The 2016 Summer Olympics officially came to a close on Sunday, and with it, 39 past, present and incoming Stanford athletes will return from Rio de Janeiro after having represented 10 countries in the games. Sixteen Stanford athletes earned a school-record 27 medals across 20 Olympic events, ranging from swimming relays to the pole vault.
Stanford’s contingent in women’s swimming dominated the Rio Games. Incoming freshman Katie Ledecky captured national attention as she became the second woman ever to sweep the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle events in the same Olympics. After anchoring the silver-medal earning 400-meter freestyle relay team — which also boasted Stanford teammates junior Simone Manuel and senior Lia Neal — Ledecky’s first individual medal came in her record-breaking 400 free. She followed that up with a victory in the 200 free and then another gold and world record in the 800 free, in which she jumped out to a huge lead and beat the silver medalist by 11 seconds. Ledecky’s quintet of medals, a record for a Stanford affiliate in the Olympics, also included a gold in the 800 free relay.
Ledecky wasn’t the only Cardinal swimmer to make headlines. Participating in her first and only Olympics, Maya DiRado ’14 came away from Rio with four medals, including three individual medals. DiRado’s first gold came from the 800 free relay, but her other gold, in the 200 meter backstroke, came with extra meaning: She earned it in what will likely be the final race of her career, beating the favorite, Katinka Hosszu from Hungary, by six hundredths of a second. Her other two medals came from the 400-meter IM (silver) and 200-meter IM (bronze).
After helping Team USA win the 400 medley relay, Simone Manuel made history when she became the first African American to receive an individual medal in swimming with her first-place finish in the 100-meter free. She capped off her Olympic moment with two silvers in the 50-meter free and the 400 free relay.
Women’s water polo:
Coming off of a gold medal win in the London Olympics, people had high expectations for the U.S. women’s water polo team going into Rio — expectations that the squad met if not surpassed. Across their fives games of competition, the women outscored opponents by a 73-31 margin, including a 12-5 onslaught against Italy in the gold medal match.
Captain Maggie Steffens ‘17 led all scorers in the tournament, totalling 17 goals, and was named MVP for the second Olympics in a row. Kiley Neushul ‘15 added 10 goals, including three in the final, while incoming freshman Makenzie Fischer scored seven and Melissa Seidemann ‘13 notched three. The quartet was responsible for 50 percent of Team USA’s goals during the tournament.
One of the most celebrated Olympians of our time and the most decorated beach volleyball player ever, Kerri Walsh Jennings ‘00 paired up with April Ross for the Rio Games after the retirement of Walsh Jennings’s former partner, Misty May Treanor. Walsh Jennings, a three-time gold medalist, lost the first Olympic match of her career in the semifinals against Brazil’s second-seeded pair, but she and Ross bounced back to secure a bronze medal. The bronze marked Walsh Jenning’s fourth consecutive Olympic medal.
On the indoor volleyball court, Foluke Akinradewo ‘09 helped lead Team USA to its third consecutive medaling in volleyball, as the team won bronze after finishing 7-1 in the tournament. It was the second Olympics for Akinradewo, a middle blocker, who, after suffering from an injury during the semifinals, returned for the bronze-medal match and contributed 13 kills, 2 blocks and an ace.
Brothers Erik and Kawika Shoji (‘12 and ‘10, respectively) were part of the U.S.’s medal-earning squad that came back from a 0-2 set deficit against Russia to win bronze, only the second time the U.S. men have medaled since 1992. Erik started the entire tournament as the team’s libero.
No American fencer had medaled in Olympics for 32 years prior to Rio. And for foil, it had been even longer (56 years). But Alex Massialas ‘16 made sure to change that. After advancing to the finals with a 15-9 semifinal victory over Great Britain’s Richard Kruse, Massialas fell to Italy’s Daniele Garozzo, 15-11. But his defeat in the finals still earned him a historic silver medal. The success kept on coming for the two-time Olympian; he was also part of the U.S. trio who won bronze in team foil, the first time the U.S. had won a medal in the event in 84 years.
Elle Logan ‘11 rowed in the seven seat on her way towards helping Team USA’s women’s eight win the eight A Final. With the team’s first-place finish, Logan became the first female rower to win three Olympic golds. The U.S. women’s eight has been utterly dominant, in fact unbeatable, over the last 10 years, with Logan being part of the senior team since 2008.
Track and field:
Katerina Stefanidi ‘12 beat out Team USA’s Sandi Morris in the pole vault after clearing 4.85 meters. Her victory made her the first Cardinal woman to win an Olympic track and field event in Stanford history. She was also the only Cardinal to medal for a country other than America, as she represented Greece during the games. She earned Greece’s first medal in track and field since the country hosted the Games in 2004.
While equestrian is not a varsity sport at Stanford, the school can now say it is home to an Olympic medalist in the sport: Lucy Davis ‘15. Davis and her three teammates earned the U.S. a silver medal in team show jumping, sandwiched by gold-medalist France and bronze-medalist Canada. Davis and her horse, Barron, performed particularly well leading up to the final round, earning zero penalty points.
Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.