Locals in London: Area athletes go for gold

Monday - 7/16/2012, 10:55am EDT

WTOP's Jack Taylor holds his uncle's 1952 Olympic medal. (WTOP/Colleen Kelleher)

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WTOP spotlighted local athletes headed to London for the 2012 Olympic Games. Read their stories below, and be sure to visit the photo gallery to get to know more Olympians from D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

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WTOP connection to the 1952 games

WASHINGTON - WTOP has a connection to the Olympics -- only it's not a connection to this year's games. It's a connection to the games 60 years ago.

In 1952, Jack Taylor, the uncle of WTOP Traffic Reporter Jack Taylor, took the bronze in Helsinki for the 100-meter backstroke, with a finish time of 1:06.4. The gold would go to Yoshi Oyakawa of the U.S. (1:05.4) and the silver to Gilbert Bozon of France (1:06.2).

The Olympian who became a pilot would die three years later at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, 11 years before the birth of WTOP's Jack Taylor (Yes, Jack was named for his uncle).

WTOP's Jack Taylor, who inherited his uncle's Olympic medal as well as other Olympic items, has been following the Olympic swimming competitions. He says in the 60 years since his uncle medaled in the event, swimmers have shaved a good bit of time off the 1952 records.

Matt Grevers of the U.S. on Monday set an Olympic record and picked up the gold with his 52.16 finish in the 100-meter men's backstroke. This year's silver went to Nick Thoman of the U.S. with a time of 52.97. Japan's Ryosuke Irie picked up the bronze.

WTOP's Colleen Kelleher contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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Katie Ledecky

WASHINGTON - Bethesda's Katie Ledecky always planned on making it to the Olympics, but not until 2016. When the 15-year-old swimming prodigy qualified in July, she was stunned.

"It's unreal," Ledecky told The Washington Post after the meet. "It's unbelievable."

Yuri Suguiyama, her coach at the Curl-Burke Swim Club, is not surprised she made it all the way.

"I think Katie possesses a lot qualities that make her a successful swimmer, but it's really the qualities ... you can't see," he says.

"She's got a tremendous drive about her. She's incredibly self-motivated. She's a very hard worker and she's very competitive, as well."

The high school sophomore is the youngest Olympian heading to London in August, which could work to her advantage, according to Suguiyama.

"Being 15 years old, she kind of has a little bit of a purer sense about the sport," he says. "For Katie, everything is still new and still very pure."

Suguiyama says their training has helped Ledecky mature athletically. She never skipped a competitive level, rising from local meets to state, regional and national competitions. Each time, she adapted to the situation and focused on the task at hand.

"By focusing on the process, it has always allowed the destination to take care of itself," Suguiyama says.

When it comes to swimming against older competitors, Ledecky might be at a disadvantage at first.

"She's going to be swimming against some girls who are a little bit older, a little bit savvier and have a little bit more experienced at international racing," Suguiyama says.

But if the Olympics is anything like past competitions for the freestyle swimmer, she should have a place on the stand.

Get to know Ledecky a bit better in the interview below.

WTOP's Alicia Lozano and Rob Woodfork contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tony Skinn

WASHINGTON - For basketball point guard Tony Skinn -- a familiar name in the D.C. area -- the road to the 2012 Olympics started in Maryland at Takoma Academy, where he graduated as the school's all-time leading scorer.

The 29-year-old credits his high school years with giving him the drive necessary to make it to London this summer.

"TA is, for me, where I kind of fell in love with ball," he says. "It was a huge thing for me in high school."

But his passion didn't end there. Skinn took his skills to George Mason University and helped lead the Patriots to the Final Four in 2006, where he scored the game- winning three-point shot with just 10 seconds left against Wichita State.

Skinn's college years were not without controversy, however. He punched opposing guard Loren Stokes in the groin with 55 seconds left in GMU's game against Hofstra in the semifinals of the 2006 Colonial Athletic Association conference tournament. He was suspended for one game.

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