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The Daily Wildcat


Arizona Wildcats in Tokyo: 27 current and former UA athletes competing at the 2021 Olympics

Amy Bailey

Arizona’s Dejah Mulipola looks to the Cal pitcher during the Arizona- California game at Rita Hillenbrand Stadium on Saturday, March 31, in Tucson Ariz.

The greatest athletes in the world will soon take the stage at the biggest sporting event this year, the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. 

While a lot of the athletes are not known, there will be a few familiar faces that people in Tucson might recognize. This year the University of Arizona will be sending 27 Wildcats (24 athletes and three coaches) from 14 different nations. Here are the athletes representing the UA. 

Delaney Schnell (’22): Diver for Team USA

Of all the Wildcats going to the Olympics, the biggest breakout star by far is redshirt junior Delaney Schnell. Before Schnell made the Olympic team, she finished this year at the UA as the Pac-12 Diver of the Year and the Pac-12 champion in the one-meter dive. Schnell also broke the Pac-12 and school record in the platform event with a score of 383.35. At the 2021 NCAA championships, Schnell won a silver medal in the platform dive. 

At the Team USA diving trials in Indianapolis, Indiana, Schnell finished first in the Women’s Individual Platform (1021.9) and Women’s Synchronized Platform (930). Now that it is established that Schnell is the best diver in the country, all eyes will be on her to bring back a gold medal or two. While it may be her first Olympics, competing on a world stage is nothing new to Schnell. Schnell was a member of Team USA’s world championship teams in 2017 and 2019 where she finished on the podium with a bronze medal. She was also a member of the World Cup team in 2020. 

Dwight Dumais: Diving coach for Team USA

Schnell will be accompanied by UA head diving coach Dwight Dumais at the Tokyo Olympics. Dumais is one of the many coaches that has helped develop Schnell into the elite diver that she is. 

Dumais joined the UA program in 2018 after coaching the internationally renowned Longhorn Aquatic Club at the University of Texas from 2010-18. During his collegiate career at Stanford, Dumais was a five-time All-American diver. 

RELATED: Diving for gold: Arizona diver Delaney Schnell prepares for her first Olympic Games

Giulia Koutsoyanopulos (’24): First baseman for Team Italy

Though the Arizona softball team’s season ended in heartbreaking losses at the College World Series, Giulia Koutsoyanopulos is looking to reverse her fortunes and win a medal with Italy in her first Olympic Games. In her freshman season at the UA, Koutsoyanopulos appeared in 49 games, batting .231 with an OPS of .423. While those numbers may not be the most impressive, Koutsoyanopulos was utilized more for her defense. As a first baseman, she fielded a perfect 1.000% with no errors and 78 putouts. 

Those skills will be put to the test immediately as Koutsoyanopulos will play her first Olympic game against her former teammate Dejah Mulipola and Team USA. 

Daniel Namir (’22): Swimmer for Team Israel

Daniel Namir will swim in the men’s 4×200 freestyle relay at his first Olympic Games. Namir wrapped up his junior season at the UA as an NCAA qualifier in the 200-meter freestyle, holding the fastest time on his team at 1:33.40. Namir and the Israelis will attempt to win their country’s first-ever medal in swimming and tenth medal overall at the Olympics. 

Bianca Pagdanganan (’19): Golfer for Team Philippines 

With only two golfers allowed to compete for each country, Bianca Pagdanganan punched her ticket to her first Olympic Games after ranking No. 42 in the top-60 women’s Olympic golf rankings. Her teammate Yuka Saso ranked No. 9. 

Before her time as an Olympian, Pagdanganan was a key contributor during her time as a Wildcat. In her first year after transferring from Gonzaga, she led the Arizona women’s golf team to a national championship in 2018, where she finished tied for second with a final score of -6. During her senior season, Pagdanganan won the El Tigre Invitational with a score of -9. The Wildcats would advance to the national championship again but lost in the semifinals. 

After graduation, Pagdanganan joined the LPGA circuit full-time. After some tough starts in her professional career, Pagdanganan’s breakout moment came when she finished tied for ninth at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Oct. 8, 2020. She followed that up on Oct. 22, 2020, with a third-place finish at the LPGA Drive on Championship – Reynolds Lake Oconee. 

