High Five Sports Wisconsin

Five Wisconsinites to Watch at the Paris Olympics

these Badger State athletes will compete on the world stage this summer

Tom Giffey |

Team USA will include several dozen Olympians and Paralympians with Wisconsin ties who will compete for glory this summer in Paris in sports as varied as swimming, sailing, and wheelchair basketball. Here are five of the most notable, including a few with connections to the Chippewa Valley:

Mary Theisen-Lappen (Photo via USA Weightlifting)
Mary Theisen-Lappen (Photo via USA Weightlifting)

1. Mary Theisen-Lappen • Weightlifting

For Chippewa Valley native Mary Theisen-Lappen, getting to the Summer Olympics was a big lift – literally. The Fall Creek native excelled at three sports at Regis High School in Eau Claire before becoming an All-American track and field athlete in shot put, discuss, and hammer throw at Indiana State University (where she graduated in 2014). A few years later, as a track and field coach at UW-Oshkosh, she pivoted her own competitive energy toward weightlifting, and quickly excelled: She’s won five international competitions, earning two gold medals at the Pan American Games and a silver medal at the International Weightlifting Championships last year. At the latter competition in Saudi Arabia, she lifted 117 kg (258 lbs) in the snatch and 160 kg (353 lbs) in the clean and jerk. Three years ago at age 30, Theisen-Lappen quit her coaching job to train full-time in Indiana, and now she’s one of only three American women weightlifters on Team USA. She’s ranked fifth in the world in her weight class (+81 kg), so she’s got a good shot at a medal. “If you had asked me a year ago, I probably would have said, if I made the team, (Olympics) would be my last meet,” she said in an interview published by Team USA. “But if I’m still getting better, I probably don’t think I’ll be done.”

Kennty Bednarek, center, competed in the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. (Filip Bossuyt | CC BY 2.0)
Kenny Bednarek, center, competed in the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. (Filip Bossuyt | CC BY 2.0)

2. Kenny Bednarek • Track and Field

Rice Lake native Kenny Bednarek will compete in his second Summer Olympics in Paris, having raced to the silver medal in the 200-meter event three years ago at the Tokyo Games. This time, he’ll be running in the 100-meter race, having set a personal best of 9.87 seconds at the U.S. Olympic Trials in late June. Bednarek, 25, was a standout athlete at Rice Lake High School (he still holds state records) and competed briefly for Indian Hills Community College in Iowa before going pro in 2019. “Understand this: I’m healthy, I’m focused, & that is dangerous,” the 25-year-old said on social media after qualifying in the 100 meters. “Try to keep up.”

Tyrese Haliuburton (Photo via USA Basketball)
Tyrese Haliuburton (Photo via USA Basketball)

3. Tyrese Haliburton • Basketball

He may be a two-time All-Star for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, but 24-year-old Tyrese Haliburton first became a hoops star playing for Oshkosh North High School. He led the Spartans to a WIAA State Championship in 2018, then went on to be a star at Iowa State before being picked in the first round of the NBA Draft in 2020. While this will be his first Olympics, the 6-foot, 5-inch guard has represented the United States in international competition in the past, including at last year’s FIBA World Cup. This summer, he’ll be playing on a squad with legends like LeBron James and Steph Curry to try to bring a fifth-consecutive gold medal home for the Red, White, and Blue.


Rose Lavelle as a member of Team USA. (Jamie Smed | CC BY 2.0)
Rose Lavelle as a member of Team USA. (Jamie Smed | CC BY 2.0)

4. Rose Lavelle • Soccer

An Ohio native, Rose Lavelle was a four-year starter – and a four-year First Team All-Big Ten selection – for the Wisconsin Badgers (2013-16). She’s a returning member of the Olympic team, having been part of the bronze medal-winning squad in Tokyo. The midfielder currently plays for the NY/NJ Gotham FC in the National Women’s Soccer League. Lavelle, 29, is accustomed to a big stage: She was part of the World Cup-winning U.S. squad in 2019 as well as the 2023 team, which was eliminated in the round of 16. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but it’s something to learn from,” Lavelle said a recent interview. “I think that’s the reality of sports and it’s how you respond to that. The older players that were on the team before really helped teach me how to grow and learn through that. I can use that experience to help the next group of younger players do the same thing.”

Payton Jacobson (Photo via USA Wrestling)
Payton Jacobson (Photo via Northern Michigan University)

5. Payton Jacobson • Wrestling

While he’s named after football legend Walter Payton, Elkhorn’s Payton Jacobson’s sport of choice is wrestling – specifically, Greco-Roman wrestling. The 21 year old will compete in the 87 kg event in Paris. He’s already been a champion on the international level before, having won gold at the U20 World Team Trials and a bronze at the U23 trials, both in 2022. While he wrestled folkstyle (the more common style of high school and collegiate wrestling) at Elkhorn High School, he got hooked on the more ancient form of the sport and joined the Greco-Roman training program at Northern Michigan. Jacobson tries to live up to his NFL namesake’s famous training regimen. “You know the story about him running up the hills? That’s how I used to train. Lately I’ve been doing that as well. I kind of live in the name,” he said in an interview with Olympics.com.

For a running list of athletes with Wisconsin ties competing in this year’s Summer Olympics, check out this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel