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Wildcats in Tokyo: A recap of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

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Elijah Bia | The Daily Wildcat

The Cole and Davis sports center located off of 6th street. Taken during sunset on August 10th, 2020.

The United States of America stood atop the podium once again at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, winning the overall medal count with 113 and the gold medal count with 39. The University of Arizona sent 26 coaches and athletes to the Olympics and the Wildcats won five medals across four sports. 

Here are the results from each athlete at the Games of the XXXII Olympiad.

Delaney Schnell (’22): Silver medal in women’s synchro platform diving for Team USA

A star was born in Tokyo in women’s synchronized diving and her name is Delaney Schnell. Schnell and her partner Jessica Parratto were not considered medal favorites and entered the final round as the sixth seed. Schnell and Parratto started off slow with the second-lowest score after round one of five. After that, they lasered in and scored higher and higher after each dive as many of the other teams faded away because of errors. In the end, the duo became the first women’s team to win a medal in this event. Another Wildcat on hand who was able to witness Schnell’s history-making performance was UA diving assistant coach Dwight Dumais, one of the diving coaches for Team USA. Schnell also competed in the women’s individual platform dive where she finished fifth.

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Steve Kerr ('88): Gold medal in men’s basketball for Team USA 

Many were unsure what to think of Team USA’s men’s basketball team after losing multiple exhibition games before the Olympics, then losing their first Olympic Game to Team France 83-76. Instead of crumbling under the pressure, assistant coach Steve Kerr and the rest of the team came together to prove they were still the best in the world. After winning the rest of their games in pool play and crushing Team Spain and Team Australia in the playoff rounds, USA got what they wanted, a rematch against France in the gold medal game. 

It was a slow first half, but the team caught fire in the second half and were able to hold on 87-82 to win the gold medal. Kerr won multiple championships during his playing days in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls, but in Tokyo, he took home the only gold medal won by a UA coach or athlete.

Dejah Mulipola ('21): Silver medal in softball for Team USA

Earlier in the year, Mulipola left UA after being defeated in the first round of the softball College World Series. Mulipola was determined to reverse her fortunes in Tokyo. Team USA went undefeated in pool play with wins over Team Italy, Team Canada, Team Australia, Team Mexico and Team Japan. USA earned home-field advantage in the gold medal game and faced Japan. Unfortunately, the dominant USA team in the tournament all but disappeared in the gold medal game and lost to Japan 2-0. Mulipola appeared in one game and batted .500 (1/2) with a run scored and one walk. 

Josh Green ('20): Bronze medal in basketball for Team Australia

Once Team USA lost their first game to Team France, Josh Green and the Aussies saw an opportunity to take home a gold medal. Australia blew through the competition in pool play and went undefeated. Australia passed their first major test in the first round of the playoffs against Team Argentina and won 97-59. The next game was against Team USA for a spot in the gold medal game, but this was a different USA team. Kerr and the Americans fixed their mistakes early on and easily defeated the Australians 97-88. 

Hopes for a medal were not lost as Green and his team was set up to face star point guard Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks) and Team Slovenia. Doncic came into the game with an injured wrist, giving Australia an immediate advantage. In the end, Green and the Australians won the game 107-93 and took home the bronze medal. 

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Rory Sabbatini ('98): Silver medal in men’s golf for Team Slovakia

Out of all the medals that the Wildcats won at these Olympic Games, none of them were as shocking as golfer Rory Sabbatini’s. After one round, Sabbatini was at -6, tied for No. 11 and only five shots off the leader. Sabbatini finished with the same score after round two and was still tied for No. 11. Things did not look good for Sabbatini after round three, where he finished the day tied for No. 17 with a score of -7. Being seven shots out of the lead and medal hopes all but dashed, Sabbatini entered the final round with nothing to lose. Out of nowhere, Sabbatini shot a -10 in the final round of play to propel himself into second place for a silver medal finish.

Daniel Namir ('22): Swimmer for Team Israel

Namir and the Israelis competed in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay, hoping to qualify for the medal round. They finished with a time of 7:08.65, good enough for No. 10 in the field and less than one second from being able to compete for a medal. 

Brad Tandy ('15): Swimmer for Team South Africa

Tandy was the sole Wildcat representing South Africa at his second Olympic Games. He competed in the 50m freestyle. Tandy finished his heat with a time of 22.22, which was not fast enough to advance to the semi-finals. 

Bianca Pagdanganan ('19): Golfer for Team Philippines 

In a stacked field of competitors vying for a medal, Pagdanganan came out strong, finishing tied for seventh with a score of -2. Rounds two and three were a setback for Pagdanganan, as she finished both rounds with the same score of -2. Pagdanganan finished the tournament tied for No. 43 with a final score of +1.

Karolina Pahlitzsch ('19): Track and Field athlete for Team Germany

In her first Olympic Games, Pahlitzsch and the Germans were looking to earn a medal in the women’s 4x400m relay. Unfortunately, the relay team finished No. 10 in the qualifying rounds and did not get to compete for a medal, missing a spot in the finals by 0.69 seconds. 

Giulia Koutsoyanopulos ('24): First baseman for Team Italy

Koutsoyanopulos participated in her first Olympic Games, but it was not the smoothest outing for her or Team Italy. The Italians finished 0-5 at the Olympics, the only softball team without a win. Koutsoyanopulos played in every game but only batted .100. 

