With the announcement of the FIL receiving provisional recognition by the International Olympic Committee, it left us with many questions. And the most important question of them all was, which top Olympic athletes of all-time would make for the best lineup on the lacrosse field at the grandest of all sporting events? Here’s the criteria:
- The athlete must have competed in at least one Olympics in another sport, whether it be the Winter or Summer Games to qualify.
- We are assuming that lacrosse will be a 6-on-6 competition at the Olympics, and as a result we have chosen our top-six players.
So, those are the rules! Let’s dive in.
Olympic Lacrosse Roster Picks
Pick No. 1: Michael Phelps, Swimming
As if you were expecting someone else to be our top choice. Why did we pick Phelps? Let’s start with his freakish-athletic ability. Standing at 6-foot 4-inches and nearly 200 pounds, Phelps has the build of an NFL wide receiver and an impressive 6-foot 7-inch wingspan that could certainly generate some torque in his shooting motion. Combine that with the insane physical condition he was in to compete in numerous events at the same Olympics, and we have ourselves a physical specimen unlike any other seen in the sport.
And don’t even get us going on his winning pedigree. He is the most decorated Olympic athlete ever, and knows how to win. That kind of influence on the culture of the team is irreplaceable, and can help the rest of the team with the proper mindset moving into competition.
Pick No. 2: Kerri Strug, Gymnastics
Who said anything about this list being only men? Kerri Strug showed us at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta that she has the grit and fortitude to perform under the toughest circumstances.
For those who have forgotten, Strug had just taken her first vault, with the gold medal on the line for the United States, as the Soviets currently held the lead in the team competition. It was an event they had dominated for decades. On the vault, she appeared to have twisted her ankle and limped back to the start of the runway with a final shot at getting a satisfactory score. It was history in the making.
She stuck the landing, and got a score that got the U.S. the gold medal. However, in doing so she severely injured her ankle, and was taken to the hospital for a third-degree lateral sprain along with tendon damage.
That kind of get-it-done attitude is exactly what any team competing at this level needs. She would be the kind of hustle player that can cause problems on the defensive end and disrupt an offense.
Pick No. 3: Sarah Hughes, Ice Skating
Big-time performers come up in big-time moments. And Sarah Hughes is no exception. At the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Hughes was an underdog against the likes of some of her competition, but gave the performance of a lifetime to capture the gold medal ahead of figure-skating favorites Michelle Kwan and Irina Slutskaya. She was certainly one of the biggest clutch performers at the Olympics.
Every team needs a finisher when the game gets tight. Based on Hughes’ track record, I’m going with her as the clock winds down. She can make magic happen when the odds are stacked against her.
Pick No. 4: Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Boxing
‘The Greatest’ was one of the greatest competitors of the 20th century. Why pick Ali? Because his physical presence on the defensive end would be a nightmare for any opposing attacker. While his style might be best suited for box lacrosse, he would be successful at the Olympic level as a lockdown defender and punishing enforcer. I would plant him on the inside as a slide and would dare for people to try coming through the middle.
If things got chippy, he’s also the first guy I want out there backing the rest of the team up. You don’t have one of the greatest legacies in boxing and not take advantage of it.
Pick No. 5: Jim Thorpe, Track and Field
Jim Thorpe was dominant in the 1912 Olympics, winning four out of five events at the pentathlon. According to NBC Sports, the only event he didn’t win was the javelin throw. Why? Because he had never thrown a javelin before. And guess what. He took third anyway.
Doubting that Thorpe had ever played lacrosse before, having that kind of ability to adapt to a new game is something that would be crucial moving into the Olympics, depending on the amount of prep time that these athletes that are new to the sport would have.
Pick No. 6: Ma Long, Table Tennis
What kind of business does a table tennis player have on an Olympic-level lacrosse team? Let me explain my thought process.
Ma Long is currently ranked No. 11 in the world and took home the gold at the last Olympics in Rio. The kind of hand-eye coordination and reflexes that you need at table tennis would translate incredibly well into the goalie position in lacrosse. The fact that a lacrosse ball is like 5-6 times bigger than a ping-pong ball without any spin on it would be like watching a snail come at you from one hundred yards away. Nothing is going to get by this guy.
Coach: Herb Brooks, 1980 U.S. Men’s Hockey
One of the all-time greatest coaches in U.S. history is our selection for who would lead this team into battle. To do what he did with the talent that he had against the most dominant team in the Soviets that the world had ever seen was nothing short of, well … a miracle.
Those are our selections! Who would you pick? Tell us in the comments or on social media!