The Summer Olympics return July 27, and once again, UC Irvine athletes and coaches will proudly represent the United States.
The men’s water polo and volleyball teams will field Anteater alumni, and UCI coaches will serve as assistants for the women’s volleyball (Paula Weishoff and Jamie Morrison) and water polo (Dan Klatt) squads.
Once again, UCI’s greatest Olympic impact will be in the pool. Thirteen Anteaters have competed for the U.S. in men’s water polo, with nine winning medals — all silver. UCI alumni Ryan Bailey, Tim Hutten and Jeff Powers return to the 2012 team after snagging silver at 2008’s Beijing Games. This will be Bailey’s fourth Olympic appearance and Powers’ third.
The U.S. men’s volleyball squad, which is defending its 2008 gold medal, will include 2007 UCI graduates Brian Thornton and David Smith.
In addition, former UCI grad student Amber Neben will ride with the cycling team.
UCI women’s water polo coach Klatt, an Anteater alum who played on the 2004 American squad in Athens, Greece, says there’s nothing like the Olympic experience.
“You can’t explain the Olympic Games. You have to be there,” he says. “When you walk around the village and see all these amazing athletes, it’s a humbling experience. Everyone understands how much work it took to get there. Add to that the fact that you’re representing your country. It’s incredible.”
All told, UCI students have won six gold medals, 16 silvers and one bronze. Greg Louganis ’81 — whom many consider the greatest male diver in history — won four of those golds in the platform and springboard competitions at the 1984 and ’88 games.
His aureate haul could have easily been six if the U.S. hadn’t boycotted the 1980 games in Moscow. Seven UCI athletes made the U.S. roster that year, and they could have been the greatest group of Anteater Olympians.
Among them — besides Louganis — were diver Jennifer Chandler, who had garnered a gold medal in springboard at the 1976 games, and rower Brad Lewis, who went on to win gold in the double sculls at the 1984 games. The 1980 men’s water polo team, which was favored to medal, featured Anteater Gary Figueroa, and he was on the 1984 squad that took silver.
Overall, 50 UCI students, alumni and coaches have participated in the Olympic Games — and that list will get longer later this month.