From trailblazing veterans to newcomers eager to represent their country, 27 athletes with ties to Austin are gracing the world stage as they head to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Here's who's who from Austin as Team USA gears up for success in Tokyo:
Kevin Durant, guard, Team USA
Durant is now a household name, but the NBA MVP got his start as a Longhorn. In his freshman season, Durant was showered with national awards and was the first freshman to be named the Naismith College Player of the Year. As a starting winger, he led the team in scoring and rebounds, broke school freshman records and was named a first-team All-American, Big 12 Conference Player and Freshman of the Year. Unsurprisingly, he was the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft the following season and is now regarded as one of the best active players in the league after helping lead the Golden State Warriors to back-to-back championship wins in 2017 and 2018.
As a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Durant is looking for a three-peat with Team USA.
Durant was a Longhorn before becoming a world-class player in the NBA. (Texas Longhorns/Twitter)
Ariel Atkins, guard, Team USA
A Texas native and UT alum, Atkins now plays professionally for the Washington Mystics. Atkins, who grew up with posters of Team USA members on her walls, will suit up for the team herself alongside living legends Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Britney Griner for her Olympic debut as a guard. With the University of Texas, Atkins won two All-American nods in 2017 and 2018 and helped the Washington Mystics to the 2019 WNBA championships in her first pro year.
"The people that have been a part of this group... they're just people that you've always looked up to," Atkins told the Washington Post. "So not only being in the same room with them but now to be competing with them for something to honor our country with, again, it's surreal. It's just a true honor."
Cat Osterman, pitcher, Team USA
The "Michael Jordan of softball" and two-time Olympian is back to lead the young softball team one last time. Osterman is a famed former Longhorn whose leftie pitching arm led the team to the Women's College World Series in both 2002-03 and 2005-06. Osterman holds the UT record in victories, shutouts and no-hitters. The veteran also has two Olympic medals under her belt from over a decade ago—gold in 2004 and silver in 2008—before retiring in 2012. The 37-year-old, who coaches softball at nearby Texas State University, was coaxed back out of retirement in 2018 to prepare for her final run as an Olympian.
Track and Field
Ryan Crouser, men's shot put, Team USA
Crouser is a reigning Olympic champion who broke the Olympic record in shot put in Rio de Janiero in 2016. The former Longhorn was a finalist for the Male Track and Field World Athlete of the Year for his performance in 2020. Crouser has two NCAA championship titles under his belt for indoor shot put in addition to an outdoor title. Now a track and field coach at the University of Arkansas, the odds favor Crouser to win gold once again.
Tara Davis, women's long jump, Team USA
Tara Davis isn't just celebrating her own golden ticket to the 2021 Olympics—just after jumping 7.04 meters to secure a second-place long jump title at the Olympic trials, she ran to hug her boyfriend Hunter Woodall, a two-time Paralympic medalist who is going to Tokyo as well. The two met, fittingly, at a track meet four years ago and have been watching each other compete from the sidelines ever since.
Teahna Daniels, women's 100-meter dash, Team USA
Fellow Texan athlete Sha'Carri Richardson won headlines when she broke the winning ribbon for the women's 100-meter at the Olympic Trials and won't be competing since failing a highly-talked-about drug test, but former Longhorn Teahna Daniels punched her Olympic ticket as well with a third-place finish. As a Longhorn, Daniels was the 2016 NCAA Champion in the indoor 60-meter race and was the U.S. National Champion in 2019.
"I can't even explain how I'm feeling," Daniels said to Texas Sports after the race. "Honestly, I've dreamt about this, I've written in my journals about this, I've visualized it, and just to see it happen is kind of surreal, but I never gave up on myself, so I knew this was going to happen—I'm an Olympian."
Steffin McCarter, men's long jump, Team USA
McCarter, a Copperas Cove native and recent graduate from the University of Texas, is the second Longhorn long jumper heading to Tokyo this year. McCarter is a two-time Big 12 champion and is the No. 2 University of Texas indoor long jumper of all time.
"Coach Flo knows," according to McCarter: Texas Head Coach Edrick Floreal has long told McCarter and women's teammate Davis would be making the world stage.
"It's kind of crazy because he'd tell us, 'Both of y'all are going to be Olympians,' and we're both sitting here looking at him like, 'Okay, that's a very long time from now,'" McCarter said.
Stacey-Ann Williams, women's 4x400-meter relay, Team Jamaica
On Sunday, former Longhorn Stacey-Ann Williams was granted the final spot in the women's 4x400-meter relay for her home country of Jamaica. Though she joined the UT track and field team in a season marred by the pandemic, Williams was still able to tab the Big 12 Women's Indoor Champion title in 2020 for the relay.
