Your Coach at the Olympics

There are quite a few current NCAA coaches who are Olympians. Let’s stroll down memory lane while we digest our turkey (and stuffing, which is the best part, fight me) and spend all of our money this Black Friday.

Larissa (Lowling) Libby (CAN), Seoul 1988

Iowa head coach

Libby competed in the all around during qualifications, finishing 57th overall. 

Chris Waller (USA), Barcelona 1992

UCLA head coach

Waller (whose first name is Manfred #neverforget), finished 35th in the all around final, one place behind John Roethlisberger. He also competed in the pommel horse final, where he finished fifth. The U.S. team finished sixth.  

Katie (Teft) Minasola (USA), Atlanta 1996 (alternate)

Eastern Michigan head coach

Minasola finished eighth at the 1996 Olympic trials, landing her an alternate spot for the team that would go on to win the first-ever team gold.

Elise Ray-Statz (USA), Sydney 2000

Washington head coach

Oh, Sydney. Technically, Ray-Statz is a bronze medalist! The 2000 team was awarded the bronze medal in 2010 after China was disqualified by the IOC for sending an underage gymnast to the Games. (Let’s go ahead and call that whole fiasco what it was: racism.) That after-the-fact bronze was the only medal for the U.S. in gymnastics from Sydney. Ray was the only American to qualify for an event final; she finished eighth on beam.

Courtney Kupets Carter (USA), Athens 2004

Georgia head coach

Kupets Carter was a member of the silver medal team in 2004 (phew what a recovery from Sydney am I right?!). She also finished third on bars (behind France’s Emilie Lepennec and teammate Terin Humphrey, what a final). Kupets Carter was famously pulled from beam at the last second during the team final due to a stress fracture in her hip. She also competed in the beam final (fifth) and the all around final (ninth).

Courtney McCool Griffeth (USA), Athens 2004

Utah volunteer assistant (lol)

McCool Griffeth joined Kupets Carter on the 2004 silver medal team. She bobbled beam in qualifications (where she competed in the all around), and in classic Martha style, she was pulled from beam in the team final, creating the “Mohini Bhardwaj do beam now!” crisis when Kupets Carter had to pull out of the event.

Guard Young (USA), Athens 2004

BYU head coach

Young was a member of the drought-ending silver medal winning team. He was two-per’d out of the floor final in Athens, after the Hamm brothers both finished ahead of him. The Hamms tied, by the way. The twins tied. 

Jessica Lopez (VEN), Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020?!

Denver volunteer coach

Lopez is making a comeback to try to qualify to Tokyo! The only multiple-Olympian on this list, she’s going for a four-peat. We don’t need to tell you how unheard of that is. Lopez carried the Venezuelan flag during the 2012 closing ceremony. She finished 43rd overall in 2008, 13th in the all around final in 2012 and seventh in the all around final in 2016. Lopez also qualified to the 2016 bars final, where she finished seventh. She seems to get better with age; keep your eye on Pan Ams to see whether she’ll get a shot at besting that seventh place finish in Tokyo.

Jordyn Wieber (USA), London 2012

Arkansas head coach

Ah, perhaps the most famous two-per of them all. Wieber went into London as a favorite to win the all around after a true barnstorming of a quad, but was bumped from the final after Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman both finished ahead of her. Wieber finished fourth overall. She walked away with a team gold and seventh place finish in what was one journey of a floor final.

Chris Brooks (USA), Rio 2016

Arkansas assistant coach

Brooks made the Rio squad after finishing second at the Olympic trials. He was named captain of the team, and qualified to the all around final, where he finished 14th. 

Coaches with other elite pedigrees:

 

  • Linas Gaveika (Denver assistant coach): Lithuanian national team member, including six World Championships and three European Championships appearances 
  • Robert Ladanyi (Nebraska assistant coach): Romanian national team member, Romanian junior national team coach 1994-1997
  • Sarah (Shire) Brown (Penn State head coach): 2002-2005 USA national team member
  • Margie Foster-Cunningham (George Washington head coach): 1979 World University Games team member
  • Ivan Alexov (Boise State assistant coach): Bulgarian national team member, European and World Championships appearances
  • Taylor Spears (Arizona assistant coach): 2005 Voronin Cup competitor
  • Liz Crandall-Howell (California co-head coach): U.S. national team member 1987-1992, 1991 U.S. national champion on bars, 1991 World Championships silver medal-winning team member
  • Tanya Chaplin (Oregon State head coach): Three-time U.S. national team member, 1983 World Championships team member, 1984 Olympic trials competitor
  • Michael Chaplin (Oregon State associate head coach): Four-time U.S. national team member, 1987 World Championships alternate
  • Tabitha Yim (Stanford head coach): Bronze-medal winning team member at the 2001 World Championships, national champion on floor (2001) and beam (2002), 2004 Olympic trials competitor
  • Kristina Comforte (UCLA assistant coach): Three-time U.S. national team member, Trophee Massilia 2005 vault champion 
  • Dom Palange (UCLA assistant coach): Cheerleading national champion
  • Carly Dockendorf (Utah assistant coach): Canadian track and field pole vault record holder and Canadian national champion
  • Ralph Rosso (Washington assistant coach): Two-time junior national team member
  • Ashley (Priess) Johnston (Auburn assistant coach): 2006 silver-medal World Championships team member, gold and silver medalist at the 2006 World Cup in France, national team member 2003-2007
  • Jenny (Ester) Rowland (Florida head coach): National team member 1985-1990, 1989 World Championships team member, Brevet judge (2008 and 2012 Olympic trials judge)
  • Adrian Burde (Florida assistant coach): Romanian junior national team member 1988-1992, 1994 French all around champion
  • D-D Breaux (LSU head coach): Slated to compete at the 1972 Olympic trials (retired after injury)
  • Casey Jo MacPherson (Missouri associate head coach): 2011 and 2012 elite competitor, notably after her collegiate career

 

 

Article by Emily Minehart

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7 comments

  1. I can think of a few more:
    Barbara Tonry – Yale
    Monica Mesalles-Nassi (Spain 2004) – Rhode Island College
    Mary Fredericks (US Alternate in ’96 as Mart Beth Arnold) – SCSU

  2. Why was that Underage-Chinese affair Racism? Genuine question as I can’t make sense out of that comment. Would be happy to be educated.

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