Several Bears to represent respective countries at Rio Olympics

Cal (blue) v. Davis (White)
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Cal (blue) v. Davis (White)

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Being a Division I NCAA school and having one of the better athletic programs in the country, it comes as no surprise that Cal will be well represented at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. While Cal alumni Alex Morgan will be the biggest name the Bears have to offer this summer, several current student athletes will be representing their respective countries in an attempt to take home the gold.

Representing the Cal men’s water polo team are freshman attacker Luca Cupido and  freshman defender/utilityman Nicholas Carniglia. The pair were essential parts of a team that won 24 games last season en route to a third place finish at the NCAA Championships. Cupido wrapped up the season with 43 goals, 46 assists and 61 steals, while Carniglia finished the year with 20 goals, 14 assists and 15 steals.

Cupido and Carniglia continued their success after the 2015 season, competing with Team USA during the FINA Intercontinental Tournament. Cupido was the center of perhaps the biggest moment for the Americans in the tourney, scoring a game winning goal against Australia with only two seconds left to wrap up a 6-0 week. The goal — which gave the U.S. a 10-9 lead — secured not only the win, but the gold medal in the tournament.

A pair of Cal gymnasts will also represent their respective countries. Senior Ryan Patterson will be representing South Africa in the games, while sophomore Toni-Ann Williams will be competing for Jamaica. The presence of both athletes will be monumental for their countries, as Patterson will be South Africa’s first qualifying gymnast in more than 50 years, while Williams will be Jamaica’s first gymnast ever to compete at the Olympics.

Patterson forewent the Bears’ 2016 season in order to focus all of his attention on qualifying for the Rio games. At the Olympic Test Event, he finished with a score of 82.932 and 44th overall in the all-around competition. Williams, on the other hand, trained for both international qualification and the NCAA gymnastics season. She was awarded a pair of All-Pac 12 First Team honors in addition to finishing 38th overall in the Olympic qualifiers.

Two swimmers will also be diving into the action, as freshman Kathleen Baker and junior Ryan Murphy are set to compete in Brazil after spectacular results at the U.S. Olympic Trials. In two 10-minute spans, the duo qualified for the men’s and women’s 100-meter backstroke, respectively. Baker put up a personal best in her outing, reaching the wall with a time of 59.29 — just .27 seconds behind first place Olivia Smoliga.

Immediately following Baker’s Olympic clinch, Murphy hit the pool and began one of the biggest races of his life. In the heat of the moment, Murphy put up his best time of 52.26 — just .02 seconds ahead of runner-up David Plummer — to be able to represent his country in front of a world audience.

Both of Cal’s championship-winning crew teams will be represented in Rio de Janeiro, as freshmen Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk and Caileigh Filmer will row for Poland and Canada, respectively, after both enjoyed sensational seasons.

Filmer began training with the Canadian National Team shortly after Cal women’s crew won the NCAA Championship to conclude the 2015-16 season and was selected to represent her native country in Rio. After a training camp in London, Ontario, Filmer and her 25 teammates will head to Brazil to compete at Rodrigo de Freitas Lake from August 6 to 14. She will be competing in the Women’s Eight. Wegrzycki-Szymczyk — a native of Krakow, Poland, and a member of the IRA National Championship-winning men’s crew team — will also be vying to contribute to his country gaining National recognition in his regatta.

Contact Chris Tril at [email protected].