Utah To Be Well Represented At Summer Olympics In Tokyo

Nine current or former University of Utah athletes will find themselves representing a combined four different countries over the next few weeks at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo
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After a year-long delay, the wait is finally over.

Starting on Friday with the magical and wonderful opening ceremony, nine current or former University of Utah athletes will find themselves competing over the next few weeks at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

July 15, 2021; Tokyo; Japan; A view of Olympic Stadium ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Representing a combined four different countries over five different sports, the Utes are expected to have a very solid showing during the Summer Games. 

The United States women's gymnastics team — which features three Utah ties — is expected to win gold while the Australian women's basketball time — featuring one former Ute — just took down the heavily-favored United States squad in exhibition play earlier this week.

Here's a look at all nine current/former Utes set to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

MyKayla Skinner
United States, Gymnastics
Arguably the greatest Red Rock of all-time MyKayla Skinner — who has faced her share of tribulations leading up to the Summer Games — has finally made the team after serving as a replacement back in 2016.

The road hasn't been easy for Skinner, though.

First she suffered a serious foot injury where a bone spur consistently aggravated her Achilles tendon made training/competition extremely difficult. Then she was hospitalized with pneumonia after being diagnosed with COVID-19, and her availability for the U.S. Trials was in potential doubt.

But anybody who knows Skinner knows that she's a fighter, and her resiliency was on full display at the trials.

She placed second on vault and seventh on floor, earning an individual spot and completing a dream of hers that began two years ago when she opted out of college.

“This individual spot is different, too, because you’re not competing with the team, but overall I think having the experience from Rio is going to prepare me going into this Olympics,” Skinner said. “Any person on Team USA could go out and win. It’s hard to know who to put on the team, who not to put on, so while I’d love to be on the four-man team, no matter who we put on the team, they’re going to do great.

Grace McCallum
United States, Gymnastics
McCallum came on extremely strong during the Olympic Trials' final day of work, earning the fourth and final roster spot as a member of the four-gymnast Team USA squad. Her 112.564 overall score was good enough to put her in fourth place in the competition, solidifying her spot.

What made McCallum so special throughout the competition was her incredible consistency, especially for somebody who has yet to step on a college campus. She finished in fourth place on the floor while taking fifth place finishes on the balance beam, uneven bars and vault.

“You just have to remember ‘I’ve done a thousand of these routines in the gym,’” McCallum said. “You just have to trust yourself and trust your gymnastics and that you know what you’re doing.”

On Friday night, she posted the second best floor score and then capped that off with the third best uneven bars score on Sunday night. She showcased the consistency needed to make her a legitimate threat in the competition, while also being someone who could potentially medal in floor or uneven bars as an individual.

Kara Eaker
United States, Gymnastics
Eaker finds herself in a very similar role Skinner did five years ago.

Much like McCallum who has yet to begin her college career, Eaker will be traveling to Tokyo as an alternate for the team. Should a gymnast get sick or injured and be unable to compete, she could be called upon to show the world how talented she is.

“It was a nervous, butterfly feeling,” Eaker said about awaiting the results and team nominations. “This means so much to me.”

Eaker showed her prowess on the balance beam, finishing second overall throughout the trials. She also showcased her skillset on floor, finishing sixth overall — all of it leading to a seventh place finish in the all-around.

Gymnastics Schedule:

  • USA Subdivision: Sunday, July 25 — 12:10 a.m. MST
  • Team Final: Tuesday, July 27 — 4:45 a.m. MST
  • All-Around Final: Thursday, July 29 — 4:50 a.m. MST
  • Vault/Bars Final: Sunday, August 1 — 2 a.m. MST
  • Floor Final: Monday, August 2 — 2 a.m. MST
  • Beam Final: Tuesday, August 3 — 2 a.m. MST
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Hannah Flippen
United States, Softball
Without a doubt the greatest softball player to ever don a Utah softball uniform, former Utah assistant coach Hannah Flippen stepped down from spot to pursue "future personal endeavors," which included a shot at the 2021 Olympics.

She was a three-time All-American, the first ever for the Utes, and led the squad to the NCAA Tournament three times, including back-to-back Super Regional appearances during the 2016-17 seasons. She owns Utah career records for runs, hits and batting average, while being a four-time all-Pac-12 honoree.

