By Annika Nelson, Staff Assistant, North Dakota Horizons
The summer Olympics: the world’s most talented athletes competing in track and field, swimming, gymnastics, wrestling and a host of other events for coveted gold medals. The Olympics are exciting – filled with fierce competition, close races, disappointments, triumphs and stories.
North Dakota Horizons readers may be surprised to know there have been several Olympians from North Dakota. Cliff Cushman of Grand Forks won a silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1960 Olympics. John Bennett, also of Grand Forks, earned a silver medal in the long jump at the 1956 Olympics. Virgil Hill of Williston punched his way to a silver medal in the middleweight category in boxing at the 1984 Olympics. And Casper Oimoen of Minot was a captain of the 1932 and 1936 Olympic ski teams.
Quite impressive, isn’t it? That doesn’t include other stellar non-Olympic athletes from North Dakota, including standouts in basketball (Phil Jackson), baseball (Darin Erstad), rodeo (Brad Gjermundson), football (Jim Kleinsasser), snowmobiling (Janelle Bakken), and golf (Shane McMenamy), among many others.
In 2008, some young North Dakota athletes have been headlining news stories for their efforts at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Laura Roesler, a 16-year-old track standout from Fargo, competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials in track and field in Eugene, Oregon. She made the semifinals in the 800-meter race and wowed the crowd once they found out she was only a 10th grader. Sports Illustrated wrote a nice story on Laura - check out www.si.com and type in Laura Roesler into its search feature to read the article.
Another standout is Dagny Knutson of Minot. Dagny is also only 16 years old, a budding talent in swimming. Dagny holds the junior world record tim e of 4 minutes, 43.49 seconds in the 400 IM (individual medley, where a swimmer has to perform all f our strokes). She competed in the 400 IM at the U.S. Olympic Trials and finished 14th.
Photo of Laura Roesler courtesy of http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/more/06/30/laura.roesler/index.html. Photo of Dagny Knutson courtesy of www.kxmd.com/t/minot-high-school.