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Students and Alumni

12 Wolfpack Student-Athletes Compete in Tokyo Olympics

Gabrielle Cunningham jumps over a hurdle at a track and field event.

A record 12 former, current and future NC State student-athletes will compete at the 2020 Olympic Games when the COVID-delayed quadrennial competition begins later this week in Tokyo, Japan.

That’s more than one-third of all Olympians produced in school history, dating back to 1968 when swimmer and NC State Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Steve Rerych won two gold medals in swimming relays at the 1968 Mexico City Games as NC State’s initial Olympian. A Wolfpack alum has qualified for all but one Olympics since.

This year’s total is double the previous record of six participants in the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics.

Success in the Pool

Swimming has been NC State’s most successful sport on the international stage, now with a total of 22 Olympic swimmers and a total to date of six gold medals. Most recently, Ryan Held (2016), Cullen Jones (2012) and David Fox (1996) have all won Olympic gold medals.

Nine of this year’s NC State Olympians are products of head coach Braden Holloway’s nationally prominent men’s and women’s programs, both of which finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships this spring. They will compete for eight different countries, though none for Team USA.

Even with Olympic success in the pool, this year’s total includes the first two NC State women’s swimmers heading to the Tokyo Games, 17-time All-America and four-time NCAA champion Sophie Hansson of Sweden and Andrea Podmanikova of Slovakia. (Diver Agnes Gerlach of Hungary competed in the 1988 and ’92 Olympics, but not as a swimmer and Hansson competed in the 2016 Olympics before she arrived at NC State.)

Medley swimmer Andreas Vazaios will compete in his third Olympics for his native Greece, while alumni Simonas Bilis of Lithuania and Anton Ipsen of Denmark will represent their countries for the second time at the Olympics. Vazaios joins former modern pentathlon and fencer Rob Stull as NC State’s only three-time Olympians.

Men’s swimmers Nyls Korstanje of the Netherlands and Kacper Stokowski of Poland will represent their countries for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics.
Two incoming swimmers, Alexander Norgaard of Denmark and Noe Ponti of Switzerland will enroll at NC State after they complete their Olympic competition.

Also for the first time, a former Wolfpack softball player will participate when outfielder Tatyana Forbes of Redmond, Washington, competes for Mexico’s Olympic team. This is the first Olympics since 2008 in which softball will be contested. Forbes and her teammates began pool play on Wednesday, prior to Friday’s Opening Ceremonies.

2 Represent Team USA

NC State’s only two members of Team USA are former track and field star Gabriele Cunningham of Charlotte and shooting’s Lucas Kozeniesky of Fairfax, Virginia.

Cunningham will compete in the 100-meter hurdles, becoming the first women’s hurdler from NC State to compete in the Olympics. Joan Benoit, winner of the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, and Auguston Young, a sprinter for the Jamaican men’s track and field team in Los Angeles, are the only former track and field participants from NC State.

Kozeniesky is competing in his second Olympics, after finishing 21st in the 10-meter air rifle in Rio.

In its history, NC State has sent representatives of 15 countries and U.S.-territory Puerto Rico, which has its own Olympic team, to compete in the modern Olympics, which began in 1896.

NC State head volleyball coach Luka Slabe, a successful international player and coach for Team USA, is an assistant for this year’s Team USA volleyball squad. He joins a successful collection of NC State alumni and coaches who have guided Olympic teams.

Late men’s basketball coach and NC State alumnus Norm Sloan was head coach of Great Britain’s 1980 men’s basketball team that did not advance from European qualifying to the U.S.-boycotted Moscow Olympics. NC State women’s basketball head coach Kay Yow led Team USA to gold medals as an assistant in 1984 in Los Angeles and as head coach in 1988 at the Seoul Games. Her sister and former NC State All-American Susan Yow served as an assistant in 1988.

Former baseball coach and NC State alum Ray Tanner was an assistant baseball coach for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and former basketball standout and Raleigh native Nate McMillan was an assistant coach for Mike Krzyzewski and the Dream Team in 2008 and 2012.

Two broadcasters with NC State ties are also contributing to NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. Former basketball player Terry Gannon will offer commentary on gymnastics from Tokyo, while Patrick Kinas, the play-by-play announcer for NC State women’s basketball and the Durham Bulls, will do play-by-play announcing for swimming from broadcast studios in Connecticut.

