With wonderful weather all year round and impressive sports facilities like Nathan Benderson Park, Selby Aquatic Center and IMG Academy, the Sarasota region is fertile ground for athletes. Former Major League pitcher Bobby Seay, a Sarasota high school graduate, won Olympic gold in 2000 while playing baseball for the United States team. Tripp Schwenk, a former Sarasota Sharks swimmer, is a two-time Olympian, winning gold and silver in 1996. Tennis star Maria Sharapova, who owns a home on Longboat Key and trained at IMG , won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics.

And this year at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, we have four local athletes competing: skateboarder Jake Ilardi, swimmer Emma Weyant, rifle shooter Mary Tucker and rower Clark Dean.

The Tokyo Games will be marked by many firsts, but for the first time skateboarding will make its Olympic debut. Jake Ilardi, 24, grew up in Osprey, where he trained on the streets and in parks, including Sarasota’s Payne Park. Ilardi recently claimed his place on the US Olympic Skateboarding Team through his performance at the World Street Skateboarding Championships in Rome, Italy. It ranks seventh in the world and second in the United States. It will put Sarasota in the spotlight, competing in the street category for the American team.

Swimmer Emma Weyant, 19, graduated from Riverview High School, where she was a consistent winner for the team. She postponed her enrollment at the University of Virginia last year to train with the Sarasota Sharks and secured her Olympic spot after winning the 400 IM at the US Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska this month.

Clark Dean, a 21-year-old Harvard University rower, was a Pine View student and the former captain of the Sarasota Crew club. Dean will compete in the four-man this summer for Team USA.

Mary Tucker, a graduate of the Sarasota Military Academy, also joins the local team. Tucker competes in rifle shooting and will be competing in two events in Tokyo this summer: air rifle and three positions. Tucker is in his second year at the University of Kentucky.

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Cory E. Barnes

The author Cory E. Barnes

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