Felicity Passon ('22): Swimmer for Team Seychelles

Before the Olympic games even began, Passon had the honor of being the flag bearer for her home country of Seychelles during the opening ceremonies. After that, Passon got to work preparing for the Women’s 100m Backstroke on Sunday, July 25. Unfortunately, Passon finished with a time of 1:04.66, which was not enough to qualify for the semifinals. Passon would finish No. 38 overall in the field. Anna Heller, an assistant swim coach at UA, was Passon’s coach in Tokyo. 

Corben Sharrah (‘18): BMX for Team USA

Sharrah, a Tucson native, was competing in his second straight Olympics in search of his first medal. Sharrah's score of 11 was good enough to advance past the quarterfinals, but his score of 22 was too high and he was eliminated from play in the semi-finals. 

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Sage Watson ('17): Track and Field athlete for Team Canada

Competing in her second Olympic Games, Watson competed in the women’s 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay in hopes to finally win a medal. In the 400m hurdles Watson finished No. 13 in the semifinals, which was not enough to make it to the finals. The Canadiens were more fortunate in the 4x400m relay, making it to the finals and racing for a medal. Watson’s heart was broken yet again as Team Canada finished in fourth and 0.60 seconds short of a medal. 

Abdi Abdirahman ('98): Marathon runner for Team USA

This was the fifth Olympics that Abdirahman was appearing in for Team USA. After not finishing in the 2012 London Olympics and missing the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Abdirahman crossed the finish line at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He finished No. 41 with a time of 2:18.27. 

Edgar Rivera-Morales ('13): Track and Field athlete for Team Mexico

One of the first events to open Track and Field at the Olympic Games is high jump, so Rivera-Morales had no time to rest. Rivera-Morales tied for No. 19 in qualifying with a height of 2.21 meters. The cutoff for the finals was 2.28 meters and Rivera-Morales was eliminated.

Rafael Quintero ('16): Diver for Team Puerto Rico

One of the last events of the Olympics is men’s platform diving, so Quintero had to wait a while before he could compete for a medal. Quintero blazed through the qualifying round and finished No. 14 in the semifinals with a score of 397.55. Quintero finished high enough to be put on the reserves list for the finals, but no other Olympian dropped out, so Quintero did not advance. 

Ify Ibekwe ('11): Basketball player for Team Nigeria

Ibekwe and Nigeria were underdogs from the beginning, playing in Group B with the three toughest teams, USA, France and Japan, in the Olympics. Nigeria finished pool play 0-3, but Ibekwe had her fair share of playing time. Ibekwe played in all three games and averaged 18.34 minutes along with seven points, 2.3 rebounds and one rebound per game. 

Brett Thompson (‘10): Rugby player for Team USA

Thompson and the Americans started well, including two wins against Kenya (19-14) and Ireland (19-17). After losing to medal favorite South Africa 12-17, USA drew another medal favorite, Great Britain, in the opening round of the quarterfinals. USA ultimately lost the match 26-21 and was eliminated from medal contention. USA finished sixth at the Olympics. 

Alex Obert (‘24): Water Polo player for Team USA 

Looking to win USA’s first-ever gold medal in Water Polo, Obert and the Americans put themselves in a good position to do that. USA won their first match against Japan 15-13 and crushed South Africa 20-3. Things fell apart after that as USA lost their next four matches in a row. The USA men’s water polo team finished sixth at the Olympics. 

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Shaina Pellington ('22): Basketball player for Team Canada

The Canadians faced an uphill battle in Group A with Spain and Serbia being two of the teams they would have to face. They would lose to both teams, but Canada did pick up one win against South Korea, but it was not enough to advance to the playoff rounds. Pellington played in all three games but only scored five points across pool play. 

Gia Trevisan ('16): Track and Field athlete for Team Italy

Trevisan competed in the 4x400m relay alongside former Wildcats Watson and Pahlitzsch. The Italians ran a good race, but they finished No. 13 in the field and did not advance to the finals.

Danielle O'Toole ('17) and Taylor McQuillin ('19): Pitchers for Team Mexico

After starting the tournament 0-3, Team Mexico clawed their way back to win their final two games and clinch a spot in the bronze medal game against Canada. O’Toole entered the circle in hopes of winning Mexico a bronze medal. It was not a good start for O’Toole as she allowed two runs early on to put Mexico in an early 2-0 hole. Mexico did not give up and scored two runs over the next three innings to tie the game 2-2 going into the bottom of the fifth inning. 

O’Toole got into trouble again in the bottom of the fifth inning by putting runners in scoring position with one out. Canada capitalized and hit a sac fly to score the deciding run and won the game 3-2, dashing O’Toole and McQuillin’s hopes at winning a medal. 

Nico Mannion ('20): Basketball player for Team Italy

This was the first Olympic appearance for Team Italy in men’s basketball since 2004, and Mannion made the best out of it. The Italians went 2-1 in pool play, with their only loss coming to former Wildcat Green and Team Australia. Italy was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Team France. Mannion played in all four of Italy’s games and averaged 21.95 minutes along with 12.5 points, 1.75 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. 


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