CHICAGO, Ill. – The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and Allstate Insurance Company (NYSE: ALL) today announced the nominees for the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame Class of 2009 at a press event at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.
Among the 15 nominees were Olympic wrestling champions John Smith and Jeff Blatnick.
Smith won Olympic gold medals in freestyle wrestling in 1988 and 1992. Blatnick was a 1984 Olympic champion in Greco-Roman and a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team that did not compete due to the U.S. boycott.
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Wrestling has been one of the most successful of all U.S. Olympic sports, yet only Dan Gable and Bruce Baumgartner have been inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Help recognize our wrestling greats by voting today!!!!
John Smith biography
Olympic wrestler John Smith is a four-time World Champion and a two-time Olympic Champion. He won gold medals in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games in the featherweight division and is also a two-time Pan American gold medalist (1987 and 1991). He was the first wrestler ever to win the James E. Sullivan Award and was named the U.S. Olympic Committee SportsMan of the Year in 1990. At the Centennial Olympic Games, Smith was named one of the 100 Greatest Olympians of All-Time.
Currently, Smith is the head wrestling coach at Oklahoma State University. In addition to his career as a wrestler, he is a five-time NCAA champion coach and a seven-time Big 12 Coach of the Year. He is also Oklahoma State’s All-Time Winningest coach. Smith was the head coach of the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team in 2000, the head coach of the U.S. World Championships Team in 1988 and the head coach of the USA World Cup Team in 1997.
* Went six straight years as World or Olympic Champion, from 1987-1992, with his Olympic titles coming in 1988 and 1992
* Only one of three U.S. wrestlers to win two career Olympic gold medals
* Was the second youngest American to win a World title at the age of 21
* Named a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame (inducted in 1997), a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame (inducted in 1997) and a member of the NCAA 75th Anniversary Team (2005)
* Was the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team Coach for men’s freestyle wrestling
Jeff Blatnick biography
As a cancer survivor, Jeff Blatnick won a 1984 Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling two years after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. For his efforts, the U.S. Olympic Team designated Blatnick as the flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony at the Los Angeles Games. Blatnick, who topped the 130 kg weight class, became the second U.S. Greco-Roman wrestler to ever capture Olympic gold.
Prior to his Los Angeles triumph, Blatnick won 10 National Championships and qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games but did not compete due to the U.S. boycott. He also won a New York state high school heavyweight wrestling title and back-to-back NCAA Division II Championships at Springfield (Mass.) College in 1978-79.
* 1984 Olympic gold medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling at 130 kg
* U.S. Flag Bearer for Closing Ceremony at 1984 Olympic Games
* National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Class of 1999
* Covered five Olympic Games as an NBC commentator
* Former member of the Board of Directors of USA Wrestling
The nominees were unveiled Thursday at an event headlined by Allstate chairman, president and chief executive officer, Tom Wilson, along with USOC acting CEO Stephanie Streeter, Chicago 2016 chairman and CEO Patrick Ryan, and U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member John Naber.
“The U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame celebrates our honorees’ commitment to excellence and recognizes Americans who are role models and heroes,” Wilson said. “Each of us can find strength, passion and inspiration in these ordinary people who achieved extraordinary success in the Olympics. They help make us proud to be Americans.”
From now through June 16, fans can cast their votes for the 2009 class of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame online at www.teamusa.org. The inducted class will include five individuals, one team and one Paralympian, as well as three additional individuals: a coach, veteran and special contributor. The inductees will be revealed in early July and will be honored at a black-tie induction ceremony on August 12 at McCormick Place in Chicago. The U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame presented by Allstate is the only national sports Hall of Fame that includes fan voting.
“The U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame honors Olympic and Paralympic legends who have inspired our country for generations, uniting us behind Team USA and giving us role models who epitomize the Olympic Ideals,” Streeter said. “Allstate’s generous support of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and dedication to celebrating the accomplishments of America’s Olympic and Paralympic greats further illustrates their commitment to the Olympic Movement and America’s athletes.”
The August 12 induction ceremony will honor the 2009 U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame class and introduce a new international award – the Olive Branch Award – given to an individual or individuals who best represent the international ideals of the Olympic Games by working to build a peaceful and better world through sport. Also new to 2009, the induction ceremony will feature a special fundraising banquet to benefit Chicago 2016, Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“We are very excited for the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame presented by Allstate to return to Chicago for the fourth time,” Ryan said. “Chicago is a city that truly embraces the Olympic Movement, and to have a Chicago company like Allstate involved in celebrating historic Olympic and Paralympic achievements showcases the broad support our city has for the movement.”
Nominees for the induction class of 2009 were selected by a 10-person nominating committee consisting of athletes, members of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, historians and USOC representatives. Fans can vote by visiting www.teamusa.org.
The Nominees Are:
* John Smith, wrestling
* Jeff Blatnick, wrestling
* Greg Barton, canoe/kayak
* Valerie Brisco-Hooks, athletics
* Tracie Ruiz-Conforto, synchronized swimming
* Teresa Edwards, basketball
* Gary Hall, Sr., swimming
* Michael Johnson, athletics
* Mary T. Meagher, swimming
* Sheila Young Ochowicz, speedskating
* Darrell Pace, archery
* Terry Schroeder, water polo
* Picabo Street, alpine skiing
* Peter Westbrook, fencing
* Willye White, athletics
* Jean Driscoll, athletics
* David Larson, athletics
* Greg Mannino, alpine skiing
* Tony Volpentest, athletics
* Sarah Will, alpine skiing
1976 U.S. Women’s 4×100 Freestyle Relay Team
1992 U.S. Men’s Basketball Team
1996 U.S. Synchronized Swimming Team
1998 U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team
2002 U.S. Women’s Bobsled Team
by Gary Abbott