To See Tar Heels at the 2012 Olympics, Look to Women’s Sports
Fans who want to keep up with the Tar Heels in the 2012 Olympics will be keeping their eyes mostly on the women’s events.
During past Summer Olympics, the Carolina faithful have spent a lot of time following men’s basketball. But when the 2012 Olympics officially begin in London on July 27, there will be no former UNC players on the men’s basketball team. There won’t be any Tar Heel men representing the U.S. in any sport, for that matter.
Photo by: Cheryl Treworgy
However, a number of Tar Heel women will compete in various sports.
One of the favorites in the marathon is former UNC runner Shalane Flanagan ’05, who holds the American records in the outdoor 10,000- and indoor 3,000- and 5,000-meter events. She qualified to run in the 10,000 meters in the Olympics (she won the bronze in that event four years ago) but gave up that spot to focus on winning the marathon, which will be held Aug. 5.
Alice Schmidt ’04 will compete in the women’s 800-meter event on Aug. 8. Schmidt, who also ran in the 2008 Olympics, is a former NCAA and U.S. champion at 800 meters, but she qualified as the third U.S. runner this time.
At least five Tar Heel women will represent the U.S. in team sports — all of them also competed at the 2008 Olympics.
Rachel Dawson ’07, Katelyn Falgowski ’11 and Amy Tran Swensen ’02 are on the U.S. field hockey team. Swensen is the team’s goalkeeper. If she is hurt or otherwise can’t compete, her alternate to the team is Jackie Kintzer ’10.
Olympic field hockey begins July 29, with the gold medal game set for Aug. 10. It would be a long shot for the U.S. to be in that final game. During the four times that the U.S. has qualified, the best the field hockey team has finished is third in 1984. The U.S. was eighth four years ago.
Tar Heels are well-represented on the U.S. women’s soccer team, which defeated Japan, Sweden and Canada in Olympic tune-up matches recently. Heather O’Reilly ’09, already a two-time Olympic gold medalist, will be back in the U.S. midfield, where she is joined by another goal medalist midfielder, Tobin Heath ’10, the second-youngest player on the team at 24. (As an aside, late last year O’Reilly married Dave Werry ’06, a former UNC lacrosse player.)
Should O’Reilly, Heath or any U.S. women’s soccer player go down to injury, she would be replaced by 23-year-old Meghan Klingenberg ’11, a four-year starter for the Heels.
The first match for the soccer team is against France on July 25, two days before the opening ceremony.
There are other Tar Heel soccer connections: Robyn Gayle ’08 was added to the Canadian roster, while incoming freshman Katie Bowen was named an alternate to the New Zealand team.
Where the Men Are
While there is a dearth of Carolina men competing for the U.S. this time, there are at least a couple of Tar Heel men with roles in London.
Former UNC swimmer Yuri Suguiyama ’05, who holds Carolina records in the 1,000-yard and 1,650-yard freestyle events, coaches U.S. women’s 800-meter freestyle winner Kathleen Ledecky, a 15-year-old from Virginia.
Meanwhile, Vikas Gowda ’06, who grew up in Maryland and competed at UNC, will represent his birth nation, India, in the discus throw.
For the high-profile sport of men’s basketball, it’s been a bit of a dry spell for Carolina, which was represented on the U.S. Olympic team from 1964 through 2004 (except in 1980, when the U.S. didn’t participate, and 1996, when Michael Jordan ’86 chose not to play).
Larry Brown ’63 played on the team in 1964 and coached the team in 2004. Charlie Scott ’70 played on the 1968 team, and Bobby Jones ’74 played on the 1972 squad.
In 1976, Dean Smith coached his Carolina players Walter Davis ’77, Phil Ford ’78, Mitch Kupchak ’76 and Tommy LaGarde ’77 to a gold medal for the U.S. team.
Jordan and Sam Perkins ’84 played on the U.S. team in 1984, J.R. Reid ’90 in 1988, Jordan again with the “Dream Team” in 1992 and Vince Carter ’99 in 2000.
But since Brown’s 2004 team finished third, there have been no Tar Heels playing or coaching basketball at the Olympics.
— Clifton Barnes ’82