Melissa Gonzalez, women's 400-meter hurdles, Team Colombia
Talk about a power couple: Gonzalez and her husband, Detroit Lions quarterback David Blough, will compete professionally on two different continents as Gonzalez fulfills her dream to compete in the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympics.
The Texas native holds dual citizenship with Colombia and will play in Tokyo under their flag.
As a Longhorn, Gonzalez said she was never satisfied with her college career performance and knew she would continue to pursue the sport. Fast forward six years, and the moment is surreal for both of them.
"Maybe when she hits the ground in Tokyo, it will finally sink in," Blough told the Detroit Lions.
Jonathan Jones, men's 400-meter dash, Team Barbados
Jones qualified for the Olympics back in 2019 when he smashed Barbados' 35-year-old record for the 400-meter dash at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships for the Longhorns. A Big 12 champion, Jones holds the school record for the outdoor 400-meter and is the No. 2 performer in UT history for the indoor 400-meter.
Jones will be one of eight track-and-field and swimming athletes to represent Barbados, a small Caribbean country with a population of just under 300,000, at the 2021 Olympic Games.
Jonathan Jones has broken both school records for the Longhorns and national records for his home country of Barbados. (Jonathan Jones/Twitter)
Pedrya Seymour, women's 100-meter hurdles, Team Bahamas
In 2016, Pedrya Seymour was the first Bahamian hurdler to make it to the final round at the Rio Olympics as she grabbed a sixth-place finish for her country. Seymour, who is the national record holder for her country, was a two-time USTFCCCA First-Team All-America for her 2016 and 2017 seasons with the Longhorns. Seymour dedicated her 2016 Olympic season to her deceased brother, Keron Dean, and will continue to honor his name as she fights for a medal.
2018 Longhorn All-American Pedrya Seymour is headed to Tokyo and will run the 100m hurdles for the Bahamas! It’s her second Olympics as she finished sixth in Rio in 2016. Congrats Pedrya! 🇧🇸 #TexasToTokyo #HookEm 🤘 pic.twitter.com/nMU67MsvJT— Texas T&F/XC (@TexasTFXC) July 19, 2021
Chiaka Ogbogu, middle blocker, Team USA
Ogbogu is making waves in international leagues, but she gained national acclaim as a formidable middle blocker for the Texas Longhorns and U.S. national team. She's come a long way from the seventh grade C-team, now the all-time blocks leader at UT, Ogbogu helped the team to a Big 12 Title in 2017 before joining Team USA in 2018 and 2019.
Off the court, Ogbogu is committed to social justice and giving Black athletes a role model within the sport.
"The impact of representation is life-changing," Ogbogu told Team USA Volleyball. "Right now, I'm pursuing volleyball for as long as I can to put myself out there so that young Black volleyball players can see themselves represented more in this sport."
Gia Doonan, women's rowing, Team USA
When she suits up this weekend, former Longhorn Doonan will become the first Texas rower in history to make the Olympic team. Doonan, who was a two-time Big 12 conference rower of the year, and three-time conference champion in her time with UT in 2015-17, will have big shoes to fill as she joins the three-time Olympic champion women's eight crew.
"At every point of my life, I've always been involved in competitive sports. That helps me be where I am," Doonan told her hometown news outlet Sippican Week.
Townley Haas, men's 200-meter free, Team USA
Haas, another former Longhorn, already has two gold medals under his belt from the 200-meter freestyle and 4x200-meter freestyle relay in the 2016 Olympics. Five years later, the 10-time NCAA champion is hungry for more. Haas placed second in the 200-meter freestyle in the Olympic trials to punch that ticket to Tokyo.
Casper Corbeau, men's 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke, Dutch National Team
Corbeau, a junior at UT, will compete in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke for the Netherlands, of which he has dual citizenship.
He's got more than his career riding on his shoulders—as a Dutch Olympic qualifier, he's doing what his father Jim Corbeau "barely missed out" on at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.
Like his dad, who has stepped in as his coach from time to time, Corbeau almost didn't make the cut for the 2021 Olympics. But because his finish was just a fraction of a second away from qualifying, the Netherlands decided to take him. Even though he doesn't expect a medal, he's excited about the experience and hopes to continue building in the future.
"I want to take it step by step," Corbeau told the Beaverton Valley Times. "This is my first Olympics. I'm young. I'm already doing really well—I think I'm 12th in the world right now in my respective race."