Between both LPGA tournaments, Pagdanganan cashed in with a combined purse of $167,322. While no money will be handed out at the Olympics, a gold medal for her country is something you cannot put a value on. 

Nico Mannion (’20): Basketball player for Team Italy

For some athletes, all it takes is one season to flash greatness, and that is what Nico Mannion did. In his lone season at Arizona Mannion averaged 14 points, 2.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists. In the 2020 NBA draft, Mannion was drafted No. 48 overall by the Golden State Warriors. In the 30 NBA games Mannion played in he averaged 4.1 points, 1.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists. 

This is the first year that the Italian men’s basketball team has qualified for the Olympics since their silver medal performance at Athens, Greece, in 2004. 

Karolina Pahlitzsch (’19): Track and Field athlete for Team Germany

Germany is one of the toughest countries to beat in track and field, and Karolina Pahlitzsch makes it just as difficult. After transferring from the University of Nebraska in 2018, Pahlitzsch won the 600-meter run at the indoor Texas Tech Shootout with a time of 1:29.23. At outdoor meets, Pahlitzsch finished second (2:09.31) in the 800-meter dash at the Aztec Invitational and second (58.55) in the 400-meter hurdles at the Desert Heat Classic.  

During her senior year, Pahlitzsch ran a personal record of 57.10 in the 400-meter hurdles to finish third at the Pac-12 championships. She also won the 400-meter races at both Willie Williams Classic College and the Aztec Invitational. 

Danielle O’Toole (’17): Pitcher for Team Mexico

The UA has a long history of stellar softball players, but one that stands in a league of her own is lefty pitcher Danielle O’Toole. After transferring from San Diego State in 2015, O’Toole’s impact was felt the very next year when she was eligible to play. 

In her first year with the Wildcats, O’Toole finished with a record of 26-12, an ERA of 2.17, 192 strikeouts and 216 innings pitched. O’Toole was Arizona’s first, first-team all-Pac-12 pitcher since 2010 and posted the most victories by a Wildcat since 2011 and lowest ERA since 2010. Many would say it was a career year for O’Toole and a performance like that was once in a lifetime. 

The very next season O’Toole put up even more impressive numbers. During her senior year, she finished 30-5 with a 1.21 ERA, 210 strikeouts and 219 innings pitched. After throwing a no-hitter in week seven of the season against Washington, O’Toole was named NFCA, USA Softball, ESPNW and Pac-12 Player/Pitcher of the Week. At the end of the season, O’Toole was named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, the first UA pitcher to accomplish that since 2004. 

O’Toole has many more awards and recognitions, so many that they would take up its own page. One that she does not have and will be searching for this summer is an Olympic medal. 

Taylor McQuillin (’19): Pitcher for Team Mexico

If having one star lefty pitcher was not enough, Mexico also has lefty pitcher Taylor McQuillin in the bullpen. Much like her teammate O’Toole, the impact McQuillin makes in the circle will be felt throughout the Olympics. McQuillin spent all four years at Arizona, starting out slow her freshman year then becoming one of the best in the NCAA her senior year. 

McQuillin’s best year would have to be her junior season, where she finished 28-12 with a 1.68 ERA, 287 strikeouts and 242 innings pitched. McQuillin finished her career at the UA in the top-10 in wins (9th – 80), strikeouts (7th – 815) and innings pitched (10th – 697.1). She was also Arizona’s first four-time all-conference pitcher since Alicia Hollowell (2003-06). 

Mexico has some firepower on their roster, but that is typical of any player who was coached under Mike Candrea. 

Felicity Passon (’22): Swimmer for Team Seychelles

One of the most interesting Wildcat Olympians is Felicity Passon, who will be swimming for Seychelles, an island republic comprising 115 islands off the east coast of Africa. Passon will be a first-time Olympian looking to make history and win Seychelles’ first-ever Olympic medal. 

Passon competed in the 2019 African games where she walked away with two gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal. 

RELATED: Seven Arizona baseball players selected in the 2021 MLB Draft

Anna Heller: Swim coach for Team Seychelles

Traveling to Tokyo with Passon will be Arizona assistant swim coach Anna Heller. Heller joined the UA in 2019 and has coached many Wildcat greats such as captains Brooks Fail and Jade Neser. Heller began her coaching career at her alma mater Texas A&M, where she helped lead the Aggies to their highest ever NCAA finish (3rd) and an SEC Championship. After that Heller went to SMU where she coached four athletes with NCAA Championship appearances over two seasons. 

