Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.
The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, ended on Sunday with the United States leading all participating countries with 121 total medals, edging second place Great Britain’s 67 (27 gold medals) and China, coming in third with 70 medals (26 gold medals).
This year’s games hosted 11,303 athletes representing 207 countries, hoping to snag a gold in over 300 events. The United States sent 554 athletes, the most of any participating country.
Out of those top American athletes, two University of Colorado Boulder alumni won medals in the games. Emma Coburn (Class of 2013) and Jenny Simpson (Class of 2009) both won bronze medals for the U.S. They are the first CU graduates to win Olympic medals since Bill Toomey won gold in the decathlon at the 1968 games.
Coburn ran in the women’s 3000-meter steeplechase and won a bronze medal, becoming the first female athlete to medal for the U.S. in the event, while Simpson took home the bronze in the women’s 1,500-meter run.
This past May, Coburn set an American record for the 3000-meter steeplechase event with a time of 9 minutes 10.76 seconds, breaking a record previously held by Simpson. While attending CU, she won three NCAA titles: two in the steeplechase and one in the indoor mile event.
Simpson’s pre-Rio resume is equally as impressive. While at CU, from 2005-09, she was a three-time NCAA champion in the steeplechase event. She also won gold and silver at the World Championships 1,500-meter run in 2011 and 2013. Simpson participated in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, but failed to medal.
Two other Colorado alumni competed in the Olympics this year, but both chose to represent different countries in their respective events.
Flora Duffy (Class of 2013) ran in the women’s triathlon for her home country of Bermuda and placed eighth in the event. It was her third Olympic games. Aside from Olympic performances, Duffy won the gold medal at the 2014 and 2015 XTERRA Triathlon World Championships.
Finally, Jeremy Dodson (Class of 2010) ran in the men’s 200 meters sprinting event for Samoa, placing 34th. During his time at CU, he set school records in both the indoor and outdoor 200-meter dash, records which still stand.
In addition to the four CU alumni, there was a fifth former Buffalo who competed at the Rio Olympics.
Katerina Nash attended CU from 1999-2000, joining the Nordic skiing team. She raced in ten events, earning first place in five of them. Nash did not graduate from CU, instead, she would go on to transfer to the University of Nevada where she continued to excel at skiing, as she won three NCAA individual championships while there.
Skiing is far from all Nash is known for, though. She participated in the mountain biking event at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta as well as the 2012 games in London. She placed fifth in the event in Rio.
We at the CU Independent congratulate our Olympic Buffs and hope to see more familiar faces at the 2020 games in Tokyo!