Erica Sullivan, women's 1,500-meter freestyle, Team USA
Sullivan has earned national acclaim before she even steps foot on campus as a Longhorns freshman. The 20-year-old swimmer finished just behind star Katie Ledecky in the 1,500-meter freestyle as she makes way to her first Olympics.
Every time she hits the competitive stage, Sullivan swims for her father, a former competitive swimmer himself who died in 2017. She'll be more at home than many others in Tokyo; Sullivan is half-Japanese and is fluent in Japanese.
As an Asian-American and gay woman, Sullivan hopes she can help others like her get interested in her sport.
"It's awesome that I get to be a role model for a lot of communities that feel underrepresented in this sport, especially the queer community and the Asian American community," Sullivan told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Drew Kibler, men's 200-meter free, Team USA
Kibler, a junior at UT, has already racked up acclaim both nationally and internationally. The three-time All-American and 2019 NCAA Champion holds both NCAA, American and U.S. Open Records in his specialty, the 800-meter free relay.
Though he placed just behind Haas in the 200 free event, Kibler will swim with Haas in the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay. He's now No. 11 all-time in the U.S for the event, and even though he won't be swimming individually, he's still grateful to be headed to Tokyo.
"Honestly, at this point, I'm just thankful to have made the team," Kibler told the Indianapolis Star. "Of course, I would love the chance to represent the United States internationally in an individual event, but I honestly think this gives me more motivation to keep working hard, keep improving, and just see where it goes from here."
.@TexasMSD’s Drew Kibler flashing the horns as he places first in the semi-final for the men’s 200m free at the Olympic trials! Let’s gooooo! 🤘🏼 #olympictrials #texastotokyo #hookem #Olympics #swimming pic.twitter.com/hG2gfBuc3b— Bryan C. Parker (@bryancparker) June 15, 2021
Lydia Jacoby, women's 100-meter breaststroke, Team USA
Jacoby is making the Team USA roster before she starts her senior year of high school.
The Team USA swimming roster is a young crowd- 20-year-old Sullivan jokingly calls herself a "grandma"- and Jacoby is no exception. At 17, Jacoby is already making history as the first swimmer from Alaska to make the Team USA swim team.
She currently holds the second-fastest time in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke, falling just behind Lilly King, who broke the world record at the trials.
"I can't tell you how much it means to me," Jacoby told Swimming World Magazine. "It means so much to me to be able to represent my state at a meet like this. And I'm so excited to now represent my country as well. It's amazing."
After her Olympic run, Jacoby plans on attending the University of Texas, where she has already committed to continue her career.
Lydia Jacoby is one of several teenagers to join the Olympic ranks this year. (USA Swimming/Twitter)
Anna Elendt, 100 breaststroke, 4x100 medley relay, Team Germany
At 19, German swimmer Anna Elendt already holds a national record title for her home country of Germany. She grabbed both the 50-meter and 100-meter breaststroke titles just a month before departing for the Tokyo Olympics. A sophomore at UT, Elendt beat teammate Lydia Jacoby in the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Toyota US Open Championships, earning the "Big 12 Swimming & Diving Newcomer of the Week" award that week.
Joanna Evans, 400 freestyle, Team Bahamas
Bahamian swimmer Joanna Evans has seen the Olympics before: in 2016, she set two new national records in the 200- and 400-meter freestyle events.
With the Longhorns, Evans was a two-time All American who set school records in the 5000-meter and 1,650-meter freestyle. She was also a Big 12 winner 11 times before graduating in 2019.
As an 11-year-old in 2008, Evans remembers watching the Beijing Olympics with her mom, but she never thought it would be her on that stage.
She remembers thinking, "Oh, that would be so cool if I could go to the Olympics one day," Evans told Swimming World Magazine. ="It was one of those things where it just seemed cool. It wasn't like maybe you will go to the Olympics. And it's interesting to see that childhood dream morph into reality."
Remedy Rule, 200-meter butterfly and 200-meter freestyle, Team Philippines
Remedy Rule is set to be the sole representative for the Philippines' women's swimming program, and she wasn't made aware of it until it was time to pack her bags and go.
Rule was one of the final two to be notified of their qualification into the Games in early July, but she said she's as prepared as ever to shoot for her home country's first medal. Rule won two silver and two bronze medals in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games and was a two-time All-American with the Longhorns.
While she wishes there would be a big crowd cheering her on, Rule told GMA News she would imagine the home crowd at 2019's Games.
"With no spectators in Tokyo, I'll be visualizing the stellar Filipino SEA Games crowd cheering me and the other Filipino athletes on," Rule said.