As a swimmer at Texas A&M, Heller helped lead the Aggies to a Big 12 Championship in 2012 and had top-10 times in the 100 and 200-meter backstrokes. Now Heller will attempt to coach fellow Wildcat Passon to victory in Tokyo. 

Sage Watson (’17): Track and Field athlete for Team Canada

While Sage Watson is a volunteer assistant coach for the Arizona track and field team, she will be one of the athletes competing for a medal at the Olympic Games. Unlike many of her fellow Wildcats, this will be Watson’s second Olympic Games. 

Watson ran for Team Canada at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Watson finished No. 11 in the semifinals of the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 55.44, which was not enough to qualify for the finals. Watson did reach the finals with Team Canada in the 4×400 meter relay, where her team would narrowly miss the podium with a fourth-place finish at 3:26.43. 

Before she was an Olympic athlete, Watson was a star track and field athlete at the UA. In 2016, Watson placed first at the Armory Track Invite with a mark of 1:10.52 during her 500-meter race for an Arizona school record. She was also a part of the 4×400-meter relay squad that broke a school record and won the MPSF Conference Championship with a time of 3:32.54. 

Watson never finished outside of the top four in any of the 400-meter and 400-meter hurdle races that she ran in that year. In her final year at Arizona in 2017, she upped her game and never ranked outside the top two finishers in the 400 and 500-meter events. 

Steve Kerr (’88): Basketball coach for Team USA 

Although he is not an athlete at these games, it would be hard to argue that the most famous Wildcat at these Olympics is not Steve Kerr. 

Kerr’s career with Arizona began in 1983, but it was not until 1986 when he would finally arrive on the scene as a great player. He led the Wildcats to their first Pac-10 title that year and was selected for the U.S. World Championship team but would miss the tournament due to injury and was sidelined for the whole 1987 season at Arizona. After coming back in 1988, Kerr became an All-American, won another Pac-10 title and advanced to the Final Four. Kerr also played 13 consecutive games without a turnover and set an NCAA season record for three-point field goal percentage (.571).

Kerr’s NBA career began in 1988 when he was selected in the second round by the Phoenix Suns. His career started out rough, bouncing around to three teams in five years. All of that changed in 1993 when he signed with the Chicago Bulls. The first two years were tough, but that all changed when Michael Jordan left baseball to come back to the NBA and the Bulls. After that, Jordan and the Bulls cruised to a second three-peat, with Kerr playing a crucial role on all three championship teams. 

Kerr would not be heard from much until about two decades later when he became head coach of the Golden State Warriors. He and point guard Steph Curry have compiled quite the resume together, making five straight NBA finals appearances and winning three of them. Kerr’s regular-season record as a head coach is an astonishing 376-171, including a 73-9 record in 2016 that broke the best regular-season record he had set with Jordan and the Bulls during the 1996 season. 

Abdi Abdirahman (’98): Marathon runner for Team USA

At 44 years of age, Abdi Abdirahman is still going strong as an Olympic athlete. During his time in a Wildcat uniform, Abdirahman was a two-time All-American in cross-country and a five-time All-American in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters. He won back-to-back Pac-10 titles in the 5,000 meters in 1998 and 1999, and he also won the conference title in the 10,000 meters in 1998. 

After becoming a U.S. citizen in 2000, Abdirahman had a chance to accomplish one of his lifelong goals, to compete for Team USA at the Olympics. Those dreams have come true as Abdirahman has competed in the marathon at the Olympics in 2000 (finished No. 10), 2004 (finished No. 15), 2008 (finished No. 15) and 2012 (DNF). 

Edgar Rivera-Morales (’13): Track and Field athlete for Team Mexico

Edgar Rivera-Morales will compete as a high jumper in Tokyo for his home country of Mexico. This will be Rivera-Morales’ second Olympic Games after he finished No. 35 (2.17 meters) at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games. 

In 2011, when he was with Arizona, Rivera-Morales won the high jump at the MPSF Championships with a mark of 7-2.25. Later that year, Rivera-Morales also took home wins at the Texas A&M Challenge and the Razorback Invitational. In his senior year in 2012, Rivera-Morales had a personal-best clearance of 7-4.25 and won the Boise State Team Challenge. At the Pac-12 Championships, Rivera-Morales finished second by clearing 7-1.5. 

