Sun Devils chasing gold: A who's who of athletes competing in Tokyo Olympics

Twenty current, former and incoming ASU athletes have qualified for the upcoming 2021 Olympic Games

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, prospective Olympians are preparing once again for competition.

The 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games kick off on July 23 and last until Aug. 8. There will be 33 competitions featured, the most of any Olympic Games in history. 

ASU will have a strong presence in Tokyo, as 20 current, former and incoming athletes have qualified across six competitions, representing 14 different countries. 

Here is a brief look at which Sun Devils will be competing in this year's Olympics:

Basketball

ASU alumna Promise Amukamara will represent Nigeria playing for its national women's basketball team.

Amukamara played 131 games for ASU and earned All-Pac-12 honors in 2015. Amukamara is the first ASU women's basketball player to ever be named to an Olympic roster. 

Golf

The Sun Devils have six former golfers representing four different countries: Paul Casey for England, Giulia Molinaro for Italy, Anna Nordqvist for Sweden and Carlota Ciganda, Azahara Munoz and Jon Rahm for Spain.

Casey won three Pac-10 Championships and earned All-American honors three times while at ASU. He has three wins and 67 top-10 finishes in his career on the PGA Tour.

Molinaro was voted the Pac-12 Golfer of the Year in 2012 and represented Italy in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. She also has experience on Italy's World Amateur Team.

Nordqvist won the Pac-10 Player of the Year award in 2007 and has since won eight tournaments in the LPGA. Nordqvist also competed in the Rio Olympics, finishing tied for 11th.

Ciganda became the first player in Pac-10 history to win consecutive conference titles in 2010. She also won several All-American and Pac-10 Conference awards and honors as a Sun Devil. Ciganda also participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Munoz won the NCAA individual championship in 2008 and was named to All-American teams each of her four years at ASU. She competed for Spain at the Rio Olympics, finishing tied for 21st. 

Rahm won 11 tournaments with ASU, the second-most in program history. As a pro, Rahm has earned six PGA Tour victories and six international victories. He recently won the 2021 U.S. Open, his first career major tournament victory.


Softball

Three ASU alumnae — Dallas Escobedo, Chelsea Gonzales and Sashel Palacios — will compete for Mexico's national softball team.

Escobedo compiled 1,222 strikeouts over her ASU career and finished with a record of 115-26 and a 2.01 ERA. Escobedo was drafted first overall in the 2014 National Pro Fastpitch League Draft. She currently works as an assistant coach for California State University, Fullerton. 

Gonzales was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team in 2017 and finished her career with 44 home runs. Gonzales currently plays in the NPF for the Cleveland Comets and is also an assistant coach at the Rosary Academy. 

Palacios was named to the All-Pac-12 Defensive Team in 2015. Palacios currently plays alongside Gonzales for the Cleveland Comets in the NPF and also played in Athletes Unlimited

Swimming

Three former Sun Devils and one incoming athlete will compete for three different countries in swimming in Tokyo: Richard Bohus and Anna Olasz for Hungary, Léon Marchand for France and Fanny Teijonsalo for Finland.

Bohus holds the second-fastest times for the 100- and 200-meter backstroke in program history. Bohus represented Hungary in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

Olasz finished second or better in 11 events in 2015-16. Olasz represented Hungary in the Rio Olympics, placing 14th in the 10-kilometer open water.

Marchand committed to ASU late last year and has yet to swim for the Sun Devils. Marchand currently holds the French national record for the 400 individual medley. Both of Marchand’s parents, Xavier Marchand and Celine Bonnet, have represented France in past Olympic Games.

Teijonsalo transferred to ASU in 2017 from Florida Gulf Coast University and swam as a Sun Devil for two seasons. She earned an All-American honorable mention in 2019 for the 200 free relay. 


Track and Field

Chris Benard, Christabel Nettey and Jorinde van Klinken will represent Sun Devil track and field for the United States, Canada and Netherlands, respectively.

Benard competed in NCAA Championships in each of his three seasons at ASU. He competed for the United States in the Rio Olympics, placing 16th in the triple jump.

Nettey earned All-American honors four times in the long jump during her four-year career at ASU. She finished 20th in the long jump for Canada in the 2016 Olympics. 

Van Klinken completed her first season as a Sun Devil in 2021, earning the NCAA and Pac-12 discus titles. Van Klinken has represented the Netherlands in seven tournaments since 2016, finishing in the top three five times. 

Water Polo

Three former Sun Devils are heading to Tokyo to compete in water polo: Lena Mihailovic and Rowena Webster for Australia, and Kelsey White for South Africa.

Mihailovic ended her career with 131 goals, good for ninth-most in school history. She also represented Australia in the 2017 FINA World Championships.

Webster was only a Sun Devil for one year, but she holds the freshman records for goals and points scored in a single season. Webster will be competing in her third Olympic Games and her first as the team's captain.

White amassed 152 points during her time at ASU. White has competed for South Africa for 11 years and is captaining the team in their first-ever trip to the Olympic Games.


Reach the reporter at jspange1@asu.edu and follow @jspangenthal94 on Twitter.

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