By being some of the greatest competition athletes in the world, and still remembering home. They are triathletes, basketball players, swimmers, wrestlers, cyclists and judokas. They’ve traveled the world competing for their sports, but their Chicago roots are always part of that journey.
The road to the top comes with bumps along the way. But, their city has taught them one thing: never give up on your passion. Whether they’re competing this summer, training for next time, or working hard to stay active in the sport they’ve committed their lives to, they bring it home as some of this area’s greatest athletes.
Get to know the team
Melissa represents Chicago as a three-time paratriathlon world champion, U.S. Army veteran and 2016 Paralympic hopeful. In March 2004, Melissa deployed to Baghdad, Iraq with the 1st Cavalry Division. On April 13, 2004, on a routine convoy, Melissa became the first female soldier to lose a limb in active combat when a roadside bomb hit her Humvee. Her left leg was amputated above the knee.
After a year of multiple surgeries and rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Melissa was medically retired from the Army. She was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for her courageous service. Following retirement, Melissa turned to athletics. In April 2008, she became the first Iraqi War veteran to qualify for the Paralympics as a swimmer in the 100 freestyle, 400 freestyle and the 100 butterfly and was selected to carry the American flag in the Beijing closing ceremonies.
After the 2008 games, Melissa turned to paratriathlon and has been part of the national team for the past three years. This year, when the sport makes its debut in Brazil, Melissa will be there ready to compete!
She puts it best: She’s done more with one leg than she ever imagined she’d do with two. We’re proud to call Melissa a member of Chicago’s Team!
Conor proudly represents Chicago as an Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion swimmer. He grew up around the pool. Both Conor’s grandmothers loved to swim and would bring all the grandkids to the pool. His mom was also a collegiate swimmer and still swims and teaches children.
Conor learned to swim at two and joined a team at seven. In high school, he started to focus on swimming, but as a 5’10” senior, he didn’t end up getting recruited. Just because a sport is part of you, doesn’t mean success is a sure thing.
The University of Iowa took a chance on Conor and by the summer after sophomore year, he was off to more intensive training. He transferred to the University of Florida and had the opportunity to train with Ryan Lochte and other Olympic athletes. His junior year, Conor made NCAA Swimmer of the Year and won three national titles. At 21, he made the US national team and went on to win gold in the 2012 Olympic games.
Conor’s swim career was not always a sure thing. It took hard work, determination and talented coaches to get here. Now, Conor has another chance to go all the way. We’re proud to call him a member of Chicago’s Team!
Kevin proudly represents Chicago as a world champion swimmer and Olympic hopeful. He owes his swimming career to his mom who waited in line in the middle of the night to secure the last six and under spot on the summer swim team. He’s come a long way since then smashing area and world records in the breaststroke and mixed medley relay and training 26 hours a week.
Kevin has a special connection to the Wintrust family as his dad, William Cordes, is president of Beverly Bank & Trust, a Wintrust Community Bank. We’re proud to call him a member of Chicago’s Team and he’s got a lot of us cheering for him to bring it home!
Joe proudly represents Chicago as a Paralympic medalist and World Cup leader. In the 90s, Joe fell in love with competitive racing, but his dreams were derailed when he lost his right arm and left kneecap in an accident.
Twelve years later, he learned to ride a bike again. His passion for fitness and competition only grew and, in 2009, he was winning local bike races until a local coach introduced him to para-cycling. By 2011, he was on the national para-cycling team. He’s trained year-round, six days a week, to head to Brazil. We’re proud to call him a member of Chicago’s Team!
Matt proudly represents Chicago as a six-time Olympic medalist, world champion swimmer and Lake Forest native. His sport demanded a six-day-a-week training schedule, a 130-gram-a-day protein diet and a lot of determination. Although he recently retired from his swimming career, we’re proud to call him a member of Chicago’s Team.
Candace proudly represents Chicago as a two-time Olympic gold medalist and Women’s Basketball all-star. What does it take to be a first overall draft pick, a two-time MVP and play for your country? According to Candace, a five-day-a-week training schedule and some solid naps. Her career brought her to L.A. but, for Candace, Chicago is still home and we’re proud to call her a member of our team!
Tony proudly represents Chicago as a men’s freestyle wrestling NCAA champion. He began wrestling at three. Now 25, his schedule for the sport is a little more strenuous, training five to six hours a day five days a week. His wrestling dreams have taken him out of state, but Tony says nothing matches the beauty of Chicago’s skyline. Although Tony didn’t qualify to go to Brazil, he’s still training hard as a backup, and we’re still proud to call him part of Chicago’s Team!
Kevin proudly represents Chicago as a world-class triathlete and future Olympic hopeful. Growing up in Geneva, Illinois made Kevin the athlete he is today. His first triathlon at just 10 years old was in his hometown and it quickly became his passion.
Kevin grew up watching the Olympics and loved everything about it. When he found out triathlon was part of the games, he knew he wanted to grow up to compete and represent his country. He started competing in the USA Youth and Junior Elite series and represented the USA in three Junior World Championships. In 2010, he competed in the first Youth Olympic Games, winning silver in the individual event and bronze in the team relay.
In 2011, he hoped to win the Junior World Championships, but was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and, instead, spent the year getting treated. After six months of chemotherapy, Kevin was cancer-free and, by 2014, he was back competing and placing. There’s no telling what the future holds for Kevin and we’re proud to call him a member of Chicago’s Team!
Sarah proudly represents Chicago as a competitive judo athlete. She was born legally blind and at 15 attended an all-girls sports camp focused on empowering young women with disabilities. It was there that she first saw a judo demonstration. In December of 2013, she began her training at the Menomonee Judo Club: Paralympic National Training Center in Chicago.
Nearly two and a half years after beginning her training, with 11 competitions under her belt, Sarah was ready for Brazil. And, although she didn’t qualify to go all the way, she’s training hard as an alternate. We’re still proud to call her part of Chicago’s Team!
Robert proudly represents Chicago as a competitive judo athlete. Robert is dedicated to his sport: he commutes more than four hours round trip to the city for judo practice. And, although he didn’t qualify to go to Brazil, he’s training hard as an alternate. We’re still proud to call him part of Chicago’s Team!