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Coverage of the Pac-12
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2016 Olympics Aug. 17 recap: Nia Ali helps American women sweep 100m hurdles in Rio

Aug 17, 2016
Anthony L. Solis/Pac-12 Conference

RIO DE JANEIRO -- The Conference of Champions continues to roll along in Rio for the 2016 Olympics.

Wednesday made it 11 out of 11 full days of competition for the Pac-12 to bring home a medal, as a former USC track star helped Team USA claim an exciting sweep on the track. Meanwhile, a host of Pac-12 athletes are advancing to the deep rounds of their respective tournaments and more medals are being won. Take a look at the top Pac-12 storylines from Wednesday.


The American women flexed their muscles once again on the track on Wednesday night at the Estadio Olimpico.

Perhaps the top highlight of the night from Team USA came in the 100m hurdles, when the Americans swept the medals with a trio of blazing performances. USC alum Nia Ali (12.59) claimed the silver, behind gold medalist Brianna Rollins (12.48) and and bronze medalist Kristi Castlin (12.61). The three women watched the big screen together as the official times were revealed, before draping themselves in the stars and stripes.

"To see Brianna with the gold and to look up and see Kristi with the bronze, it was great,” Ali said. “It was everything we prayed for. We prayed and prayed on and for it to be history and to sweep. For it to be with them, it's just the icing on the cake."

After the race, Ali held her 15-month old, Titus, in her arms as she celebrated the silver.

"He won't remember this but he will see photos and see that you can do anything you put your mind to,” Ali said. “I knew it was going to be hard to medal."

Oregon’s Deajah Stevens competed in the 200m final, placing seventh with a mark of 22.65.


Four days after his wife and fellow Oregon alum Brianne Theisen-Eaton took home the bronze for Canada in the heptathlon, Ashton Eaton began the defense of his 2012 gold in the decathlon. So far, so good for Eaton, as he leads through the first day of competition with 4,621 points. Eaton has already competed in the 100m (2nd), long jump (1st), shot put (10th), high jump (14th) and 400m (1st). The decathlon will wrap up on Thursday with the 110m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1500m.

"I feel OK about day one,” Eaton said. “It`s just going through the motions, nice and smooth. The whole thing is going smooth, I guess, nothing really outstanding. I did actually like my shot put. In the first throw, that was awesome for me to throw 14.70. I think maybe one of my furthest in this series."

Usain Bolt fired up the crowd in Rio once again on Wednesday, taking part in the 200m semifinals. USC alum and Team Canada’s Andre De Grasse (19.80) gave him a good run for his money during the final 20 meters, but Bolt (19.78) claimed the top qualifying in the finals. The two sprinters exchanged glances and smiles before they crossed the finish line, as De Grasse looks primed to add to the bronze medal he earned in the 100m on Sunday.

"He was supposed to slow down,” Bolt said. “I said 'What are you doing, it's a semifinal?' But I think he wanted to push me. I was a bit lazy but I got ‘round."

Ageless wonder and Washington State alum Bernard Lagat continues to amaze at the age of 41. Team USA’s oldest athlete, competing in his fifth Olympics, has qualified for the final of the 5000m after recording a time of 13:26.02. He’s set to compete on Saturday under the lights with a 9:30 p.m. local start.

"I am not a morning person so the final will be playing to my advantage,” Lagat said. “I love racing at night. I always thought that 2012 would be my last one but here I am and I'm enjoying doing it right now."

Cal product David Torrence, representing Peru, has also advanced to the 5000m final after finishing in 13:23.20, good for 10th.


The U.S. women’s water polo team, which features 11 of 13 players with Pac-12 ties, has marched its way undefeated into the gold-medal game following Wednesday’s 14-10 victory over Hungary. The Hungarians jumped out to a 2-1 lead to begin the match, but Team USA never trailed following captain Maggie Steffens go-ahead goal with 1:41 left in the first quarter. Steffens, of Stanford, ended the afternoon with four goals to lead the American attack.

It marked the first time USA had given up more than 6 goals in a match so far in the tournament, but they are headed to the final, where a talented Italian squad awaits.

"Besides us they have obviously been the hottest team in this tournament,” said Team USA coach and UCLA legend Adam Krikorian. “I watched a little bit of their semifinal and I saw how well they were shooting the ball from the outside. Their defense has been really good and their goalie is playing fantastic. It's going to be a heck of a battle and we are going to have our hands full. No doubt about that."


A night after suffering her first loss in 27 Olympic matches, Stanford alum Kerri Walsh Jennings and partner April Ross (USC) won the bronze medal on Copacabana. Walsh Jennings and Ross defeated Brazilian pair Larissa Franca and Talita Rocha, 2-1, in front of another spirited crowd rooting on their home pair.

“As an athlete, I swear this is the hardest match I've ever played in my life,” Walsh Jennings said. “It was all perseverance. April Ross is the champ of the world right now. She played unbelievably. I really do love her and I feel like you just learn so much about life when you go through really tough stuff, and this is just sports. With that being said, this means so much to us. She turned into a beast, a beast of them all. She was a hunter out there and that's what we want to be. She got that going and I eventually caught up.”

The American duo dropped the first set 21-17, before winning the next two, 21-17 and 15-9.

"That match was just so hard, I can't convey how hard it was,” Ross added. “Even on the world tour in a normal tournament, that's the worst match (bronze medal match) to play. When an Olympic medal is on the line and you have to rebound from the night before when you're just devastated. I'm just so proud of us."


Stanford's Lucy Davis helped the four-person U.S. equestrian team take home the silver medal on Wednesday following the second round of the team show jumping competition. A day after recording no faults, the Americans tallied 5 but it was still good enough behind gold-medal winning France, which committed 3. Davis also took part in the third round of individual competitions but didn't advance to Friday's final after recording 4 faults to bring her total to 8, which placed her 18th.


Following a couple of shaky games to wrap up the group stage, Team USA looked dominant in Wednesday afternoon’s 105-78 win over Argentina in the quarterfinals. After dropping 30 points against France in the squad’s previous game, Washington State alum Klay Thompson struggled again, going 2-of-8 from the field (0-of-6 from 3-point range) en route to 4 points. Ex-USC star DeMar DeRozan chipped in 6 points off the bench, including a 360 dunk in the final minutes. The Americans are set up with a semifinals matchup against Spain on Friday.

The Boomers of Australia are also moving on to the semifinals following a 90-64 victory over Lithuania. WSU alums Aron Baynes (16 pts, 5 rebs) and Brock Motum (4 pts), and former Runnin’ Ute Andrew Bogut (6 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast) will face Serbia in Friday’s semifinal.

"We believe,” Bogut said. “We believe that we can beat teams. We had teams where we said all that, but there was that doubt still there. We have a resilient group that plays hard and we came out with the win."


Ever since dropping its first two contests to begin the Olympics, Team USA has looked strong on the volleyball court. Coached by UCLA’s John Speraw, the Americans swept Poland, 3-0, to reach the semifinals, where they’ll face Italy. USC alums Micah Christenson and Murphy Troy are joined by brothers and Stanford products Erik and Kawika Shoji on the squad.


A host of Pac-12ers help make up the 60-woman field at the Olympic golf course, as Round 1 took place on Wednesday. In all, the Conference of Champions features 11 women’s golfers from eight different countries. Among the Pac-12 alums and current golfers, Taiwan’s Candie Kung (USC) and Spain’s Carlota Ciganda (ASU) are tied for fourth overall at 4-under after shooting 67 on Wednesday. Azahara Munoz (-3), another Spaniard from the Sun Devils program, ranks tied for seventh after shooting a 68.