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Montanans in the Olympics: a look at a few of the Treasure State's best

Todd Foster
Posted at 4:18 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 18:09:02-04

MISSOULA — At long last, the 2020 Summer Olympics begin on July 23, and Montana will be well-represented as Belgrade’s Ali Weisz, Butte’s Nick Mowrer, and Whitefish’s Nicole Heavirland each make their way to Tokyo.

Mowrer is back in the games after competing in 2012. He’ll compete in both the 10-meter pistol and the 50-meter rifle, the first time that’s been done by a U.S. Olympian. The men’s pistol even is Saturday, July 24, while the rifle event will be decided Sunday, July 25.

Weisz, a 10-meter air rifle shooter, will compete with the medal round getting started on Saturday, July 24.

Heavirland will wait until Thursday, July 29, when the Team USA women’s rugby sevens team takes on China in pool play.

The trio is just the latest in the line of Olympians with Montana roots. MTN Sports looked back at a few of the best from the Treasure State to compete in the games.

Lones Wigger, Jr. - Shooting - 1964, 1972

While Rowrer and Weisz look for success in Tokyo, one of the greatest sharpshooters in Team USA history made his name there. Lones Wigger, Jr. was born in Great Falls and grew up in nearby Carter, where he learned to shoot in the basement the Carter Community Center, according to USA Shooting. Wigger later shot for the rifle program at Montana State University and also served in the U.S. Army, retiring with the rank of Lt. Col.

Wigger was a three-time Olympic medalist. In Tokyo 1964, he won gold in the 50-meter free rifle 3x40. He also took silver in the 50-meter prone rifle that year. In 1972, Wigger reclaimed his dominance, winning gold the 300-meter free rifle.

His daughter Deena (also born in Great Falls) competed in the 1988 Olympics as a rifle shooter.

Gene Davis - Wrestling - 1976

Davis was the first great wrestler in Montana history. Davis, who grew up in Missoula, was the state's first four-time high school state champion and later became the first Montanan to win an NCAA championship. Wrestling at Oklahoma State, he was a three-time all-American and 1966 national champion.

In his post-college career, Davis claimed a bronze medal in freestyle wrestling at the 1976 Olympics, and he is still the only Montanan to win an Olympic medal in the sport.

Mary Osborne Andrews - Javelin - 1980

Andrews grew up in Billings and graduated from Billings West High School.

Andrews' decorated career included a spot on the 1980 U.S. Olympic women's javelin team and three qualifications for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1980, 1984 and 1992. Additionally, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Achievement.

She was a five-time Class AA state track and field champion for West before becoming a two-time All-American at Stanford University and a four-year captain of the track and field team. Andrews was recently the special guest at the annual Big Sky State Games in Billings.

Mary Osborne Andrews.png

Todd Foster - Boxing - 1988

A Great Falls local, Foster boxed in the welterweight division and had a standout amateur career, becoming the National Golden Gloves Light welterweight champion in 1987 and the United States Amateur Light welterweight champion in 1988. That career helped him land on the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team, where he lost in the quarterfinals, before turning pro in 1989. He won his first 22 professional bouts.

Todd Foster and Billy Wagner
Former professional boxer Todd Foster (right) looks on while Billy Wagner trains.

Dave Johnson - Decathlon - 1988, 1992

Johnson primarily grew up in Missoula before finishing high school in Corvallis, Oregon. Johnson particpated in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Though he didn’t medal in Seoul, Johnson used that experience to springboard to bronze in the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Monica Tranel - Rowing - 1996, 2000

Tranel grew up on ranches near Ashland, Miles City and Lavina. She competed in basketball and track for Billings Central in high school, but her biggest athletic achievement was competing in rowing the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. In the 1996 women’s eights, her team nearly took the bronze, which instead went to Belarus.

Tranel, who has a law degree from Rutgers, is now a lawyer in Missoula and a candidate for Montana’s recently-regained 2nd U.S. House of Representatives seat.

Levi Leipheimer - Cycling - 2008

Leipheimer was born and raised in Butte. His parents ran a sporting goods store there, and he was riding by the age of 10. Leipheimer turned professional in 1997, and raced in his first Tour de France in 2002.

In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Leipheimer took bronze in the men’s road time trial, with a time of 1h,03:21.11.

Mike Zadick - Wrestling - 2008

Zadick is originally from Great Falls and comes from the most iconic wrestling family in Montana. His father Bob was instrumental in advocating and spreading the sport throughout Montana, and brother Bill won an NCAA Division I national championship at Iowa and a gold medal at the 2006 World Championships in freestyle wrestling.

Though he didn’t quite find the same level of success at Iowa that Bill did, Mike was still a three-time NCAA all-American.

Mike was in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he lost to Vasyl Fedoryshyn from Ukraine in the 60 kg weightclass. Fedoryshyn took silver that year, but was later stripped of his medal due to doping.

Mike and Bill Zadick
Mike (left) and Bill Zadick talk to campers during an instruction session at the Zadick Bros Wrestling Camp.