N.C. Olympic heroes honored
Five prestigious awards were presented by the Triangle Sports Commission to Olympic athletes and
coaches at a North Carolina Olympic Celebration held in Cary late last month.
The LeRoy Walker Outstanding North Carolina Male and Female Olympian Awards went to Cullen Jones, who won one gold and two silver medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and Abby Johnston, a 2012 Summer Games silver medalist, respectively.
Jones, a former NC State University varsity swimmer and current Charlotte resident, was North Carolina’s most decorated Olympian at the London Games. He won gold on the Men’s 4×100 Medley Relay, silver on the Men’s 4×100 Freestyle Relay and an individual silver medal in the Men’s 50 Freestyle. This was Jones’ second LeRoy Walker Award, having captured the same trophy for his outstanding performance in the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. Jones’ second-place finish in the 50 unofficially makes him the world’s second fastest man on water. A versatile performer, Jones also gave the keynote address at the Olympic & Paralympic Athlete Reception & Banquet on Saturday, Sept. 29.
Johnston competes for the Duke Diving Team under Coach Drew Johansen, who also served as head coach for the U.S. Olympic Diving Team in London. Johnston captured the silver medal in the 10-meter Synchronized Diving event. Together with her diving partner, Johnston became the first American(s) ever to win an Olympic Synchronized Diving medal. Coach Johansen accepted the award on Johnston’s behalf.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski was awarded the first-ever Al Buehler Coaching Excellence Award. Coach K has had an unprecedented run by leading two consecutive Olympic Gold medal-winning basketball teams (Beijing and London).
Buehler, a coaching legend and the main subject of a recent film and book, “The Timeless Wisdom of Al Buehler,” told the audience that Coach K represented the United States at the highest level and in the finest way possible.
The Kay Yow Courage Award was presented by Nora Lynn Finch, associate commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference and a longtime associate and friend of the former N.C. State basketball coach who died of breast cancer. Finch indicated that this year’s award winner, Western Carolina University Assistant Track Coach Manteo Mitchell, was especially deserving, considering he ran his leg of the men’s silver-medal-winning 4×400 Relay with a broken leg but refused to stop or give up. The Hill Carrow Regional Sports Leadership Award was presented to Bridge 2 Sports, the Triangle region’s Paralympic organization and to Ashley Thomas, the organization’s executive director.