OLYMPICS: Four Cyclones head to London for 2012 Olympics

Iowa State’s Ian Warner and Washington’s James Alaka participate in the 100-meter dash. Warner placed fifth in his heat Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at Drake Stadium. 

Alex Halsted

The ultimate test. The pinnacle of an athletic career. For many athletes the Olympics are the dream of a lifetime, something they work toward from the time they first step foot on the court, field, track or other area of competition. From the Opening Ceremonies to the games themselves, many athletes often struggle to pinpoint an explanation of how special the moment is to represent their country, and with it often times their school, family and other supporters.

Since 1928 when four ISU athletes qualified for that year’s Olympics in Amsterdam, over 70 times and in 17 different Olympic Games an ISU athlete or coach has taken part. Many have brought home gold for their country and at the same time have been representatives of Iowa State.

This year, as the Olympics kick off in London, four Cyclones — three former and one current — have qualified. Over the next several days, they will attempt to add their names to the list of ISU athletes who have won gold. No matter what, they have already placed their name on the short list of those who have had the chance to chase that feat.

Lisa Uhl

Lisa Koll won four Big 12 Championships and another four national championships on the track during her time as a Cyclone. While at Iowa State, Koll became one of the best ISU athletes of all time, setting school records seemingly with every lap.

Now she is Lisa Uhl, after she married former ISU runner Kiel Uhl. But today, at 24 years old, Uhl is still chasing her dream as she heads to London for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Uhl, a native of Fort Dodge, Iowa, headed to Eugene, Ore., in late June to attempt to qualify for the Olympics. With rain and a shoe issue, Uhl battled more than just the competitive field for her shot at making her first Olympics.

Just four laps into the 10,000-meter, 25-lap race, Uhl’s shoelace came untied. She pulled to the side, tied it and began playing catch up. With a time of 32:03.46, Uhl officially joined the U.S. Olympic track team and added yet another accomplishment to her long list.

Ian Warner

Ian Warner has been running all his life. Growing up, he and his older brother Justyn would play games in the cul-de-sac near their house. Now, the two will be able to compete together yet again, only this time it’ll be at the Olympic Games.

Ian, a senior next season, earned All-Big 12 honors during the 2011-12 indoor season after finishing third in the 60-meter dash and seventh in the 200-meter dash at the 2012 Big 12 Indoor Championships. During the outdoor season, Ian qualified for the NCAA Championships in June, finishing 15th in the nation with a time of 10.24 seconds.

On June 29, Ian and Justyn, natives of Markham, Ontario, competed in the Canadian Olympics Trials. It was here the two would make their dreams reality.

Justyn, with a time of 10.15 seconds, finished first, ahead of Ian, who finished second with a time of 10.20 seconds, just .02 seconds off the Olympic “A” standard time of 10.18.

Ian would not qualify for the 100-meter dash at the 2012 Olympics with his brother, but his time put him in the Olympics nonetheless as the current Cyclone joined his brother on the Canadian team in the 4×100-meter relay team headed to London.

Guor Marial

Guor Marial was a teenager when he found refuge in the United States. After 28 members of his family died in the Sudan civil war and after he ran for his life to escape imprisonment, Marial found home in the United States.

In 2011, Marial graduated from Iowa State, where he had been a cross-country runner. During his time as a Cyclone, Marial became an All-American runner.

Now 28 years old, Marial has had aspirations of running in the marathon at the Olympics. In a marathon in June in San Diego, Marial ran a time of two hours, 12 minutes and 55 seconds. But after what has happened in Marial’s life, he rejected Sudan’s offer to run under its flag. His Olympic dreams appeared lost.

In late July though, the International Olympic Committee cleared Marial to compete at the 2012 Olympics in London independently under the Olympic flag.

Marial is now headed to the Olympics, where he will compete in the marathon, representing the people of his country and Iowa State along the way.

Jake Varner

The name Jake Varner can be put with some of the greatest wrestlers in ISU history. After all, during his four years as a Cyclone, Varner earned enough accolades to deserve the honor.

Varner was a four time All-American, a four time NCAA finalist, and a two time NCAA Champion in his time on the mat at Iowa State. During that period, Varner was coached by Cael Sanderson, who himself went undefeated in his college career and won Olympic gold in 2004.

When Sanderson left Iowa State, Varner went with to train alongside his college coach as he attempted to earn on a spot in the Olympics for the United States. Last spring Varner did just that, qualifying for the U.S freestyle team.

As Varner takes the mat in London, he’ll be the 14th Cyclone to wrestle freestyle in the Olympics, and he will be hoping to become the sixth Cyclone to win gold, joining Glen Brand, Dan Gable, Ben Peterson, Kevin Jackson and his coach, Sanderson.