Watch out for Gators! The University of Florida is sending one of its largest contingents of Olympic athletes to the Tokyo Games.
The Gators will be joined by Bulls from the University of South Florida, Seminoles from Florida State University and Knights from the University of Central Florida.
It’s sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle as athletes compete in stadiums empty of spectators because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These athletes, who have made Florida home for at least part of their lives, will be competing in 13 sports: baseball, basketball, beach volleyball, diving, golf, gymnastics, one-person dinghy racing, paratriathalon, soccer, softball, swimming and track & field and weightlifting.
One UCF alum is an alternate for the women’s BMX team that’s making its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
There are also coaches and referees from the Sunshine State going to Tokyo.
Among the stand-outs:
— UCF’s Kristen Thomas, the co-captain of Team USA’s rugby sevens, which is being played for the second time in Olympic history at these games.
— Two Gator Olympians who medaled at previous Games, including freestyle swimmer Caeleb Dressel, two-time gold medalist for Team USA at the Rio Games, and jumper Will Claye, a silver and bronze medalist for Team USA at the London and Rio Games.
— UCF’s Mattie Rogers, an Apopka native who trained to be a gymnast but then switched to weightlifting after she grew too tall for that sport, according to a UCF news release.
— USF student and Clearwater native Paige Railey, sailing in the one-person dinghy race, in her fourth Olympic competition.
Olympic coaches from the state’s universities include USF’s Ken Eriksen, who is head coach of Team USA’s softball team, FSU’s Luke Loucks, assistant coach of the Nigerian men’s basketball team, Gator Coach Michael Holloway, head coach of Team USA’s men’s track & field, and UF Coach Anthony Nesty, assistant coach of Team USA’s men’s swim team.
The state’s universities are showing their international appeal at the Tokyo Olympics. Olympians with Florida connections are competing for Australia, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Liberia, Puerto Rico (which is not considered part of the United States in the Games), Serbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Uruguay and Venezuela.
With 31 athletes at the Tokyo Games this contingent of Gators is UF’s third-largest roster of Olympic athletes at the Games, according to a university report. There were 35 Gators at the 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Games. The state’s flagship university also had 31 representatives in the 2016 Rio Games.