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Pac-12 to Rio

Coverage of the Pac-12
student-athletes, coaches and alumni
who competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics

2016 Olympics: Top Pac-12 moments from the summer games in Rio

Aug 21, 2016
Alexander Hassenstein/Getty

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Following a whirlwind of action in another entertaining spectacle of global sports, the 2016 Olympics wrapped up on Sunday with the Team USA men’s basketball team winning gold.

In each of the past 16 days, a Pac-12-affiliated athlete has stepped atop the podium to claim a medal. There were plenty of remarkable highlights that took place in Rio over the Summer Games. Take a look at some of the most memorable moments produced by athletes from the Conference of Champions.

USA women's water polo wins gold

It’s been an emotional couple of weeks for Team USA coach and UCLA water polo legend Adam Krikorian. Just days before his squad opened up tournament play in Rio, Krikorian’s brother and Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Blake, suddenly passed away at the age of 48. Following a trip home to be with his family, Krikorian returned to guide his team to a perfect 6-0 record and a second consecutive gold medal.

The USA team featured four returnees, including team captain Maggie Steffens (Stanford), Courtney Mathewson (UCLA), Melissa Seidemann (Stanford) and Kami Craig (USC). In all, there were 11 players on the 13-woman roster with ties to the Pac-12. The Americans wrapped up the gold medal with a 12-5 victory over Italy on Friday, tackling Krikorian into the pool to celebrate the victory.

Katie Ledecky dominates 800m freestyle

Expectations were high for Katie Ledecky as she entered the Olympics, as many pegged her to win five golds in five events. While she ended up with four golds (200m free, 400m free, 800m free, 4x200m free) and a silver (4x100m) perhaps no victory was more impressive than her complete domination in the 800m freestyle event. The 19-year-old finished a whopping 11 seconds ahead of her next competitor, shattering her own world record with a time of 8:04.79.

Ledecky, USA swimmer Michael Phelps (6) and USA gymnast Simone Biles (5) were the only athletes in Rio to win at least five medals. So, what’s next for Ledecky? She has to get settled for her freshman year at Stanford.

Alexander Massialas ends streak in fencing

Alexander Massialas tagged along with his father to fencing practice and competitions when he was a little boy. His father was a back-to-back Olympian in 1984 and 1988, and would have been a three-time Olympian if it were not for the 1980 U.S. boycott. Now, his father watched him as the 22-year-old Stanford mechanical engineering major stood atop the podium to receive his silver medal, the first individual medal for an American fencer since 1984 and the first silver medal since 1932.

Maya DiRado and Katinka Hosszu rivalry

Katinka Hosszu, a USC grad representing Hungary, showed why she has earned the nickname the “Iron Lady” in the pool, as she took home the golds in her first three events -- 100m back, 200m individual medley and 400m IM. It looked like she was destined to go 4-for-4, but former Stanford star Maya DiRado was too strong at the finish.

Despite all the pleas to stick around for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, DiRado insists this is her first and only summer games. In her final race as an Olympian, DiRado put together an amazing finish in the 200m backstroke to barely edge out the seemingly insurmountable Hosszu as the Olympic Aquatic Center went wild.

DiRado was in disbelief as she looked up to see the No. 1 alongside her name on the leaderboard. She finished the Olympics with four medals, including a gold in the 4x200m free relay, a silver in the 400 IM and a bronze in the 200 IM.

Ashton Eaton wins second straight decathlon gold

When you’ve accomplished something only two other men in the history of the Olympics have accomplished, you know you’re in good company. Ashton Eaton added to his Olympic legacy on Friday, winning his second consecutive decathlon gold medal. Eaton joins American Bob Mathias (1948, 1952) and Great Britain’s Daley Thompson (1980, 1984) as the only repeat winners in the history of the Olympic decathlon. He also will return home with his wife and fellow Oregon alum, Canada’s Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who won a bronze in the women’s heptathlon earlier in the week.

Nia Ali helps USA sweep medals

There was a lot of stars and stripes on podium, and on the track on Wednesday night. In the women’s 100m hurdles, ex-USC track star Nia Ali took home the silver and was joined by teammates Brianna Rollins (gold) and Kristi Castlin (bronze) to give the U.S. a clean sweep.

Galen Rupp earns bronze in 2nd career marathon

Former Oregon distance running star Galen Rupp has made quite the foray into the world of marathoning. In his first ever competitive 26.2-mile race, Rupp won the U.S. Olympic trials in Los Angeles in February. Competing in his second career marathon on Sunday, Rupp recorded a time of 2:10.05 to remarkably win the bronze medal against the world's best. The ex-Duck also recorded a fifth-place finish in the 10,000m event earlier in the Olympics.

Simone Manuel and Lia Neal make history

Stanford star Simone Manuel was among the biggest pioneers for Team USA at the Olympics. In the 100m freestyle final, Manuel electrified the crowd with a fantastic final lap and touched in 52.70 seconds to set an Olympic record. She actually tied with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak to take home the gold, the first ever individual gold won by an African-American woman in swimming.

Earlier in the meet during the 4x100m relay, she teamed up with fellow Cardinal swimmer Lia Neal to become the first African-American women simultaneously swimming in the Olympics for Team USA. Manuel and Neal helped the Americans claim a silver in the 4x100m relay

1,000 golds for Team USA

The Pac-12 had a major hand in the 1,000th gold medal in the illustrious history of Team USA in the Olympics. In the women’s 4x100m medley relay race, Manuel and former Cal swimmers Dana Vollmer and Kathleen Baker swam in the final to help bring home the milestone medal.

