18 military service members participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics

These athletes protect and represent our country and deserve all the recognition they can get during the 2016 Olympic Games


The Olympics are a fun worldwide event, and the perfect outlet for patriotism. Many athletes become household names whenever the Olympics come around. But it’s easy to overlook some Rio Olympians who represent our country even when the games aren’t in session – these 18 athletes are also U.S. military service members, heroes in real life and in sports. 

1. 2nd Lt. David Higgins
Event: 50m rifle prone

Higgins attended the United States Air Force Academy and then decided to cross-commission into the United States Marine Corps. Higgins shoots professionally and qualified for the Olympics this year and is representing Team USA as well as the U.S. Marine Corps on the rifle shooting team.

Olympic rings (Photo/Wikimedia)
Olympic rings (Photo/Wikimedia)

2. Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson
Event: 25-meter rapid fire pistol 

Sanderson is a two-time U.S. Olympic Team member and has been on numerous U.S. world teams. He started his military career as a Marine for eight years before deciding to switch over to the Army Reserves.

3. Spc. Dan Lowe
Events: 10m air rifle, 50m rifle three position and 50m rifle prone 

Lowe grew up in a military family and started shooting when he was 11. Now, he is a specialist in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and instructs civilians and other soldiers on marksmanship. This is Lowe’s first Olympic appearance. 

4. Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail
Event: 50m rifle prone

McPhail served as a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. He competed on Team USA in the 2012 Olympics and will be representing the U.S. again this year on the rifle shooting team. 

5. Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller
Event: Double trap

Sgt. Walton Glenn Eller III is a shotgun shooter with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and the U.S. Olympic Team. He is a 2008 Olympic gold medalist and a previous member of many U.S. world teams. 

6. Staff Sgt. Josh Richmond
Event: Double trap

Richmond has been in the Army since 2004 and worked his way up to an assignment with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. Richmond was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and also participated in the 2012 London Olympics. 

7. Sgt. Derek Haldeman
Event: Double trap

Haldeman is a sergeant in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. He earned a silver medal in the qualifying competition to solidify his first Olympic appearance in 2016. 

8. Vincent Hancock
Event: Skeet

Hancock also served in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. He is a 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist, a world record holder and a decorated soldier. He’s earned the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Distinguished International Shooter Badge and Accessions Support Brigade Soldier of the Quarter.

9. Staff Sgt. John Nunn
Event: 50K race walk

Nunn is a soldier in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, a detachment of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation division. This will be Nunn’s third appearance in the Olympics. 

10. 1st Lt. Cale Simmons
Event: Pole vault

Simmons comes from an Air Force family – his brother is a first lieutenant in the Air Force and a C-17 pilot, and his sister is an Air Force captain. He cleared the bar at 5.65 meters in the men's pole vault finals on July 4, which secured him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the first time. 

11. 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks
Event: Pole vault

Kendricks is scheduled to attend the Basic Officer Leadership Course in October, following his Olympic competition. He is currently an Army 2nd Lt. with aspirations of claiming a spot in the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. Kendricks won a spot on the U.S. Olympic pole vaulting team on July 4, when he cleared the bar at 5.91 meters, an Olympic trials record. 

12. Spc. Leonard Korir
Event: 10,000m run

Korir is a motor transport operator and distance runner in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. Korir clinched third place in his qualifying race by more than half a minute. He has been enlisted in the Army since 2015. 

13. Spc. Shadrack Kipchirchir
Event: 10,000m run

Kipchirchir is a financial management tech and distance runner in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program who specializes in the 10,000 meters. Kipchirchir ran at Oklahoma State before enlisting in the Army in 2014. 

14. Spc. Paul Chelimo
Event: 5,000m run

Also a part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, Chelimo finished third in the 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Olympic trials, qualifying him for his first Olympic appearance.

15. Sgt. Hillary Bor
Event: 3,000m steeplechase

Bor is one of three brothers enlisted in the Army, and all three brothers are a part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. He will compete in the Olympics for the first time this year. 

16. Sean Furey
Event: Javelin

Furey lives in San Diego and works as a civilian mechanical engineer with the United States Navy. He threw the javelin at Dartmouth and competed in the 2012  Olympic Games. 

17. Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher
Event: Modern pentathlon

In the modern pentathlon, athletes must compete in five events: fencing, swimming, show jumping, pistol shooting and a 3,200m cross-country run. Skirmisher, another member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, finished third at the Pan American Games in 2015 to earn his spot in the 2016 Olympics. 

Fun fact: Gen.George Patton competed in the first modern pentathlon in the 1912 Olympic Games.

18. Lt. Edward King
Event: Rowing, lightweight men’s four 

King is an active duty Navy officer. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 2011 and is BUD/S (entry- level SEAL training) qualified. King will be the first Navy rower to compete in the Olympic Games since 1988. 

Our list excludes several military coaches who are participating in the games. One notable coach, Sgt. 1st Class Joe Guzman, is coaching Team USA’s boxers. A soldier since 1999, he has been a boxing coach with the Army’s World Class Athlete Program for more than five years. 

The 2016 Summer Paralympics, the 15th Summer Paralympic Games, begin in Rio de Janeiro shortly after the Olympics events and include a number of impressive military service members as well.

One standout participant, Brad Snyder, is a former lieutenant in the Navy and served in Afghanistan as an explosive ordnance disposal officer. Snyder was blinded after stepping on an IED in an attempt to help victims of another bombing. This year he will compete in the 50-, 100- and 400-meter freestyle swimming competitions.

Be sure to root our patriots on as the 2016 Olympics unfold.

About the author

The EMS1 Lifestyle content series is written for the off-duty EMT and paramedic. Here you’ll find content on everything from the latest automotive and entertainment trends to tips and tricks for financial planning – all written from a first responder's perspective, with an eye toward what makes you unique even when you’re not at the station.

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