Joseph Schooling, 100-meter butterfly, Team Singapore
Joseph Schooling is a national icon for his home country of Singapore- in 2016, he was the country's first-ever Olympic gold medalist, and he said he's "confident that won't be the only gold medal to celebrate."
Schooling met his idol Michael Phelps at age 13 and beat him eight years later in the 100-meter butterfly at the Rio Olympics. When he returned home, he was mobbed by thousands who now saw him as their swimming idol.
While at UT, Schooling was a 22-time All-American, a 2016 and 2017 NCAA Champion in four events each year, and participated in the 2012 London Olympics.
Now, Schooling is looking for another gold while running a swim school in Singapore.
Alison Gibson, women's synchronized 3-meter, Team USA
Gibson, a native Austinite and UT graduate, joins Team USA alongside partner Krysta Palmer in the synchronized 3-meter event.
Gibson became UT's first NCAA diving champion in 10 years in the one-meter competition as a freshman in 2017. She followed up with three Big 12 Championships and was named to both the 2019 USA Diving Tier Two diving team and Team USA at the 2018 FINA Diving World Cup.
Although she's excited to represent her city and country as she strives for gold at the Olympics, Gibson told Austonia she has one other goal in mind: meet fellow Texan and star gymnast Simone Biles.
"I'm going to be like, 'Look, we're both from Texas, let's be best friends,'" Gibson said.
She also hopes to show young athletes that any goal can be achieved through perseverance.
"Always have fun and remember where you came from, and remember why you started doing what you're doing," Gibson said. "If you can take a step back and remind yourself of the real reason why you're doing it, that really helps you keep pushing through the really hard times."
Hailey Hernandez, women's diving, Team USA
Hernandez, a four-time state champion from Southlake, is a 10-time junior national champion who is heading to the University of Texas in 2021. Before she goes burnt orange, she'll compete in Tokyo as the youngest female diver on the Team USA roster.
Southlake residents gathered for multiple days of sendoffs and celebrations before Hernandez departed by plane for what she called a "once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Jordan Windle, men's 10-meter, Team USA
Windle's age defies his experience: the 22-year-old has already competed in three Olympic Trials. A senior at UT, Windle has placed first in the NCAA 1-meter national championship and earned second and third place finished in other events.
"This sport is all emotion, and having to stay confident within yourself because you're throwing yourself off a three-story building, pretty much," Windle told KHOU.
UT diving coach Matt Scoggin won't be far behind Windle: he's gearing up for his fifth appearance as assistant coach at the 2021 Olympic Games. Scoggin said Windle and teammate Gibson are just as impressive mentally as they are physically.
"Both of them consistently brush off any failures and get right back in with full focus knowing their next opportunity could go great," Scoggin told KHOU.
Julia Grosso, midfielder, Team Canada
At 20, Grosso plays for two countries: she's a junior midfielder at the University of Texas, but she'll also don red-and-white as she plays internationally for her home country of Canada at the Olympics. A Vancouver native, Grosso was named to the Team Canada roster for the 2019 World Cup but didn't make any appearances.
By 2020, she helped the team win silver at the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament. In Austin, Grosso has earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors as well as a Big 12 First Team and All-American Third Team title.
Jhonnatan Vegas, men's golf, Team Venezuela
Venezuela native Jhonnatan Vegas, a one-time Olympian and former Longhorn, is representing his country once again for the 2021 Olympics. Vegas now plays in the most professional golf tour in the world, the PGA Tour, where he has enjoyed three tournament victories.
While at UT, Vegas led the Longhorns at three tournaments and placed fifth at the Big Island Intercollegiate in Hawaii and the Hall of Fame Invitational in Houston.
His passion for golf is longstanding: Vegas said he has a picture of himself next to plastic child-size golf clubs from when he was two years old.
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Austinites will once again be able to take a nonstop flight to London as Austin-Bergstrom International Airport resumes transatlantic travel this fall.
Starting Oct. 13, British Airways will offer its direct flight from ABIA to London-Heathrow Airport three times a week on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The airline, which has been operating in Austin since 2013, had halted service at the start of the pandemic over a year ago.
"We can't wait to welcome our customers back on board our Austin flights and we are honored to be playing our part in reuniting families and friends with their loved ones after such a long time apart," said Marie Hilditch, British Airways' head of North America sales.
