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The Cities that Raised Olympians

The journey to Tokyo started in some unexpected places for these elite athletes.

By Cara Sanders on July 23, 2021

Olympic rings against a black backdrop

The Tokyo Olympics are finally here, albeit a bit late and a bit different. However, one thing has been a constant since the Olympics’ 1896 inception…the patriotism every country around the world feels for their elite athletes. 

This year, America’s best and brightest will be representing us in Tokyo during the summer games and all of this excitement has us thinking about what it takes to become a player of this caliber. Not only is it long hours of practice, endless dedication and the support of family and friends, but something else…These athletes are all hometown heroes and we’re celebrating all of the great cities they hail from – cities that no doubt will be cheering louder than anyone.

Albany, NY

Nina Cutro-Kelly, Judo
Why We Love Albany: When you live in Albany, you really can have it all. The city is conveniently located just three hours from New York City and Boston and has long been known as a hub for art, culture and history. The city is more than 400 years old, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t producing our country’s best and brightest. In addition to a thriving tech scene and comedic chops, the city often lands on our annual list of the Top 100 Best Places to Live. Nina Cutro Kelly, who grew up in Albany, is already making history in Tokyo as the oldest judo competitor in Olympic history.

Santa Clarita, CA

Allyson Felix, Track & Field
Why We Love Santa Clarita: Just north of Los Angeles is the beautiful city of Santa Clarita. Although the city’s history dates back many centuries, it wasn’t incorporated until 1987, making the city 34 years old. Close enough to L.A. to participate in the hustle and bustle, yet far enough to enjoy a more tranquil environment, Santa Clarita is a wonderful place to live and has a history of producing impressive athletes like Allyson Felix. The track and field phenom is a nine-time medalist and is the most decorated athletes in Olympics history. Felix is competing in Tokyo at her fifth Olympic Games and her first as a mother.

Indianapolis, IN

Alec Yoder, Gymnastics

Why We Love Indianapolis: What’s not to love about Indianapolis? Yes the city is known for fast cars, but residents can also enjoy a slower pace along the eight-mille Indianaoplis Culltural Trail, connecting neighborhoods, cultural districts and entertainment spots throughout the city. The city is the perfect home base for gamers and art lovers alike. And, because Indy is home to some of the best sports bars in the nation you can bet that there is no shortage of places to cheer on hometown hero Alec Yoder.

Albuquerque, NM

Mariah Duran, Skateboarding

Why We Love Albuquerque: There’s a reason that New Mexico is known as the ‘Land of Enchantment’ and we certainly are enchanted with Albuquerque. The city is thriving and truly has something to offer to everyone, from the arts to amazing local food. For her part, Mariah Duran is as cutting-edge as her hometown and sport as she’s competing on Team USA for skateboarding’s Olympic debut.

Annapolis, MD

Farrah Hall, Sailing

Why We Love Annapolis: Nestled along the edge of the picturesque Chesapeake Bay is the city of Annapolis. Annapolis offers ample opportunities for getting your feet wet with water-based activities, like fishing, kayaking, and Olympian Farrah Hall’s preferred sport, sailing. The city is also home to the U.S. Naval Academy and has an impressive (and historical!) downtown packed with restaurants, shops and galleries. Hall is a two-time Olympian and her family is full of water lovers – her mother is a rowing master world champion!

Oxford, MS

Sam Kendricks, Track & Field

Why We Love Oxford: Oxford, MS is the quintessential Southern city, full of charm and history. The city has a deep appreciation of fine dining, football and having lots of fun. Oxford is also known for being home to many literary legends, including William Faulkner and John Grisham, but now track and field superstar Sam Kendricks joins their ranks.

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Jordan Windle, Diving

Why We Love Fort Lauderdale: Home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, sunshine for days, and endless entertainment, it’s easy to see why Fort Lauderdale would be an idyllic place to grow up – just ask diver Jordan Windle. Fort Lauderdale is more than just bumming it by the beach though, the city is known for its fantastic library system, cool downtown district and spirit of volunteerism.

Ann Arbor, MI

Grace Luczak, Rowing

Why We Love Ann Arbor: Ann Arbor is perhaps most known for being the home of the world-renowned University of Michigan, but the city has a lot going on. Not only is Ann Arbor an extraordinary place to live (the city often ranks on our annual list of the Top 100 Best Places to Live!), but it is super affordable and a great spot to raise a family. Even more? Ann Arbor is the hometown of rower Grace Luczak, who played a significant role in making the Tokyo Olympics the first ever to have equal gender participation.

Burlington, VT

Ilona Maher, Rugby

Why We Love Burlington: It’s hard to come by a city more picturesque than Burlington. Located along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, the city became the first in America to run entirely on renewable energy in 2015. The summers are amazing, the job opportunities are endless and if you’re looking for a fresh start, you should most definitely consider Burlington…the city will even pay you to move there!

Ithaca, NY

Kyle Dake, Wrestling

Why We Love Ithaca: Located in central New York and nestled in the Finger Lakes Region, Ithaca is home to roughly 30,000 people, including Olympian Kyle Dake, who was the first wrestler to win NCAA titles in four different weight classes. Like Dake, the city of Ithaca is also overachieving in its many titles, including being one of the best places to live in America, the best college town in the country and is known for its beautiful downtown.

Honolulu, HI

Carissa Moore, Surfing

Why We Love Honolulu: Hanging ten in Hawaii is almost too cliche, but it is precisely what competitor Carissa Moore grew up doing. This is the first games that surfing will appear on the roster, making it all the more impressive that Moore will be competing. Honolulu is obviously a picturesque place to grow up. Still, the city has a long history of supporting female athletes and is providing incentives to new residents, making it one of the best places to live in Hawaii.

