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Gophers going for gold

July 24, 2012


Lindsay Whalen, Kelci Bryant, Jillian Tyler, Barbara Spotakova, and Lindsey Berg pictured in Olympic-style rings.

The athletes from the University of Minnesota competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics are, left to right: Lindsay Whalen, Kelci Bryant, Jillian Tyler, Barbara Spotakova, and Lindsey Berg.

Photos: courtesy U Athletics

A look at athletes, coaches, and others in the Olympics with ties to the U

By Rick Moore

Update: Congratulations to University of Minnesota alumni, who tallied four medals in London, with two gold and two silver. They are Lindsay Whalen (gold in basketball), Kelci Bryant (silver in synchronized three-meter springboard), Barbora Špotáková (gold in javelin), and Lindsey Berg (silver in indoor volleyball).

As their own country, the Gophers' four medals in London would put them tied for 42nd in the medal count—ahead of 162 other countries.

New Gopher head coach Hugh McCutcheon led the U.S. women's volleyball team to a silver medal in London, four years after leading the U.S. men's volleyball team to gold in Bejing in 2008. See Gopher Olympics for more information. Read about more U of M Olympic connections below.


"Gophers going for gold" original text:
When the torch is lit for the 2012 Summer Olympics, it will ignite more than a fortnight of seemingly nonstop athletic competition—encompassing 32 events and spanning more countries than most of us could ever point out on a globe … if we still had globes.

Finally, some decent reality TV.

But when do you tune in and tune out? Heck, there are 530 athletes competing for Team USA alone.

We suggest you turn your attention (when possible) to some athletes, coaches, and even behind-the-scenes people with ties to the University of Minnesota. Below is a guide to the maroon and gold—past and present—gunning for gold, and to those helping them look good in the process.

Kelci Bryant — In sync again

Four years ago in Beijing, Kelci Bryant narrowly missed making it to the medal stand. She finished fourth in the 3-meter synchronized diving event with her partner at the time, Ariel Rittenhouse.

Bryant wins silver

Bryant and partner Abby Johnston won the silver medal in women's synchronized 3-meter diving Sunday in London. Read more.

Then, her Olympic diving coach, Wenbo Chen, came to the U to become the diving coach of the Gophers, and Bryant followed suit. She won the NCAA 3-meter title in 2010 and the 1-meter title in 2011—in addition to four Big Ten titles—before deciding to dedicate last winter to training for the Olympics.  Her 3-meter synchro springboard partner this year is Abby Johnston.

Jillian Tyler — Dominating north of the border


Jillian Tyler earned her second straight trip to the Olympics for her native Canada by placing first in the 100-meter breaststroke at the Canadian Olympic trials. Her time of 1:07.18 was well under the Olympic qualifying time of 1:08.49.

Tyler, from Calgary, is one of the most decorated swimmers in Minnesota history. She was the NCAA champion in the 100-yard breaststroke as a senior in 2011, as well as an eight-time Big Ten champion and 13-time All American.

Lindsay Whalen — The latest dish

Lindsay Whalen takes a jump shot.Lindsay Whalen taking a jumper for the Minnesota Lynx.

Fresh off of helping the Minnesota Lynx win their first WNBA title last fall, Lindsay Whalen was chosen for the Olympic basketball team this spring for the first time. She’ll join Lynx teammates Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore and a host of other stars as the United States guns for its fifth straight gold medal.

Whalen doesn’t need much of an introduction to a Minnesota audience. As a senior, she led the Gopher women’s basketball team on an enchanting journey to the Final Four in 2004, and she holds Minnesota career records in points, scoring average, free throws made, free throw percentage, and games in double figures.

Lindsey Berg — All set for a run at gold

Former Gopher volleyball star Lindsey Berg will be making her third trip to the Olympics. Berg will be Team USA’s starting setter and captain in London after helping Team USA to a silver medal in 2008. She has twice been named USA Volleyball Indoor Female Athlete of the Year.

A native of Hawaii, Berg was a four-year starter for the Gophers from 1998-2001, and still ranks second in Big Ten history in both service aces (283) and assists (5,913). Read a Q&A with Berg on GopherSports.com.

Olympics-related videos

The Academic Health Center has produced a set of informational videos related to the 2012 Summer Olympics on topics such as performance enhancing drugs and high-altitude training. View the videos here.

Hugh McCutcheon — Going for a rare double-gold

Fans of Gopher volleyball have been eyeing 2012 Olympics for more than a year. Sure, the games will provide a chance to watch Berg set for United States. But they’ll also showcase her Team USA coach, Hugh McCutcheon, who will be coming to Dinkytown after the London games wrap up. He was hired to replace the retiring Mike Hebert, but delayed coming to the U for a year to continue coaching Team USA.

McCutcheon, a native of New Zealand, led the USA men’s volleyball team to Olympic gold in 2008. He has since coached the women’s national team to an 85-37 record in three years. Counting his 107-33 mark leading the men, McCutcheon’s combined record for USA Volleyball is 192-70.

Barbora Spotáková — Trying to defend her gold


She was only a member of Minnesota’s track and field team for a single season, but Barbora Spotáková certainly made her mark. She was All-American in 2002 in the javelin and also made it to the NCAA championships in the heptathlon.

Spotáková has since shone on the international stage. She’ll be making her third Olympic appearance in London for her native Czech Republic, and she’s the reigning Olympic champion and world-record holder in the javelin. 

To see the dates that these athletes are competing along with details on TV and online coverage, visit the athlete tracker page on Gophersports.com.

London's Olympic history

When the 2012 Olympics begin, London will become the first city to host the games for the third time. Kinesiology professor Don Dengel created a global seminar to London for a chance to explore the Olympics' impact. Read the story from Connect magazine.

Amanda Smock — Training to a higher degree

Although she didn't compete for the Golden Gophers, Amanda Smock has underscored the "student" in student-athlete. Smock won the triple jump at the U.S. Olympic trials in June, culminating years of dedicated training.

In the midst of all the hard work on the track and in the weight room, Smock somehow found time to gain her Ph.D. in exercise physiology from the U in 2010.

Roberto Sobalvarro — A passion for fencing

Roberto Sobalvarro has been an instructor at the U for about 20 years. He developed and teaches classes in sabre fencing and foil fencing. Now Sobalvarro is in London coaching the U.S. women's epee team in the individual and team competition.

Update: On August 4, the U.S. women's epee team notched its first-ever Olympic medal, winning a bronze with a 31-30 overtime victory over Russia.

Brock Anundson.Brock Anundson at the U.S. Olympic Complex in Colorado Springs. Photo: courtesy Tom Kimmell Photography

Brock Anundson — Complex operations

Brock Anundson, a sport and recreation management graduate from the University of  Minnesota, Crookston, has been working at the U.S. Olympic Complex in Colorado Springs since January 2011.  Anundson is a programs coordinator/operations specialist, setting up everything that’s needed for athletes to train at the complex, from lodging and meals to training schedules.

Susan Sokolowski — On-track designs


Susan Sokolowski, who earned her Ph.D. in apparel design in the U’s College of Design, is senior innovation manager on the Apparel Innovation Team at Nike. Sokolowski is recognized internationally for her achievements in design and innovation, and the U.S. women's track and field team will feature her team’s work in London.  

Tags: Athletics

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Competition dates and venues

2010 feature story on Kelci Bryant