Olympians highlight Pac-12 swimming and diving championship field
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- Among the many talented student-athletes that will be competing at the 2014 Pac-12 Swimming and Diving Championships over the next two weeks in Federal Way, Wash., a select group will be bringing international experience with them as they fight for a Pac-12 title. Fourteen current Pac-12 swimmers and divers have competed on the world’s highest sporting stage—the Olympics—and four brought home hardware for their respective countries.
Pac-12 Olympians are nothing new as the Conference has established itself as the most dominant Olympic sports conference in the country, claiming 305 medals in the last four Olympiads. In the modern Olympic era, Pac-12 athletes have amassed 1,143 medals—by far the most of any conference in the U.S. In the 2012 London Olympic Games, current and former Pac-12 swimmers and divers accounted for 31 of medals (17 gold, 5 silver, 10 bronze). The four current Pac-12 Olympic medal winners —Rachel Bootsma (women’s swimming, California), Missy Franklin (women’s swimming, California), Lia Neal (women’s swimming, Stanford), and Kristian Ipsen (men’s diving, Stanford)—own eight Olympic medals. Other Olympians at the Pac-12 Championships include: Riley McCormick (men’s diving, Arizona State); Alex Coci (men’s swimming, Arizona State); Richard Bohus (men’s swimming, Arizona State); Stephanie Au (women’s swimming, California); Farida Osman (women’s swimming, California); Marina Garcia (women’s swimming, California); Stina Gardell (women’s swimming, USC); Lynette Lim (women’s swimming, USC); Haley Ishimatsu (women’s diving, USC); and Kasia Will (women’s swimming, USC).
California, winners of three of the last five NCAA titles, boasts a Conference-best five Olympians. Missy Franklin, a freshman from Centennial, Colo., turned heads at the 2012 London Olympics while still in high school as she won four gold medals and a bronze medal for the United States. In winning the 200-m back, she set a world record with a time of 2:04:06 while she recorded a 58.33 to take the top spot in the 100-m back. In addition to winning the 800-m free relay and taking bronze in the 400-m free relay, she was a member of the United States’ 400-m medley relay team that set a world record with a time of 3:52.05 en route to a gold medal. Rachel Bootsma, a sophomore from Eden Prairie, Minn,, won a gold medal after swimming in the prelims for United States’ 400-meter relay in addition to placing 11th in the 100-m back. Stephanie Au, a senior from Hong Kong, is a two-time Olympian, and at 16 was the youngest member of Hong Kong’s national team at the Beijing Olympics. Farida Osman, a freshman from Cairo, Egypt, was the only Egyptian female swimmer to qualify and compete at the 2012 London Olympic Games, while fellow freshman Marina Garcia (Barcelona, Spain) competed on Spain’s 400-m medley relay team, placing 13th overall.
Freshman Lia Neal, a Brooklyn N.Y. native, is a member of a defending Pac-12 champion Stanford women’s swimming team that heads into the championships unbeaten in all its regular season dual meets. Neal was a member of the United States’ bronze medal-winning 400-m free relay team at the 2012 summer games, swimming the third leg in 53.65 as the team set an American record in the event.
The Trojans have three Olympians on the roster—Stina Gardell, Lynette Lim and Kasi Wilk. Gardell, a senior from Vallingby, Sweden, is one of the NCAA’s top medley swimmers. The six-time All-American posted a pair of top 20 finishes while representing Sweden at the 2012 London Olympics. Lim, a senior from Rancho Mirage, Calif., is a three-time All-American at USC and was a member of Singapore’s 2012 Olympic team, competing in the 400-m free and the 800-m free. Wilk, a sophomore from Krakow, Poland, is a two-time Polish Olympian as she represented her native country in 2008 at Beijing and 2012 in London. As a freshman in 2013, she earned two All-American honors after helping the Trojans earn a pair of sixth place finishes in the 200 free and the 200 medley relays at the 2013 NCAA Championships.
On the men’s swimming side, two Arizona State swimmers represented their respective countries in the 2012 games. Alex Coci, a senior from Baia-Mare, Romania, and freshman Richard Bohus (Bekescsaba, Hungary) both competed for their native countries.
Two current Pac-12 men's divers also competed in the most recent summer Olympic games. Kristian Ipsen of Stanford earned a bronze medal in the synchronized 3-meter competition, partnering with Troy Dumais to represent the United States. Riley McCormick of Arizona State also competed in the 2012 Olympics as a member of Team Canada, finishing 11th overall in the platform finals.
The wealth of experience of the Olympians coupled with the deep and talented rosters of Pac-12 swimming and diving teams only elevates the level of competition that will be showcased this year’s Swimming and Diving Championships. The 2014 version of the event is just one more chapter in the long-standing tradition of Pac-12 Olympic excellence.