Tar Heels Left Their Marks at Rio Olympics

Sixteen Tar Heels have delivered on months and years of training in their goal to compete at the highest level of their sports as they participated in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The games concluded Aug. 21. Here’s how UNC Olympians  fared:

  • In men’s basketball, Harrison Barnes ’14; the U.S. team defeated Serbia 96-66 to win the Gold Medal on Aug. 21.
  • In women’s basketball, for Turkey, LaToya Pringle Sanders ’12; the U.S. team won the Gold Medal, defeating Spain 101-72 on Aug. 20.
  • In track and field, Shalane Flanagan ’05, for the U.S. in the marathon, was part of a banner result for three American women. A report in USA Today on Aug. 14 noted the three “combined to notch the country’s best team-wide finish in the event. … Flanagan (2:25:06), Desiree Linden (2:26:08) and Amy Cragg (2:28:25) finished sixth, seventh and ninth, respectively, marking the USA’s finest team performance.”

Earlier this year, Cragg and Flanagan notably worked together in an inspiring display of teamwork in competing to qualify for the games. “They shared pain and exhilaration, each feeling she would be incomplete if only one made the U.S. Olympic team,” wrote Helene Elliott in the Los Angeles Times after the Olympics trials in February. “In an individual sport they became a selfless team, sharing water bottles and cooling towels Saturday as they ran smoothly as 1 and 1A for most of the Olympic marathon trials race through the toasty streets of downtown Los Angeles.

“ ‘She’s helped me so much the past four months. I’ve kind of just been hanging on to her,’ ” said Cragg, an alumna of Arizona State University.

“Each had powerful motivation,” Elliott wrote. “Cragg burned to banish memories of her fourth-place finish at the 2012 U.S. marathon trials. Flanagan was driven to grab her fourth Olympic berth. … That Flanagan completed the race was a testament to an inspiring bond that will take them to the Olympics together.”

  • In women’s soccer, for the U.S., are Meghan Klingenberg ’11, Crystal Dunn ’14, Tobin Heath ’10, Whitney Engen ’11 and Allie Long ’10; and, for New Zealand, Katie Bowen ’16. Heather O’Reilly ’09 also traveled to Rio as an alternate on the U.S. team. The U.S. team lost to Sweden in the quarterfinals in a penalty shootout on Aug. 12. The defeat was the earliest exit by a U.S. team, covering seven World Cups and six Olympics, USA Today reported.
  • In field hockey, for the U.S., are Jackie Briggs ’10, Rachel Dawson ’07, Caitlin Van Sickle ’12, Katelyn Falgowski ’11 and Kelsey Kolojejchick ’15. The U.S. team lost to Germany 2-1 in the quarterfinals on Aug. 15.

From The New York Times’ report following the loss: “ ‘It’s life; there are no guarantees,’ said Dawson, the second-oldest player on the team at age 31 and a veteran of more games on the national squad than any other player.

“Next to her stood Falgowski, who had been credited with the United States’ goal. She is 27, has played a lot of games for the national team and might have a lot more to come, although she would only say, “ ‘We’ll see,’ when asked about the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

“ ‘I’m proud of our tournament,’ she said. And yet, she acknowledged, there was still the fact they had gone out in the quarterfinals, not later in the tournament.

“ ‘When you leave like this, you have to remember what you did to get there,’ she said. And ‘you give yourself time to regroup.’ ”

  • Vikas Gowda ’06, for India in discus; throws of 57.79, 58.99 and 58.70; finished 16th in a field of 18 in a qualification round.

Also, Professor Charlie Tuggle in UNC’s School of Media and Journalism organized a group of 29 students from the school to report on the Olympics. Each student had a sport to cover, along with other assignments. Tuggle led a similar program during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

According to a newsletter published by the school, an anonymous donor gave $50,000 to subsidize travel costs for the students.

UNC and Memphis were the only two universities in the world that worked with the Olympic News Service at the Olympics, according to the school. Four of the UNC students reported for state media partners instead of interning with the Olympic News Service. The program is offered through UNC’s Study Abroad Office, and students earned three credit hours along with experience.

Roxane Coche ’13 (PhD), an assistant professor at the University of Memphis, led a group of 14 Memphis students. Coche originally contacted the Olympic organizing committee about needs for English speakers to help with media efforts.

For more about the games, go to and follow ‪#‎UNCinRIO on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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