As the Olympic Flame nears completion of its trip around the globe, a school-record 20 Penn Staters are gearing up to represent their school and four countries at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Opening ceremonies for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad are August 5 and the closing ceremonies are Aug. 21.
Not including the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, where 65 countries did not participate, Penn State has sent athletes to each Olympic Games since 1948, a streak of 17 consecutive Games. Penn State sent a then-school record 17 competitors and coaches to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The 2016 Nittany Lion contingent consists of 18 competitors in nine sports, including both male and female competitors in fencing and volleyball, an assistant coach in men’s volleyball and a coach in women’s basketball, for a total of 10 sports with Penn State representation.
Fifteen former Penn State student-athletes and one current student-athlete will compete in Rio, two former student-athletes will be coaching and two Penn State students who were not student-athletes also will be competing. Fifteen Penn Staters will represent the United States, three will represent Mexico, with one from Ireland and Japan.
Penn State’s 2016 Olympians:
15 former student-athletes competing (13 United States, 2 Mexico)
1 current student-athlete competing (Ireland)
2 former student-athletes coaching (Japan, Mexico)
1 current student competing (U.S.)
1 former student competing (U.S.)
Five Penn Staters, including four former student-athletes, are returning after also competing in the 2012 Olympics: Matt Anderson (men’s volleyball), Miles Chamley-Watson (men’s fencing), Christa (Harmotto) Dietzen (women’s volleyball), Daniel Gomez-Tanamachi (men’s fencing; Mexico) and Bobby Lea (men’s cycling). Lea, who graduated from Penn State Lehigh Valley, is participating in his third consecutive Olympic Games. In addition, Alisha Glass is a member of the 2016 U.S. women’s volleyball squad after serving as an alternate on the team in 2012.
In addition to the above contingent, Penn State also will be represented in Rio by the following student-athlete competitors: Monica Aksamit (women’s fencing), Carlos Guerra (men’s volleyball; Mexico), Darrell Hill (men’s track and field), Max Holt (men’s volleyball), Joe Kovacs (men’s track and field), Ali Krieger (women’s soccer), Frank Molinaro (wrestling), Alyssa Naeher (women’s soccer), Aaron Russell (men’s volleyball), senior Shane Ryan (men’s swimming; Ireland) and Katarzyna Trzopek (women’s fencing). Molinaro is a Penn State assistant wrestling coach and graduate. Ryan will be a Penn State senior this fall after taking a one year leave of absence in order to train and try and make Ireland’s Olympic team.
Also representing the Nittany Lions in Rio are assistant coaches Ivan Contreras (men’s volleyball; Mexico) and Tom Hovasse (women’s basketball; Japan), both of whom were standout Penn State student-athletes.
Sixteen of the Nittany Lions’ contingent have earned their degrees and U.S. men’s cyclist Matt Baranoski is on schedule to graduate in December after taking a two-year leave of absence as a full-time student in order to train for an opportunity to make the Olympic team.
The 15 first-time Olympians boost Penn State’s total to 108 all-time competitors or coaches (not selections).
In addition to the record total of 20 competitors and coaches, former Nittany Lion standouts Megan (Hodge) Easy and Nicole Fawcett are alternates on the U.S. Women’s Volleyball team in Rio.
Penn State’s three members on the U.S. men’s volleyball team are the most of any college or university. The Nittany Lions’ two members on the U.S. women’s volleyball squad are second-highest of any college and the pair of Penn Staters on the U.S. women’s soccer team are tied for third-highest among all colleges and universities. The complete Team USA roster for Rio is to be announced.
Penn State competitors have won 28 medals, including five gold-medal efforts, from its 93 previous Olympians. Five Penn State alumni earned medals at the 2012 Olympic Games. Harmotto and Hodge were part of the silver medal winning U.S. women’s volleyball team, which lost in the gold medal match to Brazil. In women’s soccer, Erin McLeod and Carmelina Moscato earned bronze medals as Canada defeated France in the bronze medal match. Natalie Dell, a 2007 graduate and member of the club-level Penn State rowing squad, helped Team U.S.A. earn a bronze medal in the women’s quadruple sculls in 2012.
Suzie McConnell is the last Penn Stater to capture a gold medal, earning the medal as a member of the 1988 U.S. women’s basketball team. McConnell also took home bronze at the 1992 Games.