As Summer Olympics begin, several Cornell and Ithaca College athletes hope for a strong showing

When the 2016 Olympics officially kicks off tonight in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the games will include more than two dozen athletes and staff with ties to the Ithaca area. Eleven world-class athletes will be hoping for a chance to bring home a gold medal, and they’re not alone. A coach from Cornell, and several broadcasting interns from Ithaca College will also be a part of the Summer Olympics.

Ithaca College's Emily Morley, first to represent the Bahamas in Olympic Rowing. Photo courtesy Ithaca College Athletics.

Ithaca College’s Emily Morley, first to represent the Bahamas in Olympic Rowing. Photo courtesy Ithaca College Athletics.

Ithaca College student Emily Morley ’16 is making history by attending the Olympics. As a co-captain of the Ithaca College women’s crew team, Morley will be the first woman to crew at the Olympics while attending IC. Secondly, she’s the first rower from her home country, the Bahamas, to compete.  Though she didn’t quite qualify in her original bid, Morley was granted a spot by the World Rowing Federation after a spectacular showing.

IC Hall of Famer Meghan Musnicki ’05 will once again row in the women’s eight for Team USA. Her crew brought home a gold in the same even during the 2012 Olympics in London, but Musnicki herself is one of the most decorated women currently rowing. She has 17 medals from international competitions, including 11 gold, and she’s won 5 gold medals at the World Rowing Championships as part of the US crew. Musnicki’s ties to Ithaca College are so strong that she was a commencement speaker in 2015, and settled in nearby Naples after graduation.

Six Cornellians are also in Rio for the 2016 Olympics, hoping to bring home the first summer Olympics medal by any Cornell athlete since 1992. Along with them is Cornell’s own men’s track and field coach, Adrian Durant, who is coaching the U.S. Virgin Islands team. In addition to being a wildly successful coach, Durant was also a sprinter himself. The native of St. Croix was All-American, earned multiple all-region and academic all-conference honors, won several world championships, and ran at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Durant’s team includes Muhammad Halim ’08, a 2008 NCAA triple jump champion, four-time NCAA All-American, and 2012 qualifier for the U.S. Virgin Islands Olympic team. Halim previously competed in the Men’s triple jump event at the 2012 Summer Olympics, and won a silver medal in the men’s long jump event at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games. He will be just one of just three track and field athletes competing for the Virgin Islands.

Shot putter Stephen Mozia ’15 was born in America of Nigerian parents, and holds records in both countries. He’s an eight-time NCAA All-American, who twice took second in shot put. Mozia is noted for having the second-longest throw in African history, and this season he has the third-longest shot put throw in the world, at more than 71 feet.

Spanish sprinter Bruno Hortelano Roig ’14 is another of Cornell’s world-class athletes. Hortelano Roig won the gold at the 2016 European Championships after setting a Spanish record in the 200 meters. Though his biggest competition comes from Jamacian Usain Bolt, Hortelano Roig actually had a faster time in the qualifying round of the 2013 World Championships in Moscow in August 2013 than Bolt, and won the silver at the Ibero-American Championships in Rio earlier this year.

Cornell alum Tracy Eisser is fourth from left. Team USA Rowing photo courtesy of Cornell.

Cornell alum Tracy Eisser is fourth from left. Team USA Rowing photo courtesy of Cornell.

Tracy Eisser ’12 is one of two Cornellians rowing at the Summer Games. As a quadruple sculls rower for the women’s team, Eisser has an impressive number of wins and medals for someone who didn’t begin rowing until college. (She was a championship track and field star in high school.) Eisser came in first as a senior pair at the 2012 Canadian Royal Henley, she has a silver medal from World Rowing Cup II in 2014, and her boat came in first at the 2015 World Rowing Championships.

Alex Karwoski ’12 (a men’s eight rower) won the bronze as part of the eight at World Rowing Cup II in 2015 and 2016. Karwoski also has wins in the double sculls at the 2014 Senior 2 World Championships Trials and the pair at 2013 World Championships Trials. His boat came in first at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta this year.

Also, current student Rudy Winkler ’17 will be in Rio to compete as a Team USA hammer thrower, after securing a spot when he had the best throw – 251 feet – of the whole Olympic Trials. Winkler holds Cornell, Ivy League, and Heptagonal records in his sport, and was a 2016 NCAA runner-up.

This year’s Olympic hopefuls also include three local athletes who are eager to make their marks:

Olivia Coffey, a Watkins Glen native, will attend the Games as an alternate, so there’s a chance she may not get to row, but that hasn’t stopped her from training just as hard. She’s been working with Team USA in Princeton, New Jersey, to prepare for several possible events. If she is selected, it will most likely to fill a spot on the quadruple sculls or the women’s eight; Coffey won’t know where she’ll be needed until someone else drops out.

Molly Huddle, Elmira native, secured her second shot at the Olympics after a first place win in the Team USA 10,000 meters time trials. Unlike other events, there are no preliminaries, so she is scheduled to compete on the morning of August 12, 2016. Huddle was a 10-time All-American at the University of Notre Dame, has 22 road and track titles to date, and holds the American record in the 5000. This will be her first time running the 10,000 at the Olympics.

Alesha Widdall, a graduate of Whitney Point, is in Rio as an alternate field hockey goalie. Widdall, who’s played the sport for 13 years, trains year round in Pennsylvania hoping for just such a chance. As a two-time All-American and 2011 Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year, we can expect a performance if she makes it onto the field.

PLUS: 13 students from Ithaca College’s Park School of Communications will be assisting NBC as interns, covering the Olympic Games in Rio. The school actively works toward finding those positions for its students, partly through the Olympics Internship program, as part of IC’s Los Angeles-based study program at the James B. Pendleton Center.

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