We’ve relished the 2016 Olympic Games watching so many talented Jayhawks represent their countries–and their alma mater–in Rio de Janeiro. One Jayhawk, Kyle Clemons, even contributed to Team USA’s historic medal haul in Rio, earning a gold medal for his role running a preliminary heat of the 4 x 400 meter relay.
KU alumni were proud of all of our #JayhawksinRio, sharing social posts throughout the games. Even the athletes got into the act, using the hashtag to chronicle their own Olympic experience and share some of the fun with KU alumni.
Special thanks to Tim Weaver, g’97, who sent us behind-the-scenes stories and photos while working for Team USA track and field as a team manager. He sent the following farewell from Rio, pictured prior to the closing ceremony with Jayhawk and Olympic triple-jumper Andrea Geubelle.
We’ll see you in four years in Tokyo, where KU and Olympic legend Billy Mills made his incredible come-from-behind victory in the 10,000 meters in 1964. Based on what we saw in Rio, alumni can expect more historic feats to connect the Jayhawk nation and make all alumni proud.
Nobody likes to watch a rerun, especially sports fans. But at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, we watched a rare rerun of the women’s 4 x 100 meter relay, and it was a first (in more ways than one) thanks to the fast efforts of a Jayhawk. Let’s rewind.
On Thursday night during their preliminary heat of the women’s 4 x 100, the U.S. team was bumped during the second exchange. The Brazilian team inadvertently made contact with American Allyson Felix, running second leg, while attempting to hand off the baton. Trying to recover, Felix awkwardly tossed the baton, which dropped to the track. Dazed and confused, unsure what to do next, Felix suddenly remembered what Tim Weaver, g’97, told her. She recounted to ESPN what happened next.
“At our technical meeting, Tim Weaver really emphasized that if something happens, you have to pick up the baton and finish in order to protest,” Felix recalled. So she did, turning around with sudden urgency to retrieve the baton and hand it off. Once convinced that all was not lost, English Gardner took off after the field that had left the U.S. team far behind. Once finished, the protest was filed.
As we shared on this blog previously, Weaver is working in Rio as a team manager with USA Track and Field, helping advocate for American athletes throughout the process of filing protests. As the former meet director for the Kansas Relays, Weaver has seen it all and understands the idiosyncrasies of international track and field. Once the team had finished and was officially disqualified, Weaver immediately flew into action.
Simply advancing the American team for getting bumped wasn’t possible because the final was based on the top times. And there could only be 8 teams in the final because the track only had 8 lanes around it. Since eight other teams had already established the fastest legal times, a run-off was required, and that left only one option.
A rerun for Team USA, against a single, unforgiving opponent: The clock.
If they could finish among the top 8 times, they’d earn a spot in the final. So, in a never-before-seen relay with one team on the track, running in the exact same lane, and in the exact same order, the four U.S. women ran their relay, turning in the fastest time among all qualifiers, earning them a spot in tonight’s final. The rerun, at least according to USATF, was unprecedented in Olympic history.
After qualifying, Felix gave credit to the Jayhawk who helped save the day by getting the team one more shot, which was all they needed.
“After the race, I was texting (Weaver) saying thank you. I was so grateful.”
Sometimes it helps to have a Jayhawk in your corner.
Tim Weaver, g’97, is in Rio with Team USA, working as a team manager for the United States track and field delegation. And since track and field athletes had to wait an entire week to start their competition, Weaver had time to roam Rio and take some great shots of the unique sights and attractions in and around the Olympic Village. Weaver has shared his Olympic experience with KU alumni before, during the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics. Check out his images and view a slide show below, or go to Flickr.com/photos/kualumni.
Mason Finley leads a strong group of Team USA discus throwers in Rio. The former KU track and field student-athlete won the event at the Olympic Trials and looks to be a medal contender if he can qualify through to the finals on Saturday. Although the event has historically been dominated by the United States, thanks in large part to legendary Jayhawk Al Oerter, who won four consecutive Olympic titles, no American has won a medal in more than 30 years. Finley will need to bring his A game, but now that he’s in the best shape of his life, anything’s possible.
