Three Locals, Olympic Hopefuls

In 2012, three locals recently earned Olympic sized accolades for the once every four-years competition in London.

Anna Li, Chris Derrick, and Kevin Cordes each had what it took to get noticed at trials, but their efforts were just shy of earning them a ticket across the ocean for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Anna Li shined on the UCLA College Gymnastics Team, helping them win the national title in 2010. This year, the 23-year-old Aurora native became one of 15 women competing for a spot on the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team.

Li’s several years of training paid off at the Olympic trials in San Jose. Though she did not earn a permanent spot on the team, she was named one of the three alternates. “When they said my name I was in shock, and I was thinking ‘is that me, Is that my name? Yeah!’ But we didn’t have time to soak it up in the room, we had to hurry up and go outside and everyone was waiting. When I saw confetti everywhere I realized, ‘Wow I’m going to London’,” said Li.

While practicing for the big event, Li tore a ligament in her neck and was unable to compete, but her athletic accomplishments will always be remembered across the state of Illinois, as Governor Pat Quinn named July ninth the official Anna Li Day.

As a freshman at Neuqua Valley High School, Chris Derrick only dreamed that one day he would break school records, overcome expectations of his family and coach, and even compete for a spot on the Men’s USA Olympic Track Team.

His success started in high school, finishing first in the Class 3A state meet where Neuqua won the team title.

While studying at Stanford, the runner earned a third place trophy at the NCAA meet. Enough to set him up for his first post-collegiate competition at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon.

The top three runners would make up team USA, but Derrick’s fourth place finish was one spot shy of placing him on a flight to London. However, the 10,000 meter final proved him to be one of the fastest U.S. runners this year. “I have thought about the race a fair amount since. I think there are things I could have done differently. But it’s easy to think that now, I’m not suffering right now so it’s easy to be more objective or project abilities on myself that I didn’t quite have at the time,” said Derrick.

Derrick isn’t the only Neuqua Valley grad to be noticed at the Olympic trials. Eighteen-year old Kevin Cordes swam his way to number one for several national titles as a freshman on the University of Arizona’s men’s swim team.

Cordes took a dive in the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska where he made it to the finals of the 100-meter breaststroke. “I just told myself I had nothing to lose and just go out and try and take it from those older guys. It just one race, and you go for it, and if you get it then you’re going to the Olympics,” said Cordes.

The top two swimmers made it to London, but Cordes came in third, missing an Olympic berth by .44 of a second. He says, that in four years, he will be ready to try again.

Anna Li could follow in her parents’ footsteps by becoming a coach, and has a new found love for dance. Chris Derrick, and Kevin Cordes are both looking forward to their futures as athletes and are hopeful for their chances to compete at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.


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