Josh Green (’20): Basketball player for Team Australia

With Australia establishing itself as one of America’s biggest rivals in basketball, the challenge became even tougher with shooting guard Josh Green suiting up for the Aussies. 

In his lone season at Arizona, Green averaged 12 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists as an 18-year-old kid. His biggest game as a Wildcat came against Pepperdine, where he had career highs in points (24), field goals made (nine) and three-point field goals made (4). After the 2020 season, Green entered the NBA draft and was taken by the Dallas Mavericks with the No. 18 pick. 

In a year where Team USA is as vulnerable as ever, Green and the Australian national team will look to close in on the gold. 

Gia Trevisan (’16): Track and Field athlete for Team Italy

This will be the first Olympic appearance for former Wildcat Gia Trevisan. After transferring to Arizona from Cal in 2014, Trevisan took fourth place in the 400-meter sprint at the UA-ASU-NAU Double Dual with a personal-best time of 55.41. During her junior season in 2015, Trevisan finished second in the 400-meter race at the Don Kirvy Elite by clocking a time of 55.66. Trevian’s best collegiate race was when she finished in first place at the Willie Williams Classic in the 400-meter race with a time of 54.98. 

Rather than compete for the UA her senior year, she opted out and joined Bracco Atletica, an amateur Italian sports club. 

RELATED: OPINION: The NCAA needs to do something about the transfer portal

Rory Sabbatini (’98): Golfer for Team Slovakia

It has been a while since Rory Sabbatini wore a Wildcat uniform, but the last time he did he was the 1998 Pac-10 Player of the Year. After entering the professional circuit in 1999, Sabbatini was the youngest member of the PGA Tour at the time. 

As a pro golfer, Sabbatini has participated in 570 events with six PGA tour wins, 14-second place finishes and 12 third-place finishes. The most impressive number must be his career earnings which top out at over $35 million. 

Rafael Quintero (’16): Diver for Team Puerto Rico

In his freshman year at the UA during the 2012-13 season, Quintero finished in first place a total of nine times, including the Pac-12 championship. In the 2013-14 season, Quintero was named Pac-12 Diver of the Month for November and January. Later that season, he won the platform event at the Wildcat Diving Invite for the second straight season. 

In his junior year during the 2014-15 season, Quintero won the Wildcat Diving Invite for the third year in a row. At Pac-12 Championships, he placed second in the one-meter and platform with 444.60 and 403.50. In his final year with Arizona during the 2015-16 season, Quintero swept all three events at the Wildcat Diving Invitational. At NCAA Zone E Championships, Quintero took first in the platform (853.05) and one-meter (782.20), and third in the 3-meter with 799.35. 

Quintero would miss the Pac-12 championships because he was at the 2016 FINA World Diving Cup, where he automatically qualified for the 2016 Olympics. Quintero placed seventh in the 10 meter platform final at the 2016 Olympics with 485.35. 

Pelle Larsson (’24): Basketball player for Team Sweden

Next season will be the first time shooting guard Pelle Larsson will wear a Wildcat uniform, but seeing him play in the Olympics will be a preview for Arizona fans. 

The Utah transfer averaged 8.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists off a field goal percentage of 46.7 in his freshman year. His best game came against No. 17 Oregon on Jan. 9 when Larsson scored 15 points along with five rebounds and five assists. 

Ify Ibekwe (’11): Basketball player for Team Nigeria

Small forward Ify Ibekwe will be headed to her first Olympic Games in Tokyo. As a Wildcat, Ibekwe was one of the strongest forces on the court. In her four years at the UA, she averaged 14.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists. 

After averaging a double-double in her college career, she was selected No. 24 overall in the second round of the 2011 WNBA draft by the Seattle Storm. Her WNBA career was short-lived as she only played three games with the Storm. Ibekwe spent the next six years overseas in various European women’s basketball leagues. She returned to the WNBA as a member of the Los Angeles Sparks but only lasted six games with the team before she was cut. 

Shaina Pellington (’22): Basketball player for Team Canada

After competing with Team Canada at the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament, shooting guard Shaina Pellington and the Canadians were successful and qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. 

