Georgia’s Olympic Hopefuls

These natives are London-bound and medal-hungry

Of the 760 American Olympic athletes who had made their teams by mid-June—when we went to press—twenty-one called Georgia home. That total ranked eleventh in the nation and third in the South, behind Florida (forty-four) and Texas (sixty-three). Georgia has the ninth-largest state population, approaching 10 million, so we’re slightly underperforming (proportionately). Of course, medals are what counts. We’re counting on this Georgia gang to make us proud in London.

Photography by Ryan Gibson

Jonathan Hall
Hometown: Carrollton

Sport: Shooting
“Our mother got us started,” says Hall, twenty-four. “She was 100 percent antigun. My oldest brother wanted a BB gun to shoot squirrels in the backyard. She figured she would educate us out of that.” She took her four sons to a three-day hunter-safety course, to bore them, but “the opposite happened.” They met the Carrollton 4-H coach, who turned them to targets and sparked a new passion.

Hall went from being an alternate on the 4-H BB team, as a ten-year-old, to a star when a starter got sick. He made the air rifle national team at fifteen and has qualified every year since, aiming at a mark the size of a period from thirty-three feet.

His first two air rifles cost $7,500. “My parents said, ‘You can have a car like everyone else, or we’ll buy your rifles.’ I said, ‘I want rifles.’”

In late May, he went hunting for the first time. “I’m not really into the rush of killing something,” he says. “I’d rather shoot at a target, all day long.”

Photography by Jordan Brand, a division of Nike Inc.

Maya Moore
Hometown: Lawrenceville

Sport: Women’s Basketball
They call her Money. You can take Moore’s shots straight to the bank. Growing up in Lawrenceville, Moore became one of the greatest women’s players in NCAA basketball history at the University of Connecticut, where she was on the losing side only four times. Now she’s with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx.

“I was in a special generation,” she says, “growing up watching WNBA and NBA players. I admired Cynthia Cooper and Michael Jordan.”

Moore is the first female sponsored by the venerable Jordan Brand. “I haven’t played one-on-one with him,” she says, but at one of his basketball camps they played two-on-two with kids. “I don’t think we were necessarily keeping score, but he kept picking the kids who were playing the best.”

According to ESPN’s Sport Science program, Moore can make a claim Jordan can’t: Her hands are faster than a striking rattlesnake. There’s something Jordanesque she hasn’t done, though: “I dunk once in a while in practice, but I still haven’t gotten one off in the game. It could happen this summer.” 

Photography by Howard C. Smith /
International Sports Images

Kelley O’Hara
Hometown: Peachtree City

Sport: Soccer

O’Hara, twenty-four, grew up participating in triathlons, ballet, basketball, softball, and even some table tennis around Peachtree City. Her dad played football at Navy, and her mom was a gymnast at Ohio State, but neither parent had ever played soccer.

O’Hara didn’t take the sport seriously herself until her sophomore year at Starr’s Mill. “I realized I loved it,” she says, “when I got cut from a regional team. It was the first time I’d ever been cut from something. So I quit basketball and committed.

“I remember my first soccer practice ever,” she says. “I was four. The coach was like, ‘Today we’re going to learn how to dribble.’ I was like, ‘I thought you couldn’t use your hands in soccer!’” By the time she was eight, O’Hara was playing club soccer, eventually for Atlanta’s elite Concorde Fire team. She signed with the Atlanta Beat earlier this year, before Women’s Professional Soccer suspended its 2012 season. After the Olympics, she may play overseas.

She regrets missing the 1996 Olympics. “I didn’t go to one event,” she says. “My parents thought it was too crazy with kids, and then the bomb went off. I can’t believe it was in my backyard.”

Photography by Howard C. Smith /
International Sports Images

Eric Shanteau
Hometown: Lilburn

Sport: Swimming

Shanteau, twenty-eight, started swimming when he was three, at a neighbor’s pool in Lilburn. He joined the Four Winds summer team at five, SwimAtlanta at six. On his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, he failed to get his mile swim badge because he left his swim buddy behind. “The instructor made an example of me,” he says.

In Beijing he barely missed the medal round for the 200 breaststroke, clocking a personal best just weeks after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Now in remission—he delayed surgery until after the 2008 Olympics and is now an advocate for cancer awareness—he owns the American record in the 100 and 200 breast.

Breaststrokers are the weirdest type of specialized swimmers, he says. “You’ll hear that around the swimming deck. We have the feet that stick straight out—which you want—and we’re more muscular. I’m terrible on dry land, though.”

People always ask if Shanteau can beat Michael Phelps. His reply? “I can honestly say, ‘I can . . . swimming breaststroke.’”

Four More to Watch
  • Eric Hurd of Woodstock, twenty-six, and Jeff Larimer of Marietta, thirty-one, are set to make their Olympic debut in the men’s double canoe in London. Both of their fathers trained for the same event twenty years ago. — Cassie Kaye
  • De’Hashia (Dee Dee) Trotter, twenty-nine, from Decatur, runs the 400 meter. A 2004 Olympic gold medalist, she qualified for Beijing despite a chipped bone, but missed the finals. — C.K.
  • Christian Taylor, twenty-two, from Fayetteville, likes joking around at the start of the triple jump: “Sometimes it works in my favor,” says the first-time Olympian, “because it distracts people. Other times it relaxes them. For better or worse, I’m the funny guy.” — C.B.