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2016 Retrospect: Top 10 Cal moments from the Rio Olympic Games (Part 1)

The end of the calendar year feels like a good time to finalize this post that was largely written at the end of the Rio Games.

Olympics: Water Polo-Bronze Medal Match-Hungary vs Russia
Current Cal junior Dora Antal was a big reason why her native Hungary was able to make the Bronze Medal match in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Golden Bears may not have won 25 medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics like I had predicted (though Bears came close with 22*), but the 52 Calympians created many memorable moments for Cal fans. Here are my picks for the top 10 best moments from Rio.

*Yes, our count is different from that of CalBears.com since they are not counting the one relay Gold won by former Cal swimmer Cierra Runge (who has transferred to Wisconsin after one year with the Bears and one year of sabbatical).

Since this post ends up being kind of long, today will just be moments 10 through 6. Check back next week for my Cal moments 5 through 1 of the 2016 Rio Olympics.


Honorable Mentions:

Supermom Dana Vollmer wins Olympic medals

I will admit that it is highly plausible that I don’t have this ranked higher because I am a guy who doesn’t comprehend how tough motherhood is. It is a great story that Dana Vollmer was able to swim very competitively shortly after giving birth to her first child.

Vollmer finished the Rio 2016 games with a medal of each color. She won a Bronze in 100 Fly, won a Silver in the 4x100 Free relay, and then cap her Rio games with a Gold in the 4x100 Medley relay where she swam the Fly leg.

Alex Morgan scores the equalizer in USA Women’s Soccer’s quarterfinal match against Sweden

Overall, the Rio 2016 Olympic games was a great disappointment for USWNT as they got knocked out in the quarterfinal match against Sweden in the penalty shootouts. Nevertheless, Alex Morgan had another huge goal to add to her career highlight.

Missy Franklin is still super cheerful despite not having the best meet

Missy Franklin is of course back to Berkeley to continue her undergraduate education. While she did not have a great 2016 Rio Olympic games (winning merely a Gold from the 4x200 Free relay where she only got to swam the prelim), Missy is certainly talented and young enough to make a major come back in the 2020 Tokyo games.

Franklin will join the Cal Men’s Pro group (a group that includes Nathan Adrian, Josh Prenot, Jacob Pebley, and Tom Shields) to train under Cal Men’s Swimming head coach Dave Durden.


Without further ado, here is No.10 to No.6 of Calympian moments from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

10. Danny Barrett (USA) and the return of Rugby to the Olympic games

Danny Barrett and USA may not have medalled at the Rio Olympics, but Barrett definitely left his mark with a 4 try performance in the tournament. Barrett scored the late go-ahead try in the pivotal opening game against Argentina. Unfortunately, the US defense allowed the Argentinians to answer with a last second try in a result that ultimately kept USA out of the knockout round.

On the NBC recap of the Olympics, Barrett was heavily featured in the montage. NBC Sports Network will continue to broadcast Danny Barrett and Team USA rugby action all year long.

9. Calympians Staffs contribute to USA Medals

Stanford may have won 4 Gold Medals from the 4 players on the USA Women’s Water Polo and 2 Bronze Medals from 2 players on the USA Men’s Volleyball, but Calympians contributed to both of those events. While they do not receive medals as a part of the coaching staff, Calympians Dave Dantes on the USA Men’s Volleyball and Christopher Lee and Chris Oeding on USA Women’s Water Polo are a big part of how Stanford can claim 6 medals from Rio 2016.

Dave Dantes and Christopher Lee are both on the current Cal staff (Lee returned to Cal after the Rio Olympics) for Cal Volleyball and Women’s Water Polo, respectively. Oeding is a Cal alum (and two time Calympian as an athlete himself) who is coaching at Orange Coast College when not with the national team.

8. Dora Antal stars in Hungary’s Quarterfinal Victory over Australia

Redshirt junior Dora Antal is already a 2x Calympian. In both of her Olympic experiences, Antal has come up big against Australia. In the 2012 Bronze medal match, Antal scored a game tying goal via a steal to send that match to overtime (where her Hungarian team eventually lost). This year, Antal came up huge again against Australia to send her Hungarian team to the semifinal. Unfortunately for Antal and her fellow Hungarian Cal Bears teammate in Anna Illes, Hungary again lost the Bronze medal match - this time to Russian in an epic penalty shootouts.

Rio 2016 Calympians: Antal, Illes, and Spanish Calympian Roser Tarrago (all three are redshirt juniors) are all back in Berkeley and ready for the upcoming Cal Women’s Water Polo campaign under brand new head coach in Coralie Simmons.

7. Josh Prenot wins silver in 200 Breast, does a hilarious SportsPickle interview

As a Cal physics alum, I am particularly happy to see physics major Josh Prenot (USA) having Olympic success in winning a Silver in 200 Breast. Prenot followed up his Rio games with a hilarious interview with the typically fake sports news site Sports Pickle.

My personal favorite part?

DJG: You are a Physics major at Cal-Berkeley. Do you think understanding physics helps you as a swimmer? And have you ever had any physics discussions with Ryan Lochte?

Josh Prenot: Carl Sagan said that science is much more a way of thinking than a body of knowledge, and I think that way of thinking has absolutely helped me improve as an athlete. Every workout is an experiment during which I gain information about my swimming, which I can then use in the next workout to gain more information, etc. going about the process with that mindset has really helped me nail down my race strategies.

I think Lochte is a Lagrangian mechanics guy whereas I’m more of a quantum information guy, so we haven’t had much communication about physics.

Thanks goodness that Prenot and Lochte did not bond over their love of physics. Otherwise, maybe Prenot would have been caught up in that whole #LochteMess incident.

6. Jahvid Best races against Usain Bolt in 100 meter dash heat

Cal Football alum Jahvid Best made a fast transition to become an Olympic level sprinter just ahead of the Rio Olympics (Best did run track in high school but did not pull a Khalfani Muhammad and play both football and run track at Cal). The former NFL running back represented Saint Lucia (where his father is from) in the 100m sprint. He also became the first ex-NFL player to compete in the Summer Olympics (kind of a weird technicality that doesn’t count ex-NFL player who did bobsled or current New England Patriots player Nate Ebner on the USA Olympic Rugby team). Although he was always a long shot to advance out of the prelim, it was super cool for Best to get to race head to head with the best sprinter in the world in Usain Bolt (who had another Cal connections in my top 5 count down next week). Best clocked a time of 10.39 seconds (certainly not his best time) to place 54th out of 69 runners.

More on this moment from Avi’s article here.


Check back next week for my Top 5 Cal moments of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

GO BEARS!