Tempe, Ariz.— The 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games are just around the corner, and Arizona State University is proud to say they’re representing.
Twenty alumni and three current student athletes will be competing in Rio de Janeiro. They will be representing the United States along with 14 other countries. The athletes will be competing in nine different sports including water polo, track and field, diving and swimming.
“We’re very serious about our Olympic sports,” said Ray Anderson, ASU Athletics Director. “We think they really add to the entire experience of what our responsibility is to deliver.”
This year, swimming is the pride and joy of ASU athletics. Coach Bob Bowman is the USA Men’s Swimming Head Coach in Rio. He’s currently ASU’s Men’s and Women’s Swimming Head Coach and also, Michael Phelps’ personal coach.
“I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity to represent my country. I think that’s something that we all relish and it’s the highest honor we can receive,” said Bowman.
Swimming has been ASU’s most well-represented sports in the Olympics. 60 Sun Devils made appearances, bringing eight gold medals home. This year, three ASU current student athletes will be competing in the sport: Katarina Simonovic, Richard Bohus and Anna Olasz, alongside alumnus Gal Nevo.
As an athletic director, Anderson believes ASU will continue to play a key role in producing athletes who head to Olympic Games. “We’re really adamant that this should be an Olympic training ground for all the sports, but certainly one of the ones that’s in the forefront for us here going into these Olympics, is, swimming,” he said.
ASU has already proven it can attract gold medalists to its campus and continue to train. Michael Phelps has spent this year at ASU training alongside Coach Bowman, preparing for the Rio Games. The 22-time Olympic medalist plans to retire, once again, after Rio.
As Phelps’ coach, Bowman wonders how the game will continue once his star pupil retires from Olympic Games. “To have someone whose longevity is so great, and someone who’s really transcended his sport, that’s what we’re going to miss,” he said.
The main question is how the sport of swimming will go on without him, Bowman contemplated. “He certainly changed it in ways that are unbelievable.”
One thing is for sure: ASU’s swimming program will add a huge piece to its puzzle to continue training successful Olympic athletes. After the Rio Games, Phelps plans on teaching what he knows at the university as a volunteer coach.
A second ASU coach goes to Rio to participate as a head coach. Cliff English heads the ASU Women’s Triathlon program. He personally coaches two Olympic athletes in Rio: Ashleigh Gentle (Australia), and Leonardo Chacon (Costa Rica).
Note: This is Part One of a five-part KTAR series highlighting how Phoenix-area athletes, coaches and residents are representing in Rio de Janeiro. Stay tuned for the second story on Tuesday, August 2nd , 2016 as Martha Maurer introduces you to an Arizona native competing in the Olympics for the first time.
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