After three weeks and one Gold Medal, the Jayhawks have returned to campus.
The University of Kansas sent seven former Jayhawks to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, to compete in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad.
The athletes represented four countries—Kyle Clemons, Mason Finley and Andrea Geubelle represented the USA; Liana Salazar and Ingrid Vidal represented Colombia; Zainab Sanni represented Nigeria, and Daina Levy represented Jamaica—and two sports—Vidal and Salazar played soccer, and the other five ran track and field events.
When four of them—Clemons, Finley, Geubelle and Levy—returned to their residence in Lawrence, several agreed Rio De Janeiro was amazing.
“It was crazy out there. You’ve got athletes from all over the world there in one place,” Clemons said. “Everyone is in one place, and [they all] have one goal. It’s a surreal feeling.”
“I thought one of the coolest things was getting in the ring and walking into the stadium,” Mason Finley, who threw shot put for Team USA, said. “There’s so many people; it’s kind of intimidating, and then I saw my mom and my sister and my girlfriend right next to my coach. It was comforting.” Finley made the Olympic Final, but did not medal.
“The people were so excited to be holding such a big event there,” Andrea Geubelle, who ran triple jump for Team USA, said. “They were super welcoming to all of us. Inside the stadium, everyone was really excited to see us. We absolutely loved getting into the culture and really getting to know the people and taste all the food.”
Every Jayhawk was a first-time Olympian in 2016, and many said they learned something in Rio.
“Any place you go, no matter where it is, you’re going to learn something different,” Daina Levy, who threw hammer for Jamaica, said. “More about people than the landscape or the country itself. For me, it was just about the people and how amazing Brazilian culture actually is.”
“One of the biggest learning experiences was that I belonged on that stage,” Geubelle said. “Having the opportunity to compete against [the best athletes in the world] taught me a lot.”
The only Jayhawk to medal at the Games was Clemons, who ran in the 4X400 race for USA. He ran third leg in the qualifying heat to place USA in the final; he did not, however, run in the final.
“Because I got sick at the trials, I knew going into it there was a strong possibility that I may just get to run in the first round,” Clemons said. “Honestly, just being able to run track at the Olympics was truly a blessing and an honor. Second round, I was just there to root for my team.”
The other three Jayhawks said they are even more motivated to succeed in future Olympics.
“I grabbed a Rio flag, and I’m working on this kind of shrine thing at my house,” Finley said. “I have my Rio flag and my bib number and my jersey. I guess that’s going to be on my wall, so every time I wake up, it’s just motivation. But there’s not medal on there.”
For now, the dust has settled on their Olympic experience, and life has returned to normal.
“I’m just trying to move into my apartment,” Levy said.