Twenty-two current or former Longhorn student-athletes have earned spots on their respective countries’ 2008 Olympic team and a total of 27 athletes and coaches will represent their countries from Aug. 8-24 in Beijing, China. There are 18 former Horns who will represent the United States, which eclipses the most-ever qualifiers for Team U.S.A. that The University of Texas at Austin has provided, one more than the 17 Horns who participated in 2000 (Sydney). The university also had 16 representatives in 1988 (Seoul). The other countries represented by Longhorns are Antigua, Jamaica, Mexico, South Korea and Zimbabwe.
“It’s always a thrill watching our student-athletes competing at the various Olympic Trials and to see so many of them making the team,” said Men’s Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds. “It’s a tribute to all of our great coaches and staffers as well as the hard work and dedication of the student-athletes to achieve such a life-long dream. We’re looking forward to following all of them in Beijing.”
The five coaches representing the university in Beijing are Kim Brackin (head coach, swimming, Zimbabwe), Gail Goestenkors (assistant coach, women’s basketball, U.S.A.), Eddie Reese (head coach, men’s swimming, U.S.A.), Bubba Thornton (head coach, men’s track and field, U.S.A.) and Matt Scoggin (assistant coach, men’s and women’s diving, U.S.A.). It marks the third time Reese has been head coach of the U.S. team, having previously led the squad in 1992 (Barcelona) and 2004 (Athens). He also was as an assistant coach three times: 1988 (Seoul), 1996 (Atlanta) and 2000 (Sydney). Brackin is making her second appearance as Zimbabwe’s head swimming coach after serving in the same position in 2004 (Athens). Thornton previously was an assistant coach in 2000, while Goestenkors was an assistant coach for the American team that won the gold medal in 2004.
“What a thrilling Olympic Trials for the Texas Longhorns,” said Women’s Athletics Director Chris Plonsky. “Few things compare to witnessing the grit and sheer competitiveness of future, current and former student-athletes in these pressure-packed settings. To represent your country during the Games in Beijing is the ultimate experience. And for those who fell short of that goal, they also did us proud. We salute their efforts and know they will be cheering on their teammates in August.”
Featuring world record holders Brendan Hansen, Ian Crocker and Aaron Peirsol, the Longhorns men’s swimming team leads the group and all schools nationally with seven current, former and future student-athletes earning spots on the 2008 U.S. team. Peirsol and Crocker will make their third straight appearances at the Olympic Games, while Hansen is heading to his second.
At the U.S. Olympic Trials, Peirsol broke his own world record in the 100-meter backstroke (52.89) and tied Ryan Lochte’s 200-meter backstroke world mark (1:54.32) on his way to victory in those events. Peirsol won gold in both events at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Crocker, a silver medalist in the 100-meter butterfly in 2004, who set the world record (50.40) in 2005, finished second to Michael Phelps at this year’s trials in that event. Hansen, the world record holder in the 100-meter breaststroke, earned his trip to Beijing by winning that event in 59.93. Hansen set the world-record mark of 59.13 at the 2006 U.S.A. Swimming National Championships. He claimed a silver medal in the 100-meter breaststroke and a bronze in the 200-meter breaststroke at the 2004 Games.
Garrett Weber-Gale secured two spots on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team by winning the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events. Weber-Gale set an American record that was later broken in the 100-meter freestyle before setting another American record in the 50-meter freestyle finals (21.47).
The four Texas Exes will be joined by a couple of current Longhorns in rising juniors Ricky Berens and Dave Walters and future Longhorn Scott Spann, who transferred to the university after competing at Michigan the last two seasons. Berens and Walters each earned Olympic berths by landing top-six finishes in the 200-meter freestyle at the trials. Berens took third in 1:46.14 while Walters placed fifth in 1:46.64. Berens and Walters will be in the 800-meter freestyle relay pool. Spann, the son of former UT swimming NCAA champ Scott Spann Sr., won the 200-meter breaststroke at the trials.
The seven Texas men’s swimmers will be joined in Beijing by former UT men’s diver Troy Dumais, who qualified for a third Olympiad on June 21 by winning the three-meter springboard event at the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials.
