At long last, the 2020 Olympic Games are officially underway. Despite the obvious lack of crowds and a generally underwhelming public opinion of such festivities — especially from the locals — the long-awaited Games have commenced in Tokyo, Japan.
This year, 12 past, present and future Wolfpack athletes are competing in the Olympics, the most to compete in a single Games to date. Although it’s the first Olympic Games in 17 years that NC State won’t see a swimming alum compete for Team USA, a record nine swimmers will be competing for other countries.
Of all of the swimmers NC State fans should keep an eye out for at these Games, senior Sophie Hansson is arguably at the top of that list. Hansson has proved herself to be a powerhouse on the international stage over the past year. As of early July, she ranked fifth in the world this season in the 100-meter breaststroke.
Hansson swims the 100-meter breaststroke on July 25 and the 200-meter breaststroke on July 28, the same events she swam at her first Olympics in 2016. Joining her is senior Andrea Podmanikova, another current student-athlete. Podmanikova will swim alongside Hansson in the 100-meter breaststroke and 200-meter breaststroke, two events in which she holds the current Slovak records.
The other two current NC State swimmers slated to compete are senior Nyls Korstanje and junior Kacper Stokowski. Although Korstanje took a redshirt year to focus on representing the Netherlands national team, Stokowski had an ACC win earlier this year in the 100-yard backstroke and a second-place finish in the same event at NCAAs under his belt.
Korstanje took an interesting route to reach his Olympic qualification in the 100-meter butterfly; at the Eindhoven Qualification Meet this past April, he missed the Olympic-qualifying time standard by a mere 0.01 seconds. However, at the European Championships, Korstanje dropped a tenth in the event to clear the Dutch Olympic qualifying time of 51.92. Although he touched the wall in 51.65 at the Dutch National Team Time Trials in May, well below the Olympic cut and national record, the meet was a non-Olympic qualifying competition.
Two future NC State swimmers will be competing at this year’s Olympics, as well: Alexander Norgaard, a distance freestyle star, and Noe Ponti, another talented butterflyer. Norgaard will compete for Denmark, swimming the 800-meter freestyle on July 27 and the 1500-meter freestyle on July 30. Ponti is currently the Swiss record-holder in the 50-meter long course butterfly and the 100-meter short course butterfly and will be swimming the 100- and 200-meter butterfly for Switzerland.
Outside of the pool, recent alum Tatyana Forbes will be competing on Mexico’s softball team. A 2020 NC State transfer from Florida International University, Forbes earned ACC All-Tournament honors in 2021 and led the Wolfpack softball team with 51 hits. Mexico, currently No. 5 in world rankings, lost three times in opening round games to Canada, Japan and the United States, and will compete against Italy and Australia in the days to come.
With all of the chaos surrounding Team USA’s track and field team, one silver lining was to see an NC State alum step up to the track for her shot at an Olympic medal: Gabriele Cunningham, a graduate from the College of Natural Resources, cemented her spot on the Olympic roster after Brianna McNeal lost her appeal against a five-year ban.
Cunningham also has an impressive college athletic record under her belt; setting the school records in the outdoor 100-meter and 200-meter dashes in 2018 and 2017, respectively. She will compete in the 100-meter hurdles event in Tokyo.
Lucas Kozeniesky, a Wolfpack alum and a true master of his craft, will compete in the 10-meter air rifle event at this year’s Games. He currently holds the national record in the event with an impressive score of 634.7 and could be a serious contender to bring back a medal for Team USA.
Luka Slabe, the head coach of the women’s volleyball team at NC State, makes an appearance as an assistant coach for the United States’ women’s volleyball team. The former head men’s volleyball coach for Slovenia, Slabe will primarily serve as the defensive coordinator and blocking coach for Team USA.
Rounding things out, NC State graduate Ace Konig was named to Canada’s women’s basketball team as an alternate.