Pellington is coming off the best year the Arizona women’s basketball team has ever had. The Wildcats made a historic run during March Madness and made it to the championship game against Stanford. Pellington had her best game of the year against Stanford. She had a season-high in minutes (30), field goal attempts (15), free throws attempted (six), free throws made (five), rebounds (seven) and steals (three). Sadly, they lost to Stanford by a final score of 54-53. 

Dejah Mulipola (’21): Catcher for Team USA

Last but certainly not least is one of the most decorated athletes the University of Arizona has ever seen, catcher Dejah Mulipola. A product of former head coach Candrea, Mulipola took her game to new heights at Arizona. 

In her four years at the UA, Mulipola batted .334 with 68 home runs, 203 RBI’s and an OPS of 1.171. Here is a list of some of the incredible accomplishments of Mulipola’s time at the UA. 

  • A three-year starter at catcher started 179 of UA’s 182 games at catcher in her career.
  • Named Johnny Bench Catcher of the Year in 2019 and NFCA Catcher of the Year in 2019 and 2021
  • In 2019, became Arizona’s first, first-team NFCA All-American catcher since 1998 (Leah Braatz)
  • A member of the U.S. Women’s National Team (2019-current)
  • Three-time all-conference and all-region catcher.
  • Finished her career with 68 career home runs, ninth most in UA history.

It is hard to find something Mulipola cannot do. With her help, the United States will look to win its first gold medal in softball since the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The last team to win the gold was Japan at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. 

Softball was disbanded as an Olympic sport after 2008, but now that it is back and the Olympics are in Tokyo, the hometown team will have the entire country of Japan by their side. 

Brad Tandy (’15): Swimmer for Team South Africa

Tandy will be the sole Wildcat representing South Africa at his second Olympic Games. At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, he tied for sixth in the men’s 50m freestyle with a time of  21.19. Tandy is part of a long history of South African swimmers at UA. At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, all four of the men’s 4×100 swim team were all from UA. They also won the gold medal that year. Current captain of the women’s swimming team, Jade Neser, is also from South Africa. 

During the 2013-14 season at UA, Tandy set a school-record and Pac-12 meet record time of 18.80 in the 50 free at the Pac-12 Championships. At those same Pac-12 championships, Tandy was also part of the winning and Pac-12 meet record 200 medley relay team and the Pac-12 title 400 medley relay team. Tandy later won an NCAA title in the 50 free with a time of 18.95, earning All-American honors in the 50 free, 200 free relay and 200 medley relay.

Brett Thompson (‘10): Rugby player for Team USA

The story of Thompson at UA is a bit of an unusual one. Growing up Thompson played rugby and wanted to go pro. Since many U.S. colleges do not have rugby teams, he decided to go play football at Arizona in 2009. He only played 10 games in the 2010 season and once rugby was accepted as an Olympic sport, he left UA for the professional club, the Men’s Eagles Sevens.

Thompson joined Team USA in 2013, with their highest finish coming in 2018 when they placed sixth. As a first time Olympian, Thompson hopes to win a medal in the sport he has loved since he was a kid. 

Corben Sharrah (‘18): BMX for Team USA

With this being his second straight Olympics, Tucson native Corben Sharrah is ready to mix it up with the best of BMX. Sharrah has competed on the world stage since 2011 when he was only 19 years old. He appeared in seven straight (2011-18) world BMX championships, taking home the gold in 2017. 

After a ninth place finish at the 2016 Olympic games, Sharrah will look to earn his first Olympic medal. 

Alex Obert (‘24): Water Polo player for Team USA 

After earning his first degree in engineering with the University of the Pacific in 2016, Obert has returned to school at UA to earn his master’s degree. In his college water polo career Obert was a three time All-American and finished tied for ninth on the all-time scoring list at Pacific. 

When he was still at Pacific Obert landed a spot on Team USA in the water polo world championships in 2013. He went to four straight world championships, with the team’s highest finish coming in 2015 where they finished in seventh. That same year Obert and Team USA won the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada. 

Obert is returning for his second Olympic games after placing No. 10 with Team USA Water Polo at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro games. When the Olympics are not happening, Ober is a member of  Vaterpolski klub, a professional water polo club in Croatia. 

The Games of the XXXII Olympiad will begin with opening ceremonies at Olympic Stadium on Friday, July 23, in Tokyo, Japan, on NBC. 

Follow Sean Fagan on Twitter 

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