The 2016 Rio Olympics have been marred in controversy since the site was chosen. Despite health concerns, repeated warnings by WHO and a litany of high-profile athletes foregoing competing, there is a subset of athletes who don’t rely on a multi-million contract to play/participate in their sport and rather scrape by in order to achieve worldwide success. It’s these players that are still heading to Rio to represent their respective countries on the quest for a gold medal — 11 Ohio State Buckeyes are among those heading to Brazil.
With one of the most respected athletic departments among colleges, it’s no surprise that every two years (with summer and winter Games) sees a handful of Buckeyes competing on the World’s greatest stage. There were over 50 Olympic hopefuls from Ohio State, 34 swimmers — the most of any team —, who competed in Olympic Trials, but at the end of the day, 11 will get the chance to go for a spot on the medal podium.
Kyle Snyder, Wrestling (USA)
The Buckeye was setting records and winning a National Championship during his first two years at Ohio State, only to follow that up by being the youngest American ever to win a wrestling world championship at 19 years old. Snyder won the 97 kg (213 lbs) freestyle weight class at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials to secure his spot on the team headed to Brazil.
"There have been a lot of great athletes at Ohio State," Snyder said, according to The Lantern. "I’m very proud to represent Ohio State and I feel like other than serving in the military, being an Olympian is the next best way to represent your country."
Training for the Olympics provides a bit more of a narrow focus compared to a larger field of competitors in college. Snyder has some familiarity with every possible competitor he could face in Rio, having either wrestled against or watched film on each. The young wrestler will also have more than enough time to prepare for any last minute changes, as he competes on the final day of the Summer Games, Aug. 21.
Aside from the competition, Snyder will have a very familiar face along for the ride, as Ohio State Associate Head Wrestling Coach Lou Rosselli was named to Team USA's coaching staff. Rosselli will head to Rio ahead of hopefully landing a few competitors on the medal podium.
Nate Ebner, Rugby (USA)
After signing a new contract with the New England Patriots early in the offseason, former Buckeye football player Nate Ebner took a leave of absence to chase his — and his late Father’s — dream of being an Olympic rugby player. Ebner has spent the past few months training in San Diego with USA Rugby and secured one of the 12 roster spots and is headed to Rio.
Ebner was focused solely on fulfilling a dream rather the possible consequences for his NFL career, stating, according the Columbus Dispatch, "If something bad happens or it happens that God forbid I couldn’t go back to the NFL, that would be terrible, and I don’t want that to happen. But I think the regret of not taking the opportunity to play in the Olympics would eat me up for the rest of my life. I’d rather say I tried and failed than not to try at all."
Not only will Ebner be the only active NFL player to compete in the Olympics this year, but this is also the first time the U.S. Olympic men’s rugby team has competed at a Games since 1924, and will mark the first time Rugby Sevens, specifically, is played. The competition starts for Team USA Aug. 9-12 at Deodoro Stadium.
Jason Pryor, Fencing (USA)
After graduating from Ohio State in 2009, Pryor has been a full time resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center since April 2010. The Buckeye secured his spot at the Rio Games in March at the Westend Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary. Competing in the men’s epee, he finished the event as the second-highest ranked competitor for the PanAmerican zone -- having won team gold at the 2015 PanAm American Championships.
"Ohio State is a collegian program, but it is a real Olympic center. We have everything to be the best. We have one of the best athletic departments and we have better facilities than any other team," Ohio State head coach Vladimir Nazlymov said.
Nichelle Prince, Women’s Soccer (Canada)
The Ohio State senior forward will miss out on the beginning of the collegiate soccer season as she joins the Canadian National Women’s Soccer team in the Rio Olympics. Native of Ajax, Ontario, Prince was one of 19 players to make the final roster heading to the Games in August. With the medal games being slated for late-August, the overlap will likely keep her from the Ohio State opener against Kent State on Aug. 19.
Prince is no stranger to success in Canadian leagues, having played for Canada’s U-15, U-17 and U-20 teams, scoring a total of six goals and four assists in that time. She also earned 16 caps for the national team, four during the team’s Olympic qualifying round earlier in the year, and an assist on the team’s final goal against Costa Rica to clinch their spot in the Brazil.
"I look forward to representing my country and Ohio State in Rio," Prince said, according to The Lantern.
As a Buckeye, Prince is tied for the lead in goals (6) and assists (7) during her collegiate career, and was named to both the Big Ten all-freshman team and the conference’s second team after her first season at Ohio State. She also helped lead the Buckeyes to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament in 2015.
Dustin Tynes, Swimming (Bahamas)
Tynes swimming success started back in high school at The Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn, where he set a national record as part of the Red Raider 4x50 medley relay team, won a state championship in the 100m breaststroke, and participated in the Commonwealth Games, Youth Olympic Games and FINA World Junior Swimming Championships. He also holds multiple Bahamian junior and senior breaststroke national records as a member of the Bahamas National Team.
At Ohio State, he won his first collegiate event against Denison in 2015, winning the 100m breaststroke with a time of 57.10. He followed that with his first appearances at the Big Ten and NCAA Championship meets in 2015 — finishing 10th and 11th in the 100m and 200m breaststroke respectively at the Big Ten Championship, and finishing 25th in the 100m breaststroke at the NCAA Championship.
Full list of Buckeyes competing
|Aina Cid Centrelles||Spain||Rowing (Women's Pair)|
|Nate Ebner||United States||Rugby Sevens|
|Eleanor Harvey||Canada||Fencing (Foil)|
|Misha Koudinov||New Zealand||Men's Gymnastics|
|Ilse Paulis||Netherlands||Rowing (Women's Lightweight Double)|
|Nichelle Prince||Canada||Women's Soccer|
|Jason Pryor||United States||Fencing (Epee)|
|Elodie Ravera-Scaramozzino||France||Rowing (Women's Double Sculls)|
|Mona Shaito||Lebanon||Fencing (Foil)|
|Kyle Snyder||United States||Wrestling|
|Dustin Tynes||Bahamas||Swimming (Breaststroke)|
|Michelle Williams||Canada||Swimming (Freestyle)|
Just shy of making the games...
Men’s Gymnastics: Two Buckeyes, one current and one former, competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials, but failed to be selected to the final team. Brandon Wynn, and Ohio State graduate, and Sean Melton, sophomore, were among 18 men from around the country competing for just five roster spots on Team USA.
Women’s and Men’s Swimming: Ohio State sent 34 swimmers to the Olympic Swimming Trials earlier this month, but none of the delegates managed to earn a trip to Rio to compete at the Olympic Games. OSU graduate Tim Phillips saw early success in the 100-meter butterfly, finishing second with a time .19 seconds better than Olympic hero Michael Phelps; unfortunately, Phillips finished fifth in the finals, missing his chance to compete against the 22-time Olympic medal winner.
Best of luck to all the Buckeyes competing and to those back home looking to make another run in a couple of years.