U High grad, Olympian Nnamani 'bummed' about 2016 Olympic news

2009-10-02T23:55:00Z U High grad, Olympian Nnamani 'bummed' about 2016 Olympic newsBy Randy Kindred | rkindred@pantagraph.com pantagraph.com

Ogonna Nnamani awoke with some nervous energy Friday at her Bloomington home.

The two-time Olympian eagerly awaited word from Copenhagen, where the International Olympic Committee was voting on the host city for the 2016 Summer Games.

When the news came, the energy went away. Chicago had finished fourth behind Tokyo, Madrid and ultimate winner Rio de Janeiro.

"I was really bummed. I was just sad," said Nnamani, the former University High School volleyball star who played for Team USA at Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.

"It would have been amazing (in Chicago). I was excited because it would be in my backyard. Whether I would have been competing in it or just a spectator, it would have been great to have the Olympics come together in my home state and our home country."

Instead, Chicago was the first of the four finalists to be eliminated in the voting.

Many considered Chicago and Rio de Janeiro to be the favorites, and Nnamani said, "I really believed (Chicago) had a good chance."

"I thought they did a phenomenal job of mapping out their plans. They also tried to reach out to a number of delegates and did a lot of work overseas," she said. "I would think there are no regrets. It's frustrating, but on the other hand, they should be proud.

"The good thing is it's still the Olympics. It's still an event where the whole world comes together. The athletes from the U.S. will still have a chance to compete."

Nnamani will be 33 in 2016. She hopes to play in the 2012 Olympics in London, but the Stanford University graduate also is eager to begin medical school. She said sees herself as "more of a spectator" by 2016.

At 29, Bloomington High School graduate Christin Wurth-Thomas is among the world's top distance runners and was rooting for Chicago.

She competed for Team USA in the 1,500-meter run at the 2008 Olympics and plans to continue running at an elite level at least through 2012.

"I don't know how much longer after that," Wurth-Thomas said, shortly after arriving in North Carolina for a Nike appearance. "If Chicago would have gotten it, I would have tried for Chicago. It would have been cool to compete in front of a home crowd."

Wurth-Thomas said the fact South America has never hosted an Olympics may have swung the vote toward Rio.

She said the decision will not "make or break" how long she competes, but added, "Would it have been nice to not have to travel so far (for an Olympics)? Yes. I would have loved that."

Mason City native Vic Wunderle was hopeful as well, and was in Chicago's Daley Plaza on Friday. The three-time Olympic archer said the reaction there was "shock and disbelief."

"I don't think anybody thought Chicago would be eliminated in the first round," Wunderle said. "It was a lifetime dream of mine to have the Olympics in my home state. It would have been the pinnacle of my career to have the Olympics in Chicago."

Wunderle, 33, praised Chicago's efforts, saying the people there "worked very hard to put this bid together."

"When you're dealing with something in which is there is so much to lose and to gain, I think politics play a huge role in the decision making process," he said. "I hope it's a fantastic Olympics. We just have to make the best of it."

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