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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Olympics allows athletes to share spotlight

    Olympics allows athletes to share spotlight

    Throughout the years Arizona has earned the nickname “”Point Guard U,”” much in part to the brilliant ability of men’s basketball coach Lute Olson to get his guards to the promised land that is the NBA.

    But now it is time for a change. The current nickname simply does not do justice to a school that has become much more than a farm system for future millionaire ballers.

    With 30 Arizona affiliated athletes and coaches heading to Beijing in August, Arizona’s new nickname should become Olympic U.

    Arizona basketball and football has been the focus of Wildcat athletics for ages, but with the recent drop in productivity, this makes for the perfect time to shine the spotlight elsewhere – a place many, perhaps, would never look.

    This light should fall squarely on the individuals: the brilliant athletes who represent the Wildcats every day but have thus far gone relatively unnoticed.

    These athletes are the sprinters, the long distance runners, the swimmers, divers and shot-put throwers.

    It is these athletes who perform under the radar throughout their time at Arizona but leave behind undeniable accomplishments.

    So now, as these 30 individuals travel across the globe to represent something much larger, it is time for these athletes, along with the softball players and the lone Arizona baseball representative, to be brought to the forefront and for Arizona and the Tucson community to realize the talent that makes up the Olympic U.

    These Summer Games are what give athletes like former Arizona long distance standout Abdi Abdirahman their much-deserved respect.

    Ask most Arizona students – my guilty self included – and they could not describe one experience at a Wildcat track meet.

    But when the word gets around that U.S. 1,500-meter gold-medal favorite Bernard Lagat not only trains with UA cross country head coach James Li but is also the brother of a current Wildcat athlete – Irine Lagat – and a former one – Robert Cheseret – a track meet suddenly sounds quite compelling.

    But despite the talent surrounding Drachman Stadium every year, one major obstacle stands between these talented athletes and fame on campus and across the city: championships.

    Fans have slowly taken notice of softball at Arizona, but only after hall-of-fame coach Mike Candrea led the team to eight national championships.

    And fans may now claim allegiance to the Wildcats’ swimming program, however, to attract even those shallow claims it took Arizona head coach Frank Busch bringing both men’s and women’s teams to prominence in the same year.

    The fact that Busch has been producing world class swimmers – such as 2004 Olympic gold medalist Amanda Beard – throughout his 15 years at Arizona somehow goes unnoticed to the students as well as the Tucson community until he sends 13 of his current and former swimmers to the Olympics along with earning himself a second consecutive trip – this time as the U.S. Men’s assistant coach.

    That is the beauty of these Olympic years, though. Because finally, Arizona athletics’ true character arises, and it’s not from the football field or the basketball court.

    Do not be surprised when you see a current or former Wildcat athlete take to the podium in mid-August, especially if it’s one of Busch’s swimmers.

    According to his son and Arizona assistant coach, Augie Busch, Arizona athletes “”should end up with more than eight (medals),”” the Wildcats’ total from the 2004 games.

    Candrea and four former Arizona softball players should also bring back medals this year, as team USA is expected to dominate the competition.

    But even those who don’t return home with any prize will likely return home with a lot more fans, because this is finally their chance to shine.

    And no matter which team they represent in Beijing, they all hold one common background – and I don’t believe that is any coincidence.

    – Bobby Stover is a materials science and engineering junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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