School, where she was a consistent winner for the team. She deferred enrollment at the University of Virginia last year to train with the Sarasota Sharks and earned her Olympic spot after winning the 400 individual medley at the U.S Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, this month.
Clark Dean, a 21-year-old rower at Harvard University, was a Pine View student and the former captain for the Sarasota Crew club team. Dean will be competing in the men's four this summer for Team USA.
Sarasota Military Academy graduate Mary Tucker also joins the local squad. Tucker competes in rifle shooting and will perform in two events in Tokyo this summer: air rifle and three-position. Tucker is a sophomore at the University of Kentucky.
Finally, Bradenton residents Jessica and Nelly Korda will play on Team USA's women's golf team. In June, Nelly, 22, achieved the No. 1 ranking on the LPGA tour. Jessica, 28, who has been playing on the tour since 2011, is ranked No. 13.