The men’s track and field team had three former student-athletes make the American team and one qualify for the Antiguan team. Brendan Christian will be making his second Olympic appearance for Antigua after reaching the quarterfinals in the 200 meters at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Trey Hardee became the first Longhorn to earn an Olympic berth in the decathlon, posting a career-high 8,534 points to finish second at the trials. High jumper Andra Manson tied for second at the trials with a leap of 7-5 1/4. Although Manson will be the first Longhorn high jumper to compete for the U.S. in the Olympics, UT has had high jumpers represent other nations in each of the last three Games and five times overall. Leo Manzano capped off the trio of Longhorn Olympic men’s track qualifiers with a second-place finish in the 1,500 meters. In a tight race throughout, Manzano broke away from the pack on the homestretch and held on strong to clock 3:40.90 and finish just .53 seconds behind defending world champion Bernard Lagat. Manzano becomes the first Longhorn 1,500-meter runner to make the U.S. Olympic squad and the second UT miler to earn an Olympic bid. Paul Craig competed for Canada in the 1976 Olympics.
Three former women’s track and field athletes claimed spots on the 2008 U.S. Olympic squad and one former Horn will compete for Jamaica. Sanya Richards, the top 400-meter runner in the world, earned her second bid to the Summer Games with a first-place finish in the 400 meters. Richards paced the field, finishing almost a full second ahead of her nearest competition with her season’s best time of 49.89. The five-time NCAA champion and American record holder (48.70) in the event won a gold medal as a member of U.S.A.’s 1,600-meter relay team in 2004. She also finished sixth in the 400 meters at the 2004 Games.
After a near miss in the 100 meters, Marshevet Hooker earned her first Olympic berth, lunging across the line for a third-place finish in the 200 meters (22.20). She is the seventh Longhorn to qualify in that event over the last four Games. Hooker missed out on a berth in the 100 meters at the trials, crossing the line fourth in 10.93, just .03 seconds behind the second- and third-place finishers. Michelle Carter became a second-generation Olympian after winning the shot put with a personal-best and U.S.-leading mark of 18.85 meters (61-10 1/4). The seven-time All-American is the daughter of 1984 Olympic shot put silver medalist Michael Carter. Carter becomes the first UT shot putter to earn an Olympic berth and the fourth non-sprinting female Longhorn to qualify for the Summer Games.
Melaine Walker will make her first appearance for the Jamaican Olympic team in the 400-meter hurdles. She is currently the world leader in that event with a time of 53.48, which she set in winning the Super Grand Prix event in Monaco on July 29.
The women’s swimming and diving team landed one former Longhorn diver and one future swimmer on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team. Laura Wilkinson, a gold medalist on the platform at the 2000 Sydney Games, secured her third trip to an Olympic Games on June 21 when she claimed the platform event at the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials in Indianapolis. Kathleen Hersey, who will enroll at The University of Texas at Austin immediately following the Beijing Olympics, nailed down a spot on the U.S. Olympic swimming team by placing second in the 200-meter butterfly.
The women’s swimming team also produced two international competitors in Hee-Jing Chang (South Korea) and Susana Escobar (Mexico). This is Chang’s second Olympic appearance after competing as a 13-year-old at the 2000 Sydney Games. The five-time All-American at UT will compete in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events in Beijing. Escobar registered the Horns’ top individual swimming performances at the 2008 NCAA Championships, placing seventh in the 500-yard freestyle and 10th in the 1,650-yard freestyle. A participant at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Escobar will compete in the 400-meter freestyle and the 400-meter individual medley in Beijing.
Former softball pitching standout Cat Osterman is making her second Olympic appearance in Beijing after helping Team U.S.A. to a gold medal at the Athens Games in 2004. The 6-2 lefthander has led the U.S. to two World Cup Championships (2006-07), a pair of Pan American gold medals (2003, ’07) and the 2006 World Championship where she registered a championship record six victories. Osterman is the NCAA all-time leader in strikeout ratio (14.34 strikeouts per game) and a five-time National Player of the Year who led the Longhorns to the Women’s College World Series in 2003, 2005 and 2006.
Taylor Teagarden became the most recent addition to the U.S. Olympic squad when U.S.A. Baseball released its roster on July 16. The catcher will become the third former Longhorn baseball player to appear in the Olympics, joining Calvin Murray (1992) and Kip Harkrider (1996). Teagarden was a three-year letterwinner at Texas from 2003-05. He was a leading catalyst on the Longhorns’ 2005 National Championship squad, batting .333 with 52 runs, 22 doubles, seven home runs and 33 RBI. He earned Most Outstanding Player honors at the Austin Regional and was named to the College World Series All-Tournament team. He is a member of the Texas Rangers organization, playing for the Triple-A Oklahoma RedHawks.