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Kansas Memory Blog

Kansas Olympians

Posted by Megan Rohleder on Aug 2, 2021

By: Ethan Anderson, Government Records Archivist

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in full swing, we decided to take a look at some past Kansans who have left their marks on the Olympic Games. By our estimates, 76 Kansans have competed in the Summer Olympics, winning a total of 39 gold medals, 14 silver medals, and 13 bronze medals in events from basketball to swimming to weightlifting. Here are a few notable athletes from previous Olympic Games:


Josiah McCracken (front row, second from the right, holding a football) grew up in Garnett and briefly attended Cooper Memorial College, now Sterling College, before competing in the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. A devout Presbyterian, Josiah refused to compete in any events held on Sunday. He nevertheless managed to win the silver medal in shot put and the bronze medal in the hammer throw. (1) 

Wilson native John Kuck participated in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He not only won the gold medal in the shot put, but he broke the world record by nearly 13 inches – all while competing on a broken left ankle! (2)

From Jim Ryun to Wes Santee, Kansas has produced a number of phenomenal middle-distance runners. Glenn Cunningham of Elkhart was arguably the best ever. Glenn competed in the 1500-meter run in both the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles and the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. He finished fourth in 1932 but captured the silver medal four years later behind Jack Lovelock of New Zealand, whose winning time set a world record. (3)

Ten athletes with ties to the Sunflower State are competing in this year’s Summer Olympics:

Michael Andrew, Swimming – 50m Freestyle, 100m Breaststroke, 200m Individual Medley

Christina Clemons, Track & Field – 100m Hurdles

Mason Finley, Track & Field – Discuss

Adrianna Franch, Soccer

Bryce Hoppel, Track & Field – 800m Run

Derrick Mein, Trap Shooting

Bubba Starling, Baseball

Kelsey Stewart, Softball

Aliphine Tulimuk, Marathon

Leanne Wong, Gymnastics (4)

The last time the Summer Olympics were held in Tokyo, 1964, Haskell Institute and University of Kansas alum Billy Mills pulled off a shocking upset by winning the 10,000-meter run. Here’s hoping this year’s group of athletes perform just as well!

For more notable Kansas Olympians, see http://www.civics.ks.gov/kansas/kansans/olympic-athletes.html.



[1] French officials allowed qualifying results to count in the Sunday shot put finals, while the hammer throw finals were ultimately rescheduled for Monday. McCracken also finished 10th in the discus. Kenneth Wiggins Porter, ed., “College Days at Cooper Memorial, 1895-1898” Kansas Historical Quarterly 26, no. 4 (Winter 1960): 396; “Yankee Athletes Barred,” New York Times, July 16, 1900.

[2] “John Kuck,” Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, https://www.kshof.org/team/john-kuck (accessed June 29, 2021).

[3] For more on Glenn Cunningham’s Olympic career, see 312382, 312415, and 312449. “Glenn Cunningham,” Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, https://www.kshof.org/team/glenn-cunningham (accessed June 29, 2021).

[4] Tod Palmer and David Medina, “Kansas City-Area Olympians Who Have Qualified for 2020 Tokyo Games,” KSHB-TV, https://www.kshb.com/sports/kansas-city-area-olympians-who-have-qualified-for-2020-tokyo-games (accessed July 6, 2021); Sophia Lacy, “Olympians with KC Connections to Watch for at the 2021 Tokyo Games,” Kansas City, https://www.kansascitymag.com/olympians-with-kc-connections-to-watch-for-at-the-2021-tokyo-games/ (accessed June 29, 2021).  

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