Athletes and coaches representing UGA’s red and black are competing for gold in the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro. Other students have found once-in-a-lifetime experiential learning opportunities through the international competitions.
Twenty-eight current, former and incoming student-athletes as well as four coaches are representing the U.S. and nine other nations in the Olympic and Paralympic games, adding to the rich history of Bulldog Olympic athletes.
“We are excited that so many of our current and former student-athletes, as well as our coaches, are participating in the 2016 Games,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “The Bulldog Nation will be watching and cheering with pride as these outstanding individuals compete in Rio.”
Among those representing the U.S. track team is Keturah Orji, a junior financial planning major, who is already a three-time NCAA champion in the triple jump as a Bulldog.
Orji said she is excited about the challenges that she and her teammates will face.
“It’s going to be great competition, and I’m going to be pushed to my limits,” she said.
She is thrilled to be in Rio with plenty of fellow Bulldogs, including her roommate Kendell Williams, a senior advertising major who is competing in the heptathlon for Team USA.
“It’s good to have familiar faces overseas,” said Williams, a five-time NCAA pentathlon and heptathlon champion. “We’re going to support each other and cheer each other on. It’s nice to see so many Bulldogs.”
In addition to Williams and Orji, Kibwe Johnson also qualified in track and field for the U.S. They will be joined by Bulldog track-and-field student-athletes Cejhae Greene (Antigua), Karl Saluri (Estonia), Maicel Uibo (Estonia), Jenny Dahlgren (Argentina), Shaunae Miller (Bahamas), Leontia Kallenou (Cyprus), Charles Grethen (Luxembourg) and Levern Spencer (St. Lucia). Petros Kyprianou, head coach of UGA’s cross country and track and field teams, is an assistant coach for Estonia.
Gunnar Bentz, Chase Kalisz, Jay Litherland, Hali Flickinger, Melanie Margalis, Allison Schmitt, Olivia Smoliga and Amanda Weir represent the U.S. in swimming, while head coach Jack Bauerle serves as a men’s assistant coach on the U.S. staff. Finland’s Matias Koski and Canada’s Javier Acevedo, Brittany MacLean and Chantal Van Landeghem also qualified for the games in swimming. UGA head diving coach Dan Laak is an assistant coach to Brazil’s diving team, which will include Cesar Castro, who has served as a UGA volunteer assistant coach while training under Laak.
Incoming student Yijun Feng will compete on the U.S. table tennis team, while alumnus Bubba Watson will represent the U.S. in golf, and current student Brittany Rogers will suit up for Canada in gymnastics.
In the Paralympics, former student Jarryd Wallace qualified for the U.S. track team, and alumna Lindsay Grogan earned a spot on the U.S. swim team.
In addition to participation from student-athletes and coaches, UGA faculty, staff and students are in Rio to work on other aspects of the Olympic and Paralympic games.
Becca Leopkey, an assistant professor of sport management in the College of Education, is serving on the International Olympic Committee’s Sustainability and Legacy Commission, in part because of her research on the legacy of sporting events.
Mike Mobley, an associate director of sports communications, will work with Olympic Broadcast Services at the team handball venue.
Students from UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication are getting valuable experiential learning opportunities in Rio.
Nicole Chrzanowski and Jaylon Thompson, two students in Grady College’s sports media certificate program, were selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee to report on the games for USOC’s various information channels, including its TeamUSA.org website.
Nine other Grady College students will join Vicki Michaelis, the John Huland Carmical Professor of Sports Journalism & Society, and Mark Johnson, a senior lecturer in journalism, to cover the Paralympics. Grady Sports students Jamie Han, Emily Giamalvo, Emily Greenwood, Kendra Hansey and Kennington Smith along with photojournalism students David Barnes, Jenn Finch, Joshua Jones and Casey Sykes will travel to Rio for the Paralympics, which will be held Sept. 7-18.
The Olympic Games will end Aug. 21.