Delaney Schnell, Abdi Abdirahman, Dejah Mulipola, Shaina Pellington, Sage Watson and Steve Kerr are just some of the current and former Wildcats who will take part in the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
It takes a little more than 12 hours to fly the 5,886 miles that separate Tucson and Tokyo. It takes Delaney Schnell roughly 1.5 seconds to travel the 10 meters between the diving platform and the water.
And it takes years of practice, patience and sacrifice to make it to the Olympics.
Schnell is one of several current and former Arizona Wildcats who will participate in the Olympic Games in Tokyo, beginning this week. Schnell, a Tucson native with two more years of collegiate diving eligibility remaining with the Wildcats, will start graduate school in the fall to pursue a master's degree in speech-language pathology.
"It hasn't really even sunken in yet," said Schnell, the 2021 Pac-12 Diver of the Year, who qualified for Team USA in the 10-meter platform individual diving event and the 10-meter synchronized platform event with her diving partner, Jessica Pratto. "My synchro partner, Jess, is a two-time Olympian, so she has been walking me through what to expect, but I don't think either of us will feel like it's real until we're actually there."
The Olympics, originally scheduled for summer 2020, were postponed to this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schnell redshirted from the Wildcat diving team in 2019 to prepare for international competition, but when everything was called off, she had to improvise.
"It was pretty big shock, to be honest," Schnell said. "Not only were all the big international competitions canceled, but we didn't have access to a pool or training facilities. And in any sport where you're competing at a high level, any kind of long layoff can set you back in a big way."
That's where Schnell's gymnastics background came in handy.
Before Schnell hit the international diving circuit in her teens, she was a top-notch youth gymnast. So, when she couldn’t get to a pool, her local gym allowed her to work on her flips, turns and landings indoors. Eventually, she got access to a pool in Phoenix and continued to train for her Olympic dream.
"I am so fortunate. All of this really made me appreciate the sport even more," Schnell said. "It was a really good time for me to work on my mentality and find out how well I can roll with the punches."
Schnell is the seventh diver in UArizona history to qualify for the Olympics and the second to compete for Team USA. Former Wildcat Michele Mitchell won silver medals in the 10-meter platform for the U.S. in 1984 and 1988.
More Olympians with UArizona Ties
Twenty-six current and former Wildcat athletes and coaches, some of them current or past international students, will represent 12 different countries in the Olympic games this summer.
COUNTRY TEAMS WITH WILDCAT CONNECTIONS:
They will be competing in 10 different sports: swimming and diving, softball, track and field, men's basketball, women's basketball, men's golf, women's golf, rugby, water polo and BMX racing. Here are the athletes, and links to their Wildcat Athletics profiles.
- Dejah Mulipola (Team USA) is a two-time winner of the National Catcher of the Year award, given by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, or NFCA. Mulipola was one of the stars of the Wildcats' most recent trip to the Women's College World Series. She played for the Wildcats from 2017-2021.
- Giulia Koutsoyanopulos (Italy) played in 49 games as a UArizona freshman and finished second on the team in stolen bases. She completed her freshman season with the Wildcats in 2021.
- Taylor McQuillin (Mexico) was a first-team NFCA All-American selection in 2019 and earned all-conference recognition in each of her four seasons at Arizona, from 2016-2019. McQuillin led all collegiate pitchers in 2018 with 15 shutouts.
- Danielle O'Toole (Mexico) played for Arizona in 2016 and 2017. She was a first-team NFCA All-American selection and the 2017 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year.
- Shaina Pellington (Canada) was a key contributor during the Wildcats' run to the Women's Final Four this past season. Pellington is expected to compete for Arizona's starting point guard spot with Aari McDonald's departure to the WNBA.
- Ify Ibekwe (Nigeria) played for Arizona from 2007-2010 and is a member of the Arizona Ring of Honor at McKale Memorial Center, which recognizes the most accomplished men's and women's basketball players. She was named the 2009-2010 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and is still the Wildcats' all-time leader in rebounds (1,194) and is fifth in career points (1,653).
- Steve Kerr (Team USA) will serve as an assistant coach on the U.S. men's basketball team. Kerr was a member of 1988 All-American Team and helped lead Arizona to the Pac-10 Conference title and a berth in the NCAA Final Four in 1988. Kerr played in the NBA from 1988-2003 and was a key contributor on five NBA championship teams. As a coach, Kerr has won three championships with the Golden State Warriors and was named the NBA Coach of the Year in 2016.
- Josh Green (Australia) averaged 12 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game during his freshman season with the Wildcats in 2019-2020. He declared for the 2020 NBA Draft, where he was selected No. 18 overall by the Dallas Mavericks.
- Nico Mannion (Italy) played one season for Arizona in 2019-2020. He averaged 14 points, 2.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists and was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and the conference's All-Freshman Team. He declared for the 2020 NBA Draft, where he was selected No. 48 overall by the Golden State Warriors.
