Sunday, February 14, 2010

Eye of the Tiger

Between the start of the Winter Olympics, Valentine's Day and extended weekend for those lucky enough to get President's Day off, it's easy to say there's a lot going on. But this February 14 doesn't only mark the holiday of St. Valentine but also the celebration of the Chinese New Year. And as the Chinese say goodbye to the year of the ox, it's time to welcome in the year of the tiger, and its accompanying traits of leadership, courage, adventure and strength. Like last year, I thought it'd be fun to take a look at the athletes born into this zodiac year. Not that the year in which you were born 100 percent correlates with any sort of athleticism and speed that you might associate with a tiger, but it was interesting to see the results. Especially since it's an Olympic year where even more athletes come to the forefront of my favorite sports to watch and follow.

So the quick requirements of this list: The athletes had to be born in the year of the tiger which includes 1950 (or early 1951), 1962 (or early 1963), 1974 (or early 1975), 1986 (or early 1987) depending on how the lunar calendar fell. They have to participate in running, cycling, triathlon, swimming or an Olympic sport (yes, I have the Olympics on the brain). And they could be from any nationality, but I blame that on Wikipedia--which largely aided in putting this list together--for including their names on the list of people born in that specific year.

  • Meryl Davis, January 1, 1987. Sliding in just before the end of the tiger year, she'll be skating in the ice dance competition at the 2010 Olympics.
  • Zhang Lin, January 6, 1987. Also on the cusp of the new zodiac year, he's touted as the most successful Chinese male in swimming.
  • Cesar Cielo, January 10, 1987. Sliding in just before the end of the tiger year, Cielo captured gold in the 50 free at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is the only Brazilian to win a gold medal in swimming.
  • Tsegaye Kebede, January 15, 1987. On the cusp of the Chinese New Year, Kebede took home the bronze medal in the marathon at the 2008 Olympics.
  • Steve Prefontaine, January 25, 1951, an American runner who tragically met his end too soon but not before leaving his mark at Oregon and a legacy.
  • Tim Montgomery, January 25, 1975. Sliding in before the New Year, Montgomery almost shouldn't make this list because he's known more for being charged with using performance-enhancing drugs and being linked to Marion Jones.
  • Hannah Teter, January 27, 1987. Just barely falling under the Tiger sign--the Chinese New Year fell on January 28 that year--Teter won gold at the 2006 Torino Games and takes to her snowboard again in Vancouver.
  • Aschwin Wildeboer Faber, February 14, 1986, a Spanish swimmer who competed in the backstroke at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
  • Hannah Kearney, February 26, 1986. Kearney won the U.S.'s first gold medal at the 2010 Olympics by overcoming a disappointing 2006 Olympics race and turning out an amazing performance in the freestyle moguls.
  • Jackie Joyner-Kersee, March 3, 1962. What's not to know about this track and field athlete who specialized in the long jump and heptathlon, winning a collection of medals? And just a random fact, footballer Herschel Walker shares her birthday.
  • Daisuke Takahashi, March 16, 1986. This Japanese figure skater competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics, won silver at the 2007 World Championships and plans to compete in Vancouver.
  • Lars Frolander, May 26, 1974, a Swedish swimmer who won gold in the 100m butterfly at the 2000 Sydney Games and competed in five Olympics--1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.
  • Robert Gesink, May 31, 1986, a Dutch cyclist who races for UCI ProTeam Rabobank.
  • Rafael Nadal, June 3, 1986, a Spanish tennis player who's been ranked No. 1 in the world, won six Grand Slams and won gold in mens singles at the 2008 Olympics.
  • Tomas Verner, June 3, 1986, this Czech Republic ice skater ranks first in the world among the men's competition as of January 2010.
  • Olga Charvátová, June 11, 1962, a Czech Republic alpine skier who took home the bronze medal in women's downhill at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics.
  • Erika Salumäe, June 11, 1962, a track cyclist who brought home the first Olympic gold medal for Estonia after it gained independence (1992) and also won gold for the former Soviet Union (1988).
  • Lee Ho-Suk, June 25, 1986, the South Korean short-track speed skater who won gold in Torino and unfortunately disqualified himself in the final turn of the 1500m event on Saturday night
  • Michelle Ford, July 15, 1962, an Australian swimmer who won gold at the 1980 Olympics.
  • Maurice Greene, July 23, 1974, an American sprinter who medaled at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics in the 100m and 4 x 100 relay events.
  • Rik Verbrugghe, July 23, 1974, this Belgian made his mark as a road cyclist
  • Krisztina Egerszegi, August 16, 1974. She dominated the backstroke events at the Olympics and has won five gold medals, a feat that only Michael Phelps has topped.
  • Usain Bolt, August 21, 1986. Faster than a bolt of lightning? This Jamaican sprinter is dominating running after winning gold in Beijing.
  • Theresa Andrews, August 25, 1962, won two golds in swimming for the U.S. at the 1984 Summer Games.
  • Shaun White, September 3, 1986. We'll get to see the Flying Tomato unveil a new trick during the halfpipe snowboarding competition in Vancouver, but he's already known for setting the bar in snowboarding and taking home medals at the X Games and the 2006 Olympics.
  • Hicham El Guerrouj, September 14, 1974, a Moroccan middle distance runner who's set world records and won Olympic gold twice.
  • Gary Hall, Jr., September 26, 1974. An American swimmer (and one I loved to follow as a kid) who'd shadow box before his sprints and won a collection of medals, 10 in total, at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics.
  • Marianne Timmer, October 3, 1974, a Dutch speed skater who won gold on the long track at the 1998 Olympics.
  • Laure Manaudou, October 9, 1986, a French swimmer who took home gold, silver and bronze at the 2004 Olympics.
  • Penelope Heyns, November 8, 1974. Before speed suits took over, this South African made breaststroke look effortless--even racing without goggles--and won gold at the 1996 Olympics as the only woman to win the 100m and 200m breaststroke.
  • Oscar Pistorius, November 22, 1986, has made a name for himself as the fastest man with no legs, being so speedy on his artificial legs that it's been deemed an unfair advantage. Nevertheless, this South African won gold in three sprint events at the 2008 Paralympics.
  • Sylvie Daigle, December 1, 1962, a Canadian speed skater who competed in long track before medaling on the short track.
  • Arturo Barrios, December 12, 1962, a Mexican long-distance runner.
  • Roy Schuiten, December 16, 1950, competed for the Dutch track and road cycling teams.
Whew, what a list! Who knew so many famous athletes and Olympians were born under this Chinese sign? I guess Survivor didn't come up with Eye of the Tiger for nothing...

Oh and last year, I noted my inability to track down a triathlete born under the year of the Ox. Well, turns out I missed the complete obvious: Craig Alexander who's won the Ironman World Championships two years running was born June 22, 1973. Still trying to find other triathletes though to round out these lists. Photo grabbed from dreamstime.com. Posted by Kate

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