With the start of the 2016 Olympics in Rio over the weekend, the Mountaineers sent 11 current and former students to compete in the games. By now, you’ve probably seen that sophomore Virginia "Ginny" Thrasher brought home the first gold medal of the games by beating a two-time gold medalist in the 10-meter air rifle competition on Saturday. Meet the other Mountaineers competing for Olympic glory.
Natalie, a 2012 graduate and member of the WVU’s Women’s Basketball team, is playing for the Australian Women’s basketball team. Australia, in Group A, currently sits 2-0 (4 points) in group play with games against France and Japan due this week. Burton played for her hometown Perth Lynx, in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) this past year where she averaged 5.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and shot 51 percent (73-for-144) from the floor in 27 games.
Yelena Leuchanka, a 2006 graduate and member of the WVU Women’s Basketball team, helped her Belarus squad advance to the Summer Olympics by defeating Korea in the FIBA Women’s Olympics Qualifying Tournament (WOQT). Leunchanka was second on the team with 12.6 points per game and led the team with 10.8 rebounds. Belarus, in Group A, currently sits 0-2 (2 points) in Group play.
You may already know Kadeisha. She will be a senior this year for coach Nikki Izzo-Brown and the 4-time Big 12 Regular Season Champions and back-to-back Big 12 Tournament Champions. Kadeisha is a decorated player for the Mountaineers. Her accomplishments are so much, I can’t even list them all here. Check out her bio to see the entire list that includes: 2015 MAC Herrman Finalist, 2015 BMO Canadian Player of the Year, and 2015 FIFA’s World Cup Best Young Player honoree. Buchanan is a member of the Canadian National Team, who currently sit first in Group F of the Women’s Tournament.
Ashley is also a senior for Coach Brown’s soccer squad. Ashley will also play for Team Canada. She was also a MAC Herrman finalist last year. The MAC Herrman trophy is the Heisman trophy of collegiate soccer. Ashley will be vying for the career assists record this coming year at WVU.
ICYMI, Nicco became the second Mountaineer to win gold at the Rio Games. A four-time All American for the WVU Rifle Team, Nicco shot an Olympic Record 630.1 in the qualifying round and finished with a 206.1 score to win gold. The win gives the Rifle Team a sweep of the air rifle event at the 2016 games. Both Nicco and Ginny Thrasher will compete later this week in the smallbore portion of the rifle events. Nicco is competing for Team Italy.
Ziva, representing Slovenia in the 2016 games, was a four-time All American for WVU. She was named the 2015 Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) Shooter of the Year and 2015 GARC Outstanding Senior. This will be Ziva’s second Olympics, as she competed in the 2012 London games where she finished 11th in the air rifle. You can catch Ziva on Thursday when she competes in the 50m Three Position event.
Major David Johnson is serving as the coach of the rifle team in the Rio Games. A former four-time All American at WVU from 1983-1986, Johnson is a decorated shooter and coach. He was recently inducted into the WVU Hall of Fame. The two-time CoSIDA Second Team Academic All-American graduated from WVU in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in finance. Following graduation, Johnson joined the United States Army Reserves and became a member of the United States Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU). This is Johnson’s third time coaching the rifle team in the Olympics. He previously coached in the 2008 and 2012 games.
By now, you know that Ginny Thrasher won the first gold medal of the games by beating two-time gold medalist, Du Li of China in the 10m air rifle. Thrasher, who will be a sophomore this year at WVU, only started shooting 5 years ago when her grandfather invited her to join him on a hunting trip. Thrasher has been on a hot streak, winning the 2016 NCAA Air Rifle Championship, NCAA Smallbore Championship, 2016 GARC Smallbore Championship. She was named the GARC Rookie of the Year and First Team All American in NRA Air Rifle. Ginny will compete in the Smallbore competition later this week in Rio.
Petra, another member of the famed WVU Rifle Team, will shoot for Italy in the 2016 Games. Petra has the distinct honor of being a five-time All American. She was named the GARC Shooter of the Year in both 2012 and 2013. This will be her second Olympic games. She previously competed in the 2012 London games where she finished 12th in both the Women’s 10m Air Rifle and 50m Three Position events.
Sarah-Anne Brault, a former second team All American in the 10,000 meter who was named All Big 12 and All Big East during her time at WVU will compete in the triathlon later this month. Braught qualified to serve as an alternate for the 2012 Canadian team and represented Canada and three world junior championships from 2006-2008. She was the 2012 Pan Amerian Champion. Braught competes August 20th.
Jessica O’Connell will compete in the 5000m event next week in Rio. Jessica earned All American honors three times at WVU in the 3,000 meters to qualify for the 2011 NCAA Championships. This will be her first Olympic games.