Over the next two weeks, athletes from around the world will compete in the 32nd Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Many of them have ties to Jesuit colleges and universities: from students and alumni to coaches, Jesuit-educated athletes will be found on the court, in the pool and on the field!
The U.S. women’s soccer team will feature two Jesuit alumni from two different institutions: Kristie Mewis of Boston College, and Julie Ertz of Santa Clara University; this will be the first Olympics for Mewis and the second Olympics for Ertz. The Tokyo games will mark the second Olympics for another Jesuit alum: Thomas Jaeschke of Loyola University Chicago, who will play for Team USA in men’s volleyball, five years after competing in Rio. A fellow Loyola alum, Jeff Jendryk, has been named as an alternate for Team USA.
This year’s games will mark the debut of Karate as an Olympic sport; Team USA will feature two-time Canisius University alumnus Brian Irr, who will be competing in the kumite discipline. And baseball will make its return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008: Team USA will feature Nick Martinez, an alumnus of Fordham University.
On the coaching side, Team USA will be well-represented by two coaches from Loyola Marymount University: Head softball coach Tairia Flowers will serve as an assistant coach for softball, while assistant women’s volleyball coach Brian Thornton will serve as an assistant coach for the men’s indoor volleyball team. A third coach from LMU (head women’s tennis coach Agustin Moreno) will serve as head coach for Team Mexico’s women’s tennis team.
Two Jesuit universities are tied for having four student-athletes and/or alumni competing in the Olympics: Georgetown University and the University of San Francisco. From Georgetown, alumna Rachel Schneider will compete in track for Team USA; alumnus Charlie Buckingham will compete in sailing for Team USA; alumnus Amos Bartelsmeyer will compete in track for Team Germany; and current student Daisy Cleverly will play on the women’s soccer team for Team New Zealand. From USF, three alumnae will compete in the steeplechase: Lizzie Bird for Team England, and Elena Burkhard and Lea Meyer, both for Team Germany. For Team Israel, Maor Tiyouri will compete in the marathon.
Outside of Team USA, you will find even more Jesuit alumni and student-athletes competing for many other nations, and participating in other parts of the Games. The opening ceremonies will feature former Gonzaga University basketball star Rui Hachimura carrying the flag of Japan; Hachimura will be competing in men’s basketball for Team Japan. Another Jesuit alumnus competing in men’s basketball includes Blake Schilb of Loyola University Chicago for Team Czech Republic.
From Fordham University, alumna Fiona Murtagh will compete in rowing for Team Ireland, while incoming student Alexander Gadegaard Shah will compete in the 100-meter freestyle for Team Nepal. From Saint Peter’s University, former student-athlete Troy Pina will compete in swimming for Cape Verde (of note, Pina’s sister will join him as part of the first team of swimmers to ever compete in the Olympics from the island nation). And for the first time in its history, the Loyola Marymount University women’s water polo program will be represented in the Olympics: alumna Claire Wright will start as goalie for Team Canada, while current student Yanah Gerber will play as a center forward for Team South Africa.
Just days after the conclusion of the Olympics on August 8, the Paralympics will begin in Tokyo on August 24. The U.S. swimming team will be well-represented by Jesuit alumni and students: Matt Torres and Colleen Young of Fairfield University, and McKenzie Coan and McClain Hermes of Loyola University Maryland. Young of Fairfield and Coan of Loyola are both alumni, while Torres of Fairfield and Hermes of Loyola are both current students. And in rowing, Gonzaga University alumnus Charley Nordin will row for Team USA in the mixed four with coxswain.
In addition to those participating in competition, there will be many alumni covering the Olympics and Paralympics, including Bill Simmons (College of the Holy Cross) for The Ringer; Chris Chavez (Marquette University) for Sports Illustrated; and Nancy Armour (Marquette University) for USA Today. Multiple alumni will serve as commentators for NBC Sports, including Monica McNutt (Georgetown University), Michelle Konkoly (Georgetown University), Trenni Kusnierek (Marquette University), and Jack Benjamin (Santa Clara University). NBC has more Jesuit connections in K.C. Sullivan, a College of the Holy Cross alumnus who serves as NBC Universal’s President/CEO of Global Advertising Partnerships, and Sarah Greenwood Gaul, an alumna of both Boston College and Fordham University, who serves as Vice President of Ad Sales Marketing for the Olympics at NBC Universal.
Alumni are working behind the scenes in many other ways, including Gonzaga University alumna Michelle Paulin, who is serving as the unit lead for the Olympic Coordination Office for the Tokyo games, and two Fordham University alumni: Bob Mignogna, a former director general of the International Surfing Association, who helped make surfing an Olympic sport for the first time this year, and Kathleen DeStefano (also a Georgetown University alumna), who is serving as senior counsel for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
From Creighton University, alumna Beth Riemersma serves as physical therapist for U.S. gymnasts Simone Biles and Jordan Chiles. During the Olympic Trials in June, Biles and Chiles competed in St. Louis, where the on-site medical team included several physicians from SLUCare, the academic medical practice at Saint Louis University. And in another faculty connection, Matthew Mitten (executive director of Marquette University’s National Sports Law Institute) is serving as an arbitrator with the CAS ad hoc committee Anti-doping Division for the Tokyo Games.
Please note: We hope we did not miss anyone, but if we did, please contact AJCU’s Vice President of Communications, Deanna Howes Spiro: email@example.com.