Safety protocols the airline is taking include:
- social distancing measures
- wearing of facemasks
- providing hand sanitizer stations
- cleaning all surfaces after every flight
- fully recycling the air once every two to three minutes through HEPA filters, which remove microscopic bacteria and virus clusters with over 99.9% efficiency
The announcement comes as COVID-19 testing requirements to enter the UK are scheduled to stop on Oct. 4. for vaccinated Americans.
Additionally, a Monday White House announcement allows fully vaccinated international travelers to enter the U.S. starting in early November with proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The ban, which was implemented in 2020, restricted travelers from a number of European countries, Iran and China throughout the pandemic.
With a goal of making healthy goodies available to the masses, HumanCo LLC has caught the attention of famous Austinites.
The Austin-based investment firm and holding company that incubates, acquires and scales consumer packaged health foods just closed a $35 million bridge funding round that included some well-known backers from the capital city and beyond according to co-founder and CEO Jason Karp.
Even since the beginning of its launch in May 2020, HumanCo had gained a new board of advisers member and an undisclosed investment from professional tennis superstar Venus Williams.
This most recent round welcomed a vetted round of investors who share a love of healthy food: co-founder of Austin-based private equity firm Vista Equity Partners Brian Sheth, Austin-based venture capital firm 8VC general partner Joe Lonsdale, actress Scarlett Johansson, Whole Foods Market Inc. co-CEO Walter Robb, model Cindy Crawford, Thrive Market co-founder and CEO Nick Green, San Francisco venture capital firm Jazz Venture Partners, former PepsiCo CEO and chairwoman Indra Nooyi, U.S. Open winner and former Austinite Andy Roddick, model and actress Brooklyn Decker, and Vital Proteins founder and CEO Kurt Seidensticker.
Founded in 2019, the company secured a $15 million Series A funding round in January 2020. Come late 2022, the company is planning "a much bigger" round of funding. According to HumanCo officials, targeting well-known influencers and celebrities was a deliberate choice—they have the influence money can't buy.
Some of the brands under the company's umbrella include organic, grain-free and gluten-free Snow Days Pizza bites, which feature Johansson as the creative director; wholesale gluten-free baked goods manufacturer Against the Grain Gourmet Foods and organic and plant-based ice cream brand Coconut Bliss.
The company employs 22 people, nine of which work in Austin at 98 San Jacinto Center. The rest of the employees are spread across at least four cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles, for the time being.HumanCo plans to hire around 10 more in the next year, according to Karp, and go public in "a few years." The company currently has two jobs open in Austin.
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For the first time since July 30, the seven-day moving average for COVID hospitalizations dropped below 50 on Tuesday, reaching the Stage 4 threshold.
At 49, the number is low enough to lower guidelines, but the city has not yet changed its Stage 5 status.
Austin has been in Stage 5, the highest level of Austin Public Health's COVID risk-based guidelines, for over a month as case rates and hospitalizations surpassed last summer's surge, the Delta variant targeted the unvaccinated and a younger demographic and ICUs surpassed capacity in the Austin metro. But with the seven-day moving average at 49 on Tuesday, it may be a sign that the third surge is beginning to end.
On Tuesday, 515 new cases were reported, down from a third-surge peak of 1,261 on Thursday, Sept. 7. Two days after the peak, Austin reported 1,000 COVID deaths and broke a daily death toll record with 23 deaths in a single day.
But while cases and hospitalizations are dipping, the city still has many factors to consider before dropping safety guidelines. Austin Public Health told KXAN Wednesday that key indicators including "positivity rate, the doubling time of new cases, and current ICU and ventilator patients" will need to be evaluated first.
The metro continues to have no ICU beds available as Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes says patients from other counties come into the area to seek care. Travis County saw 35 COVID deaths for the week of Sept. 17, slightly down from a peak of 36 for two weeks prior.
The lower hospitalization rate comes as Austin reaches a 70% vaccinated population, a number once thought to be needed to reach herd immunity. With the highly contagious Delta variant, however, many think that the new herd immunity rate is closer to 80%. But Austin officials have reported being "cautiously optimistic" as the moving average for hospital admissions slowly declined from their peak of 83.6 on Aug. 11.
"We're starting to see our case numbers decrease over time, and that is an exceptional thing to say at this point, but we're still cautiously optimistic," Walkes said.
Under Stage 4 guidelines with the Delta variant, APH continues to recommend limiting dining to takeout/curbside for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals and slightly lifts shopping and travel guidelines to "only if essential." Stage 4 continues to recommend masks for vaccinated individuals in social and public settings but now includes high-risk vaccinated individuals that were recommended to stay home unless essential in Stage 5.
(Austin Public Health)
(Austin Public Health)
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