A Closer Look at the Native Athletes in the London Olympic Games

Sam Laskaris
7/30/12

Aboriginal sports fans watching this year's summer Olympics might want to keep a special eye out for three particular female athletes.

Mary Killman, Tumua Anae and Mary Spencer are all Aboriginal athletes from North America that are competing in the London Olympics, which began July 27 and continue until Aug. 12.

Killman, a synchronzied swimmer and a member of Oklahoma's Citizen Potawatomi Nation, will represent the U.S. in the duet competition along with her partner Mariya Korolvea.

Anae, a Native Hawaiian, is a goalie with the U.S. women's water polo squad.

And Spencer, who is Ojibwe, is a boxer from Canada that will duke it out in the women's middleweight category.

In total, about 10,500 athletes from more than 200 countries are in London competing at the Summer Olympics.

A closer look at the three Aboriginal athletes follows:

Killman, who was born in Ada, Oklahoma, has only been partnered with Korolvea since this past August. But the duo has achieved some impressive results in the pool thus far. They captured a silver medal at the Pan American Games in Mexico this past October. And they placed seventh at an Olympic qualifying meet, which was also staged in England, in the same pool where the Olympic competition will be played out.

There will be 24 duets participating in the Olympics. The duets competition will begin on Aug. 5 and continue until Aug. 7.

Killman, who is 21, will fulfill a lifelong goal of making it to the Olympics. Originally, however, she wanted to take part in an Olympiad as a swimmer. She gave up her racing days as a swimmer at age 15 to concentrate on her synchro career.

Killman took up synchro swimming when she was 11. She was a competitive swimmer and synchro participant until the age of 15 when she won a national age group championship in the later sport and decided to concentrate her efforts on that.

Anae, a 23-year-old who was born in Honolulu, will also be seeking some Olympic glory in the pool. She's been a member of the American women's water polo squad since 2010.

One of her career highlights came this past October as she helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the Pan American Games. That victory also guaranteed the Americans a berth into the Olympics. Anae was also a member of the University of Southern California women's team that won the NCAA championship in 2010.

In London, eight countries will participate in the women's water polo.

Anae and her American teammates are in a division with China, Hungary and Spain and will play round-robin matches against those three nations. The first U.S. game is set for July 30 versus Hungary.
Australia, Great Britain, Italy and Russia will also take part.

Following round-robin action, all eight countries will take part in a quarter-final match. The women's water polo action continues until Aug. 9 when the medal matches are staged.

As for Spencer, a 27-year-old who lives in Windsor, Ontario, she's considered a medal contender in London, where women's boxing will make its Olympic debut.

But Spencer, a three-time world champion, was not even sure if she would get to participate in the Olympics.

Even though she was the top-ranked fighter in the world in her middleweight class, Spencer was upset in the opening round of this year's world championships held in China in May.

Spencer then had to wait several agonizing weeks before finding out whether she would be granted a wildcard spot into the Olympics. The official announcement that Spencer would be heading to England came on June 18.

After arriving in London, Spencer received some more good news. She was one of four boxers in her 12-athlete weight class to receive an opening-round bye.

That means she advances directly to a quarter-final bout. And more importantly, Spencer just needs one victory - in her quarter-final match - to ensure she will return home with some hardware.

That's because even the two boxers who advance to the semi-finals but lose, both still end up receiving bronze medals.

Spencer's quarter-final is scheduled for Aug. 6. No doubt Spencer is also hoping to fight on Aug. 9, in the gold-medal match.

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thechief's picture
thechief
Submitted by thechief on
It would be interesting to know how many of the central and south american athletes were native. Just from watching the opening ceremonies it looked like a lot. Especially team Mexico. Either way I am cheering for all the brown athletes from all of the Americas.

mlarson's picture
mlarson
Submitted by mlarson on
That would be interesting. Also, teams from countries like New Zealand have Aboriginal athletes. NZ's Lisa Carrington is Maori, for example. (She's on their canoe team.)
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