But one of her best accomplishments stems from the 2017 season when she became the first player in conference history to not only be named the Pac-12 player of the year, but the conference's defensive player of the year as well.

She was named to the USA softball team in 2019 ahead of the Olympics but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had to go through the selection process all over again. She will now be serving in an alternate role for the Summer Games.

Schedule:

  • USA vs. Italy, Tuesday, July 20 — 9 p.m. MST
  • USA vs. Canada, Wednesday, July 21 — 6 p.m. MST
  • USA vs. Mexico, Friday, July 23 — 11:30 p.m. MST
  • USA vs. Australia, Saturday, July 24 — 7 p.m. MST
  • USA vs. Japan, Sunday, July 25 — 7 p.m. MST

Alexis Lagan
United States, Pistol Shooting/Air Pistol
Not one of the more common sports associated with the Olympic Games, Lagan is looking to make her mark, literally, in Tokyo.

A former national champion in women's air pistol during her senior season with the Utes, Lagan comes from a military and police background that originally got her involved in shooting. She's the first-ever Olympic marksman to come from the University of Utah.

Schedule:

  • Air Pistol 10m Women’s Finals: Saturday, July 24 — 8:15 p.m. MST

Jake Gibb
United States, Beach Volleyball
One of the more accomplished Utah-associated athletes ever for the Summer Games, Gibb will be appearing in his fourth Olympics. 

Gibb has a good amount of success at the previous games, getting bounced in the quarterfinals in 2008 before a fifth place finish in 2012. He then switched partners ahead of the 2016 Olympics, which resulted in a not-the-best finish. 

But now partnered with Taylor Crabb since 2017, the duo is ranked 8th in the world and searching for that elusive medal.

Schedule:

  • Gibb/Crabb vs. Carambula/Rossi (Italy), Sunday, July 25 — 7 a.m. MST
  • Gibb/Crabb vs. Heidrich/Gerson (Switzerland), Tuesday, July 27 — 6 p.m. MST
  • Gibb/Crabb vs. Cherif/Ahmed (QAT), Friday, July 30 — 7 a.m. MST

Leilani Mitchell
Australia, Women's Basketball
Mitchell was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year and a third-team AP All-American while being one of the three finalists for the Lieberman Award, given to the top point guard in the country. She averaged 16.8 points and 7.5 assists per game (4th nationally) while also sporting a 2.22 assist-to-turnover ratio (8th nationally), all while leading the Utes to the NCAA Tournament.

She had a good career in the WNBA, being named the Most Improved Player in 2010 as a member of the New York Liberty before now playing for the Washington Mystics.

A member of Utah's 2020 Hall of Fame Class, Mitchell is expected to be a key piece to an Australian national team gunning for a medal at the Summer Games.

Schedule:

  • Australia vs. Belgium, Tuesday, July 27 — 2:20 a.m. MST
  • Australia vs. China, Friday, July 30 — 6 a.m. MST
  • Australia vs. Puerto Rico, Monday, Aug. 2 — 6 a.m. MST
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Anissa Urtez
Mexico, Softball

Urtez will be competing in her second Olympics after representing Mexico during the 2016 games. She starred for the Utes from 2014-16, really evolving as a player as her batting averaged went from .270 as a sophomore to .410 her senior season.

Schedule:

  • Mexico vs. Canada, Wednesday, July 21 — 12 a.m. MST
  • Mexico vs. Japan, Wednesday, July 21 — 9 p.m. MST
  • Mexico vs. USA, Friday, July 23 — 11:30 p.m. MST
  • Mexico vs. Italy, Sunday, July 25 — 5 a.m. MST
  • Mexico vs. Australia, Monday, July 26 — 5 a.m. MST

Kim (Smith) Gaucher
Canada, Women's Basketball
One of the most prominent women's basketball players to ever come from Utah, Gaucher was the first woman to have her number retired at the Jon M Huntsman Center. She was a three-time Mountain West Conference Player of the Year from 2003-06.

Schedule:

  • Canada vs. Serbia, Monday, July 26 — 2:20 a.m. MST
  • Canada vs. Korea, Wednesday, July 28 — 7 p.m. MST
  • Canada vs. Spain, Saturday, July 31 — 7 p.m. MST

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