Athletes from NJ competing in Tokyo Olympic Games 2021
After the pandemic sidelined world-class athletes in 2020, at least 18 Olympic contenders with New Jersey roots have qualified for the Tokyo Olympic games.
Some are returning after an appearance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016 — while others find themselves in their first Olympics.
Here's the roundup of contenders as grouped by sport, with the opening ceremony set for July 23.
Track & field
By the time the Dunellen native had graduated Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains in 2017, she had already visited Rio as part of her first Team USA experience. Ahead of Tokyo, McLaughlin, now 21, shattered the world record for 400-meter hurdles, as the first woman to clock in under 52 seconds (at 51.9 seconds).
The 19-year-old Trenton resident is Tokyo-bound, after setting an Olympic Trials record of 1:56.0 in the women’s 800-meter. Mu already is considered a star at Texas A&M University, after just one year on her school's track team.
Orji has taken triple jumping to new heights in New Jersey, setting a state record as a Mount Olive High School senior in 2014. She credits youth participation in gymnastics in part for her early success in track and field, according to her Team USA bio.
Not a bad Olympic debut for the Voorhees native in 2016, as she and her team won a gold medal in the 4 x 100 relay in Rio de Janeiro. Gardner, a 2009 grad of Eastern Regional High School got her start in Carl Lewis’ NJ track club when she was 12.
The Toms River native and current resident is an MLB veteran, having played for the Mets, Yankees, Rangers, White Sox and Reds. He was designated for assignment by the Pirates in May and has been buzzing with excitement on social media about being part of Team USA in Tokyo.
With two gold medals to her name, the native of Delran (and pro player with the NJ/NY Gotham FC) is poised for her fourth summer Olympics.
Just like her teammate, This is Heath's fourth summer Olympics, with two gold medals already to her name. Heath grew up in the Basking Ridge section of Bernards Township and graduated from Ridge High School (Class of 2006).
The alum of Piscataway High School went to his first Olympics in 2016 and now is headed to Tokyo. "Although the last 5 years have been full of chaos and uncertainty, it made me realize how much I actually love the journey," Brown wrote on Instagram after qualifying in June.
Wozniak grew up in the Avenel section of Woodbridge, graduating from Colonia High School. She competed at the London Olympics in 2012 and took a bronze medal at the Rio games in 2016. During the height of the pandemic, her training including backyard drills in Jersey City — which paid off as she is headed to compete in Tokyo.
The Wayne native was the first high school fencer in New Jersey to win four consecutive state championships. From Wayne Valley High School, Russo became a standout at Notre Dame University and now heads to Tokyo, as replacement athlete for women’s saber.
The Teaneck native and current NJIT undergrad student was a member of the 2019 U.S. saber team and heads to his first Olympic games as replacement athlete for the U.S. Men’s Saber Team in Tokyo.
The West Orange resident and graduate of Montclair High School qualified for the Team USA roster in May. He was temporarily suspended but then cleared to compete in Tokyo, as the U.S. Center for SafeSport probed allegations of misconduct, Montclair Local reported.
The Fair Lawn native who trains in Princeton returns to the Olympics as a duo with Megan Kalmoe, after first making it to the Rio summer games in 2016.
Her current ties to training in Princeton are enough for NJ fans to root for Kohler, though she's a California Girl by birth.
Reckford's hometown was the Short Hills section of Millburn, before she was off, out-of-state to master rowing while attending Phillips Exeter Academy and then Dartmouth College. Her grandfather, Bill Spencer, was a two-time Olympian and longtime coach for team USA in Biathlon.
Pearson has hometown ties to both the New Vernon section of Harding Township, as well as Spring Lake in Monmouth County. The 27-year-old attended Delbarton School while growing up as a runner, competitive swimmer and ocean lifeguard.
SIDELINED by injury in 2021
The Old Bridge native and two-time Olympic medal winning gymnast (silver, bronze) had been set on another summer games, this time in Tokyo. But she withdrew from competition in early June, after "hyperextending her left knee" in warm-ups, according to USA Gymnastics. After an on-camera appearance during the NBC Olympic trials, fans have been lobbying to see more of the 21-year-old Hernandez as a commentator.