LU takes on Rio: Meet the Athletes

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LU takes on Rio: Meet the Athletes

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Lindenlink.com | Sports Staff
August 3, 2016; 1:45 p.m.

While more than 10,000 athletes are expected to compete in this summer’s Olympic games, those familiar with the LU and the St. Charles community may recognize several of the participants.

Five Lindenwood alumni will be representing the Lions in Rio De Janeiro, along with two other athletes who will be enrolling in the university this fall. The group will be competing on behalf of five different countries and is expected to see action in at least four sports.

Here’s a quick look at LU’s 2016 Olympians:

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Hidilyn Diaz

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Photo taken from Diaz’s Facebook

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Twenty-five-year-old weightlifter, Hidilyn Diaz, is hoping to find that the third time’s the charm as she approaches the 2016 games . The Zamboanga, Philippines native will be representing her country for the third time on the Olympic platform beginning August 6. Diaz previously competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, both times finishing in the lower half of the competition. However, Diaz feels more prepared for what she has deemed her last trip to the Olympics. She has embraced a new nutrition plan and adopted other healthy habits in preparation for the  competition. After the games, Diaz will attend Lindenwood University to pursue a degree in Exercise Science, while training with the school’s weightlifting team.

 

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Richelle Stephens

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Photo taken from Stephens’ Instagram account

 

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Future Lindenwood rugby player, Richelle Stephens, will make her Olympic debut in Rio with Team USA. Although the Fallbrook, California athlete is new to the Olympic experience, she is no stranger to international competition. At the age of 19 she has already represented the United States at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games as well as the Toronto 2015 Pan-Am Games. In 2015, she also played at the 2015 NACRA Sevens Championships with the USA Eagles. Since graduating high school, Stephens has been taking online classes through Lindenwood while training full time at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California . After the games,  Stephens will be attending Lindenwood full time and joining the university’s women’s rugby team.

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Fernando Reis

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Photo taken from Reis’ Athlete Facebook Page

 

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Making his second trip to the Olympics, former Lindenwood weightlifter Fernando Reis will be  competing for the host nation. The 6’2, 26-year-old, will  take part in the 105 KG+ weight class. He is the first Brazilian ever to win a gold medal at the Pan American Games,  and he also finished 14th at the London games in 2012. Reis was the 2010 and 2011 National Collegiate champion during his time at LU.

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Morgan Craft

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Photo taken from Craft’s Athlete Facebook Page

 

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Twenty-two-year-old  women’s shooter, Morgan Craft, is one of the favorites to win a  gold medal for Team USA entering the 2016 Games. Craft competed at Lindenwood from 2011 until 2015, and was a part of four consecutive national championship winning teams. During her time at Lindenwood, Craft was a part of the 2011 Junior World Championship Team for the USA. She is currently ranked first in the world in Olympic skeet shooting, and earned her spot on the national team after winning the 2015 world championship in what has become her signature event. She is seen as the odds-on favorite to win the gold medal in the event.

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Fabian Florant

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Photo taken from Florant’s’ Athlete Facebook Page

 

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A former LU track and field athlete, and two-time national champion will also be making his debut in the Olympics’ triple jump. Dominican-Dutch born Fabian Florant attended Lindenwood from 2002-2004. As a Lion, he won the NAIA National Championships for indoors and outdoors triple jump competitions in 2003. Florant also won nine Dutch triple jump titles, five outdoors and four indoors.  His personal record of 16.92 meters in outdoors triple jump clinched his spot in Rio ,where we he  will represent the Netherlands.

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Donald Thomas

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Photo taken from Thomas’ Athlete Facebook Page

 

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With a trip to Rio, this 32-year-old  world champion and Lindenwood alumnus will be making his third appearance in the  Olympics. The 2006 graduate and Bahamas native Donald Thomas is set to compete for his home country in  high jump. Thomas won the 2007 World Championship title in Osaka, Japan with a personal-best 2.35 meter jump. Since Japan, he claimed three more 1st place spots at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games, the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and the 2011 Pan America Games.  He also competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics finishing 21st and 30th respectfully.

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Victoria Francis

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Photo taken from Francis’ Athlete Facebook Page

 

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Former Lindenwood women’s wrestler Victoria Francis earned a spot as an alternate for Team USA by finishing second at the Olympic Trials. She will be given the opportunity to compete in Rio if any of the wrestlers who qualified ahead of her are unable to participate. Francis competed for Lindenwood from 2012 until 2016. Earlier this year, Francis won an individual national championship while competing for the Lions at the WCWA Women’s National Championships. She was also named the champion of the University National Championships in the 75 kilogram weight division in 2015. Francis has previously competed in the Junior World Championships, earning a bronze medal.

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[su_divider top=”no” style=”double” size=”8″ margin=”30″]Emily Miller[/su_divider]