Track and Field
- Abdi Abdirahman (Team USA) is a two-time All-American in cross country and a five-time All American in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter races. As a Wildcat, he won back-to-back Pac-10 titles in the 5,000 meter in 1998 and 1999. A five-time Olympian, the 44-year-old Abdirahman will be the oldest American runner ever to compete in an Olympics when he takes part in the marathon.
- Sage Watson (Canada) ran for Arizona in 2016 and 2017 and holds several school records in the 400-meter sprint, the 500-meter sprint and the 400-meter hurdles. She won the NCAA 400-meter hurdles with a personal best time of 54.52 in 2017. She will compete in the 400-meter hurdles and the 4x400-meter relay.
- Gia Trevisan (Italy) was a standout for the Wildcats' track program in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter races from 2013-2015. Trevisan will compete as part of Italy's 4x400-meter relay team.
- Karolina Pahlitzsch (Germany) specialized in the 400-meter sprint and 400-meter hurdles for the Wildcats in 2018 and 2019. Pahlitzsch will compete in the 400-meter hurdles for Germany.
- Edgar Rivera-Morales (Mexico) was an All-American high jumper for the Wildcats in 2011 and 2012. Morales qualified for three All Conference teams in his career. Morales will compete in the high jump for Mexico.
- Bianca Pagdanganan (Philippines) was a member of Arizona's 2018 National Championship Team and earned first-team All-Pac-12 recognition in 2018-2019.
- Rory Sabbatini (Slovakia) was the 1998 Pac-10 Golfer of the Year and helped lead the Wildcats to four team tournament championships in 1996 and 1997. Sabbatini has been an active member on the PGA Tour since 1998, ranking as high as No. 8 in the world in 2007, the same year he tied for second in the Masters Tournament.
Swimming and Diving
- Felicity Passon (Seychelles) competes in backstroke, butterfly and freestyle for the Wildcats. She represented Seychelles at the 2019 African Games, where she won two gold medals, one silver and one bronze. The Seychelles Nation named Passon the country's 2019 Sportswoman of the Year. She will compete in the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke in Tokyo.
- Daniel Namir (Israel) recently finished his junior season with the Wildcats and currently holds the team's fastest time in the 200-meter freestyle. He has taken part in several international competitions and will compete in Tokyo as part of Israel's 4x200-meter freestyle relay team.
- Rafael Quintero (Puerto Rico) was a four-time All-American platform diver for the Wildcats from 2013-2016 and was named the Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year during his freshman season. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 2018. He won two Pac-12 platform diving championships and represented Puerto Rico in the 2016 Olympics. Quintero will take part in the 10-meter platform competition in Tokyo.
- Delaney Schnell (Team USA) is a Tucson native with two more years of collegiate diving eligibility remaining with the Wildcats. Schnell is the seventh diver in UArizona history to qualify for the Olympics and the second to compete for Team USA. Read this recent feature story about Schnell's journey to becoming an Olympic athlete: Delaney Dives In! Schnell Among Several Wildcats Going for Gold in Tokyo
- Brad Tandy (South Africa) was a four-time All-American for the Arizona swimming team and won the NCAA title in the 50-meter freestyle in 2014 and the Pac-12 championship in the 50-meter freestyle in 2015. Tandy represented South Africa in the 2016 Olympics, placing sixth in the 50-meter freestyle.
- Anna Heller (Seychelles), an assistant swimming and diving coach at Arizona, will be part of the coaching staff for the Seychelles swimming team. Heller swam at Texas A&M and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in 2012.
- Dwight Dumais (Team USA) will be on the Team USA coaching staff. He joined the Arizona coaching staff in August 2018 and leads the diving program. Dumais, a five-time All-American diver at Stanford, qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2012 and 2016.
- Brett Thompson (Team USA) will compete with the men's rugby team. Thompson played linebacker for the University of Arizona football team in 2009 and 2010 before transitioning to rugby. He was named a 2011 Collegiate All-American and has competed in three world championships.
- Alex Obert (Team USA) is a graduate student in the Eller College of Management. He was a three-time All-American with the University of the Pacific's water polo team from 2011-2013 and competed in the 2016 Olympic Games. He trains and plays professionally in Croatia.
- Corben Sarrah (Team USA) graduated from UArizona in 2018 and will compete in his second Olympics. Sarrah has taken part in eight BMX World Championships, winning gold in 2017.
The Tokyo Olympics take place from July 20 to August 8, with the opening ceremony – co-hosted by UArizona alumna and NBC News "Today" co-anchor Savannah Guthrie – to be held July 23.
For a full schedule of when Wildcat-affiliated athletes and coaches will be competing, visit the Arizona Athletics Olympics page, which will be updated regularly throughout the Olympics.
Adapted with permission. Original article here.