Cary, NC

Claire Curzan, Swimming

Why We Love Cary: Located just outside of Raleigh and the Research Triangle is the cozy town of Cary. Close to all of the big city amenities but filled with small-town charm, the city has one of the lowest crime rates in the U.S. and residents can enjoy more than 200 restaurants, 36 greenway trails and a vibrant downtown district. Cary is also home to 17-year-old swimmer Claire Curzan. Fun fact: Curzan has the same birthday (June 30th) as Michael Phelps!

Spring, TX

Simone Biles, Gymnastics

Why We Love Spring: It’s true what they say; everything is bigger in Texas, including athletic prowess. Olympic gymnast and fan-favorite Simone Biles grew up in this sweet city and continues to break record after record. Just outside of Houston is Spring, a charming Texas town. Spring often refers to the large area of northern Harris County and is chock full of things to do. The Spring Creek Greenway is a 10-foot wide paved hike, bike and riding trail that means getting out and about is easy. There’s plenty of fun to be had here and the food is next-level.

Colorado Springs, CO

Amber English, Shooting

Why We Love Colorado Springs: Known for its incredible views and abundance of outdoor activities, it’s no wonder that Colorado Springs is an amazing place to live. Once considered a resort town, Colorado Springs is now a thriving city full of opportunities. Not only is the town producing great athletes like Amber English, but the whiskey scene is also unparalleled.

Lancaster, PA

Casey Kaufhold, Archery

Why We Love Lancaster: Located in the heart of Amish Country, Lancaster has maintained its small-town feel and charm while continuing to grow and evolve during a major tech renaissance. Lancaster has deep historical roots and even briefly served as the capital of the American colonies. Today the city is home to amazing restaurants, ample arts offerings and 17-year-old Casey Kaufhold, who joins Team USA in Tokyo to compete for gold in archery.

Prattville, AL

Brandon Dickson, Baseball

Why We Love Prattville: Nicknamed the ‘Fountain City’ for its abundance of artesian wells and waterways, Prattville is overflowing with fun. This small Alabama city doesn’t skimp on charm and boasts an affordable housing market. This year Prattville’s Brandon Dickson will be representing Team USA as a pitcher for the baseball team. Even cooler? Dickson calls Tokyo his second home as he had an overseas stint for the Orix Buffaloes.

Nashville, TN

Alex Walsh, Swimming

Why We Love Nashville: Music City is the place to be! Nashville may be most known for its music scene, but the city goes all out for sports and hosted the NFL Draft in 2019, so it’s no surprise that the city raised all-stars like 19-year-old Nashville native Alex Walsh. Walsh is going for gold in Tokyo and has already made history. During the 200-meter individual medley during the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, NE, Walsh touched the wall two-hundredths of a second before her competitor, Katie Douglass, which was one of the closest finishes in Olympics-qualifying history.

Portland, OR

Mariel Zagunis, Fencing

Why We Love Portland: With a rich history of supporting women’s sports, it’s no surprise that five-time Olympian Mariel Zagunis calls Portland her hometown. The city is home to tons of things to do, from hiking to visiting cool hotels, and is a great home base city for remote workers and filmmakers. Bonus: Track & Field competitor Ryan Crouser also calls the city of roses home.

Arlington, VA

Torri Huske, Swimming

Why We Love Arlington: Torri Huske is one to watch in Tokyo. During the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Huske swam five events and broke a record in the 100-meter butterfly, quickly emerging as a breakout star. The 18-year-old’s hometown of Arlington allowed the swimmer to focus on her sport growing up but didn’t skimp on quality of life. The D.C. suburb is a great home base for recent college graduates or those looking for a more affordable way of life. Filled with historic buildings and neighborhoods, trendy restaurants and a booming arts scene, the city’s diversity (residents are from more than 140 countries!) makes this place unlike any other.

Toledo, OH

Oshae Jones, Boxing

Why We Love Toledo: Located near Lake Erie is the thriving city of Toledo. Perhaps best known for its long history of glassmaking, ‘The Glass City’ is home to Olympian Oshae Jones. So why is Toledo a great place to grow up? Well, the list is endless. Toledo has a youthful spirit, making it a great place for young people to call home and offers several amenities like a world-class park system, so exploring is easy. Also, the city is home to the Toledo Mud Hens, making it one of the best cities for sports in the country.

Worcester, MA

Wadeline Jonathas, Track & Field

Why We Love Worcester: Located in the heart of New England, Worcester strikes the perfect balance between historic charm and is a hub for innovation. The city often appears on our Top 100 Best Places to Live list because of its affordability and opportunities. This city has a heart…no, seriously. Many signs in Worcester feature a heart as it is commonly referred to as the ‘Heart of the Commonwealth.’ And we’re sure that resident’s hearts are bursting with pride for Wadeline Jonathas as she competes in Tokyo.

Columbia, SC

A’ja Wilson, Basketball

Why We Love Columbia: Did you know that when abbreviated, Columbia reads COLA? Hence the nickname Soda City! It’s also no surprise that the city is bubbling with talent, including basketball player A’ja Wilson. Columbia was one of the first planned cities in America and has a long history of supporting female athletes.

New Orleans, LA

Vernon Norwood, Track & Field

Why We Love New Orleans: The living is easy in the ‘Big Easy.’ Vernon Norwood’s hometown of New Orleans is known for its boisterous Bourbon Street, beignets and breeding the track and field superstar. In addition, there’s plenty of room to run around in New Orleans as the city is home to more than 66 parks and tons of green space.

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