Utah Olympians heading to Tokyo for 2020 Games

McKayla Skinner, Utah Gymnastics (Holli Joyce, KSL.com)



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SALT LAKE CITY — Whether they're born and bred, or brought to Utah to play as a pro, this year, we'll see more locals in the Summer Olympic Games than ever before.

On Friday, the KSL Tokyo Team introduced us to the athletes who've called Utah home and hope Utah will cheer them on in Tokyo.

"I miss the mountains," said swimmer Rhyan White.

White grew up gazing at the Wasatch Mountains from her home in Herriman.

She stunned the field at the U.S. Olympic trials and is ready to race in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke.

"I feel connected to my community here and I know they'll support me," said Nathaniel Coleman.

Coleman will be one of the very first Olympians to compete in sport climbing.

The Salt Lake native will be joined by Kyra Condie, who along with Team USA Climbing, now calls Utah home.

"I can't wait for more people to be introduced to climbing as it's on this world stage," said Condie.

"No doubt in my mind, I think growing up in Park City and in Utah was such a huge opportunity for me," said Haley Batten.

Batten first learned to navigate Utah's mountain trails. Now, she'll take on the mountains of Japan at the Tokyo Games.

Rhyan White smiles after the women's 200-meter backstroke during wave 2 of the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Omaha, Neb.
Rhyan White smiles after the women's 200-meter backstroke during wave 2 of the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Omaha, Neb. (Photo: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press)

"That's just what we'd do, run around the neighborhood," said Jake Gibb.

Gibb spent summers as a kid playing backyard volleyball in Bountiful. This summer, he'll play in his fourth Olympic Games.

"It's an honor to be considered one of the top guys in the U.S.," said Brenden Sander.

Brothers Taylor and Brenden Sander both played four years for BYU. Now, they get to play side by side on Team USA.

"It's been cool having him there by my side," said Taylor Sanders.

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Utah's colleges and universities have been home to more than a dozen Tokyo Olympians.

"My BYU experience really allowed me to grow in ways that I didn't expect," said Jordan Matyas.

Team USA rugby's Matyas was a six-time All-American while she played for BYU.

NBA star Damian Lillard played his collegiate years at Weber State University.

BYU's Brenden Sander spikes the ball during volleyball action against Hawaii at the Smith Field House in Provo, BYU won in straight sets 3-0 on Friday, March 17, 2017.
BYU's Brenden Sander spikes the ball during volleyball action against Hawaii at the Smith Field House in Provo, BYU won in straight sets 3-0 on Friday, March 17, 2017. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

This will be his first time playing for Team USA.

The U's Hannah Flippen will travel to Tokyo as a replacement player for the U.S. women's softball team.

Pistol shooter Alexis Lagan first picked up the sport while in school at the University of Utah.

"I never thought about going to the Olympics in any discipline, let alone in shooting, and the University of Utah was kind of my gateway to that," she said.

Baseball player Eddy Alvarez has been to the Olympics before, but not to play ball. The former Salt Lake Community College Bruin won a silver medal in speedskating at the 2014 Winter Games in Russia.

Back then, he compared taking the ice at the Olympic level to a feeling he knew all too well on the baseball field.

"I'm gonna compare it to the 9th inning, bases loaded, you're down by two, tying run is on second and you know, there's two outs and it's a three-two count. You gotta let that bat fly," said Alvarez.

US Jake Gibb, left, and Sean Rosenthal, right, reach for a ball during their quarterfinal men's beach volleyball match against Latvia at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, in London.
US Jake Gibb, left, and Sean Rosenthal, right, reach for a ball during their quarterfinal men's beach volleyball match against Latvia at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, in London. (Photo: Petr David Josek, Associated Press)

The Utes can claim three members of the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team headed to Tokyo.

After being an alternate for Team USA in Rio in 2016, MyKayla Skinner represented the Red Rocks at three NCAA Championships, finishing first on floor her first year and scoring three perfect 10s.

"I'm really glad I never gave up on my dream and kept going," she said.

Skinner's Team USA teammates Grace McCallum and Kara Eaker are both signed on to attend and compete for the U. this fall.

Former University of Utah teammates Leilani Mitchell and Kim Gaucher will both be playing basketball in Tokyo, but not together. Goucher will represent her home country of Canada, while Mitchell plays for the Australian women's team.

Rudy Gobert playing for France in 2014.
Rudy Gobert playing for France in 2014. (Photo: Associated Press)

A handful of Utah's professional athletes will also be playing for their home countries in Japan. Jazz man Rudy Gobert will play for France, Joe Ingles will represent Australia, and Miye Oni will play on the Nigerian team. Real Salt Lake's Douglas Martinez is also headed to the games for his home country of Honduras.

A love for skeleton brought Nathan Crumpton to Utah years ago. Now he's back, training to test his running skills off the ice. He's qualified in the men's 100-meter dash for American Samoa.

Ugandan rower Kathleen Noble came to Utah for a job but found much more.

"When it's flat, you can just go and go and go and go," she said.

She rekindled her college love for crew and will now be the first Ugandan to row in the Olympics.

"I think it is inspiring to them to see somebody from Uganda who is representing them at the Olympics, and I hope that inspires that dream in them to be able to compete," said Noble.

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Keira Farrimond

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