[Related content: Follow the Pac-12 to Rio]

Brazilian women's golfers tee off in Rio

The Pac-12 featured a total of 12 women's golfers in the 60-woman tournament this week, including five Sun Devils, representing nine different countries. Among the golfers included Brazilians Victoria Alimonda Lovelady and Miriam Nagl, who enjoyed the honor of teeing off on their home turf on the brand new Olympic Golf Course.

Matthew Centrowitz’s surprise victory in the 1500m

Heading into the 1500m final on Saturday, even Matthew Centrowitz thought a gold was out of reach, saying a he would have been content with a silver. But as the race developed and he maintained his lead, the unthinkable became a reality. Centrowitz put together a wire-to-wire victory in the final, out-sprinting the competition down the stretch to finish in 3:50.00 to take home Team USA’s first gold in the event since Mel Sheppard in 1908.

Madison Kocian helps “Final Five” rule the gym

The “Final Five” of USA’s gymnastics team wowed the world with another dominant performance in the team all-around competition in Rio. Taking part in the winning effort was UCLA incoming freshman Madison Kocian, who placed first in the uneven bars to join Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Aly Raisman atop the podium for Team USA. Kocian added to her medal haul in the individual uneven bars event, taking home the silver.

Volleyball teams bounce back to win bronze

While Team USA's indoor squad and the vaunted American beach duo of Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross had higher aspirations of gold medals, both were bounced in the semifinals. But after losing her first-career Olympic match in 27 chances, Stanford alum Walsh Jennings and her ex-USC partner April Ross topped Brazil at Copacabana to win the bronze.

A couple days later, Walsh Jennings addressed the indoor volleyball team, which also responded by winning in their final match against the Netherlands to win bronze. Stanford alum Foluke Akinradewo provided 13 kills after returning from a leg injury, while ex-UCLA star Karsta Lowe also continbued to the attack. To wrap up the volleyball action, UCLA coach John Speraw led Team USA men's team to the bronze medal over Russia.

Allyson Felix wraps up historic run with 4x400m gold

There’s no more decorated women’s track olympian in history than Allyson Felix following her accomplishments in Rio. First she took home the silver in the 400m race in a ‘disappointing’ finish that included a controversial dive by gold-medal winner Shaunae Miller. But the USC grad responded by helping Team USA earn golds in the 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay, rewriting history in the process.

Competing in her fourth Olympics, Felix now has more golds than any other woman in track and field history (6), and is tied with Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey with nine total medals. To cap off her experience in Rio, Felix anchored the 4x400m relay on Saturday night, hoisting the baton high over her head as she crossed the finish line possibly for the last time as an Olympian.

The great eight

The American rowing eights has a strong tradition that continued in Rio with its third consecutive Olympic gold. Among the women on the team included Washington alums Kerry Simmonds and Katelin Snyder, and Stanford’s Elle Logan.

Anthony Ervin wins another gold after 16-year wait

Former Cal swimmer Anthony Ervin won his first gold medal as a 19-year-old in the Sydney summer games in 2000. Competing in Rio at the age of 35, Ervin was the Team USA's oldest swimmer. But he burned the competition in the 50m freestyle event, taking home one of his two gold medals, as he also took part in USA's winning 4x100m freestyle relay. He became the oldest swimmer in Olympic history to win a gold medal by touching first in the 50m freestyle and also became the first swimmer to win gold medals 16 years apart.

Klay Thompson drops 30 on France

Klay Thompson enjoyed a unique experience during his first Olympics, as he got to compete against former Washington State teammates Aron Baynes and Brock Motum while playing alongside childhood friend and ex-USC hoops star DeMar DeRozan. WSU had the largest number of men’s basketball players in the Olympics out of all NCAA Division I teams. Aside from Sunday’s gold-medal win against Serbia, Thompson’s highlight in Rio came against France in the group stage, when he dropped 30 points to lead USA to a 100-96 victory.

Men’s medley relay wins final gold in the pool

In Michael Phelps’ final Olympic race ever, a handful of Pac-12 alums helped him bring home the gold in the 4x100m medley relay. While Cal’s Ryan Murphy and Nathan Adrian took part in the final relay, fellow Golden Bear Tom Shields and former Arizona swim star Kevin Cordes also earned gold medals for their contributions during the prelims.

Simpson and Coburn go back-to-back bronze

What’s better than winning the first-ever medal for Team USA in an Olympic event? Watching your training partner accomplish the same feat the next day.

Such was the case for Colorado alums Emma Coburn and Jenny Simpson earlier this week. On Monday, Coburn took home the bronze in the 3000m steeplechase, becoming the first American woman to ever medal in the event. On Tuesday, Simpson mirrored the feat with a bronze in the 1500m.

Andre De Grasse’s bromance with Usain Bolt

Is Andre De Grasse track’s next big thing? The 21-year-old made a strong case for himself this past week at Estadio Olimpico, earning Team Canada a silver in the 200m, and bronze in the 100m and 4x100m relay events. Rio still belonged to Jamaican track legend Usain Bolt, who won his third consecutive gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay events.

During the 200m semifinals, De Grasse and Bolt shared a classic moment while crossing the finish line. As Bolt coasted in with what appeared to be an easy victory, De Grasse finished with a strong kick and nearly beat him. Bolt held on to win by 0.02 seconds, but appreciated the effort by De Grasse, as they exchanged smiles and a couple words while crossing the finish line.

De Grasse ran for USC in 2015 before turning pro and joining Puma, which also sponsors Bolt. On Saturday, the Canadian said he had to do some last-minute birthday shopping for Bolt, who turned 30 on Sunday.