All-Time NC State Olympic Athletes

  • 1968 Mexico City Olympics: Steve Rerych (USA, men’s swimming), 2 gold medals.
  • 1972 Munich Olympics: Tom Burleson (USA, men’s basketball), silver medal (not accepted).
  • 1976 Montreal Olympics: Kenny Carr (USA, men’s basketball, gold medal); Duncan Goodhew (Great Britain, men’s swimming); Dan Harrigan (USA, men’s swimming), bronze medal; Steve Gregg (USA, men’s swimming), silver medal.
  • 1980 Moscow Olympics: Duncan Goodhew (Great Britain, men’s swimming) gold, bronze medals.
  • 1984 Los Angeles Olympics: Joan Benoit (USA, women’s track and field – marathon), gold medal; Rob Stull (USA, modern pentathlon – non-competing alternate); Auguston Young (Jamaica, track and field).
  • 1988 Seoul Olympics: Tab Ramos (USA, men’s soccer); Rob Stull (USA, modern pentathlon, men’s fencing); Kay Yow (USA, women’s basketball coach), gold medal; Nikos Fokianos (Greece, men’s swimming); Agnes Gerlach (Hungary, diving).
  • 1992 Barcelona Olympics: Tom Gugliotta (men’s basketball, injured—did not compete), Dario Brose (USA, men’s soccer); Agnes Gerlach (Hungary, diving); Nick Paleocrassass (Greece, men’s swimming).
  • 1996 Atlanta Olympics: David Fox (men’s swimming), gold medal; Carlos Santander (Venezuela, men’s swimming), Bank Intharapichai (Thailand, men’s swimming).
  • 2000 Sydney Olympics: Tom Gugliotta (USA, men’s basketball, injured—did not compete).
  • 2008 Beijing Olympics: Cullen Jones (USA, men’s swimming), gold medal; Dan Velez (Puerto Rico, men’s swimming).
  • 2012 London: Cullen Jones (USA, men’s swimming), 1, gold medal, 2 silver medals; Andreas Vazaios (Greece, men’s swimming).
  • 2016 Rio De Janiero Olympics: Ryan Held (USA, men’s swimming) gold medal, Lucas Kozeniesky (USA, shooting); Soren Dahl (Denmark, men’s swimming), Anton Ipsen, (Denmark, men’s swimming); Simonas Bilis (Lithuania, men’s swimming); Andreas Vazaios (Greece, men’s swimming).
  • 2020 Tokyo Olympics: Lucas Kozeniesky (USA, shooting), Gabriele Cunningham (USA, women’s track and field); Anton Ipsen (Denmark, men’s swimming), Alexander Norgaard (Denmark, men’s swimming); Andreas Vazaios (Greece, men’s swimming); Simonas Bilis (Lithuania, men’s swimming); Tatyana Forbes (Mexico, women’s softball); Nyls Korstanje (Netherlands, men’s swimming); Kacper Stokowski (Poland, men’s swimming); Andrea Podmanikova (Slovakia, women’s swimming); Sophie Hansson (Sweden, women’s swimming); Noe Ponti (Switzerland, men’s swimming).

NC State Olympic coaches

  • Norm Sloan (1980, England, men’s basketball, team did not advance from European qualifier).
  • Kay Yow (USA, 1984 women’s basketball assistant coach; 1988 women’s basketball head coach), 2 gold medals.
  • Susan Yow (USA, 1988 women’s basketball assistant coach), gold medal.
  • Ray Tanner (USA, 1996, USA, assistant baseball coach).
  • Nate McMillan (USA, 2008, 2012 men’s basketball), 2 gold medals.
  • Luka Slabe (USA, women’s volleyball).

2020 Olympians and Their Majors

  • Alexander Norgaard, enrolling fall 2021

College of Engineering

  • Anton Ipsen, industrial engineering

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

  • Andreas Vazaios, psychology
  • Kacper Stokowski, communication
  • Simonas Bilis, science, technology and society

College of Natural Resources

  • Gabriele Cunningham, sports management
  • Tatyana Forbes, parks, recreation and tourism
  • Nyls Korstanje, sustainable materials and technology
  • Lucas Kozeniesky, sports management
  • Andrea Podmanikova, sports management

Poole College of Management

  • Sophie Hansson, business administration
  • Noe Ponti, management

This post was originally published in NC State News.