That wasn’t always the case, as he packed on pounds as a Jayhawk undergraduate. Believing that bigger was better, Finley took advantage of endless training table meals and put on nearly 100 pounds during his three years at Kansas before transferring to Wyoming. It took a toll on his speed, technique and health. He talked about going beyond the typical “freshman 15” in a recent interview with the Washington Post.
“I’m an eater, man,” he said. “There’s no way around it. I like to eat food.”
Since getting a handle on his nutrition, the results have come quickly and he’s seen steady improvement.
“My technique is far better,” Finley told the Post. “I’m healthy—which was really rare in college—and I’m faster, probably same speed as high school.”
Finley moved back to Lawrence to train with KU throwing coach Andy Kokhanovsky. The move also brought him closer to his family. He told the Denver Post, “I wanted to be closer with my mom and family back there. I figured out that family is a really huge support staff. You definitely need it.”
The support—and the coaching—helped propel Finley to the top of his game and the top of his sport.
“I’m able to hold positions faster, move faster and compete healthier,” Finley says.
By the time he made it to the Olympic Trials, Finley was hardly a dark horse. The former 8-time collegiate All-American and high school record holder knew he could compete at the highest level, but after overcoming challenges with his health, speed and technique along the way, last month’s victory was that much sweeter.
“The very last throw, I knew I had won, so it was crazy. But I was thinking I could still throw further,” Finley told the Post. “I wanted 65 (meters) again. … It was a mixture between, ‘I still want to push it further’ but ‘Oh my gosh, I’m an Olympian.’”
A proud Jayhawk and first-time Olympian, Finley joins other Jayhawks in Rio, including Team USA track and field manager Tim Weaver and triple jumper Andrea Geubelle, pictured above. He will enter the discus ring Friday morning for first round qualifying. Check NBCOlympics.com for schedules.
Several Jayhawks will be competing, working and volunteering during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro for Team USA and their respective countries. Many have agreed to share their experience with KU alumni. Throughout the games, we’ll be sharing their first-hand accounts, photos and stories on our blog and social media accounts, so be sure to follow us during the games as we cheer on our #JayhawksinRio.
Tim Weaver, g’97, is attending his fourth Olympic Games as part of the United States delegation in Rio. As a manager for Team USA track and field, Weaver spends his days with the athletes in the Olympic village, giving him a unique perspective on the festivities in Rio, which seem to be a hit so far, despite the challenges that have been widely reported in the months leading up to the games.
“The village in Rio is tremendous,” Weaver told us. “It’s a beautiful campus, and the staff here have been extremely friendly and accommodating. U.S. Olympic Committee has spent over 4 years preparing for our arrival with multiple high performance centers and a massive transportation plan. So far, everything has been very smooth.”
Most of the athletes arrived this week just ahead of the Opening Ceremonies, according to Weaver, and the anticipation has been building.
“There are few still moments moments inside of the Olympic Village. Athletes from all sports and all nations are warming up and practicing throughout the village. Everyone eats long meals inside the massive Village cafeteria. It’s the epicenter of the social aspect of the games,” Weaver noted, referring to the massive domed structure where the athletes congregate for meals.
The view hasn’t been bad either.
“Rio is not wanting for spectacular visuals,” Weaver admitted. “The beaches and mountains provide spectacular backdrops.”
While the world tunes in, ready for the games to begin, some of the athletes will have to wait awhile before it is their turn to compete.
“Tonight is the opening ceremony and then competition starts,” he shared. “The energy here is off the charts.”
And that’s not always a good thing, especially for those who have to wait a week to compete.
“Track and field is the second half of the Games, so we all have to manage our energy and excitement for another week.”