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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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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