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Golden Medals: Opportunities galore to see Rio 2016 Calympians in Cal this winter

It’s easy (and mostly free) to support (even meet) Rio 2016 Calympians in action in these next two months

Olympics: Swimming-Evening Session
Winner of 3 Gold Medals (plus a World Record) at the Rio 2016, Ryan Murphy is back at Cal for his senior campaign with Cal Men’s Swimming.
Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Even more than winning national championships (where Golden Bears are top 5 in the country), Cal Athletics has been arguably the best in recent years (particularly the last 3 Summer Olympic games) in producing/training Olympians. While I am certain that several Cal athletics will likely become Olympians in the future (Andrew Seliskar in men’s swimming, Amy Bilquist and Katie McLoughlin in women’s swimming, and Emma Wright in women’s water polo are the most likely candidates), plenty of current Cal athletes that you can see this winter are already “Calympians”. These athletes are some of the best in their discipline in the entire world; Cal fans can see them in action while sporting the Blue and Gold proudly for free (or for just a small fees) as well as get autographs, especially if one brings a child.

In addition to having great individual athletes, all of the Cal teams featured this week should also be in the mix for team as well as individual NCAA national championships.

Today’s post will serve as your quick guide to the already announced events to see these Golden Bears in action in the Bay Area. Cal fans, go support these amazing athletes (especially with the uncertainty looming over almost all of the non-revenue sports).

Cal Women’s Gymnastics

Team Outlook:

Steadily getting better each day, Cal Women’s Gymnastics has risen from the brink of elimination to an emerging national powerhouse. Golden Bears made the NCAA championships as a team in 2016 and will look to book a return trip in 2017 while seeking an even better result with superstar Toni-Ann Williams (who had to miss the 2016 NCAA championships to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic games).

Calympian to watch:

Toni-Ann Williams (Jamaica) - 2016 Rio Calympian

The Cal junior became the first gymnast to represent Jamaica in the Olympics in 2016. One of the top all around gymnast in the country, Williams particularly excels in floor exercise and vault.

Home Schedule:

Monday, January 9th - 7 PM PT: NorCal Classic

Saturday, January 21st - 5 PM PT: Cal vs. Washington and San Jose State

Saturday, January 28th - 6 PM PT: Cal vs. Arizona State

Saturday, February 18th - 4:30 PM PT: Cal vs. Oregon State

Sunday, March 12th - 2 PM PT: Cal vs. Oklahoma

Other Bay Area appearances:

Saturday, March 18th - TBD: Pac-12 Championships at Palo Alto, CA

Cal Women’s Water Polo

Team Outlook:

2016 was a weird year for NCAA women’s water polo as all the top teams (particularly Stanford, UCLA, and Cal) all faced attrition due to losing key players to the Olympic qualifying/training. USC went undefeated and won the national title thanks to having their team intact. 2017 is the start of a new regime for the Golden Bears as they seek a return to the NCAA tournament (which would require a top 3 finish in the very tough MPSF) under new head coach in Coralie Simmons (replacing the since retired Rich Corso). Bears return their top 3 players from 2015 (all took an Olympic sabbatical) to a team that saw other players like Carla Carrega, Emily Loughlin, and Kindred Paul step up in a big way in 2016. No one knows just how the team will play under a new head coach, but the talent is there for the Bears to win the program’s first NCAA national championship.

Calympian to watch:

Dora Antal (Hungary) - 2012 London and 2016 Rio Calympian

Anna Illes (Hungary) - 2016 Rio Calympian

Roser Tarrago (Spain) - 2016 Rio Calympian

The top 3 scorers for the Golden Bears in 2014 and 2015, the redshirt juniors are back after taking 2016 off to help their respective country to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic games. Look for this trio, all perimeter players who earns their goals by driving toward the baskets (playing the position of “drivers”), to again establish themselves as the best players on the team. Antal scored 75 goals and then 69 goals in her first two years as a Cal Bear. Tarrago was 2nd on the team with 49 and then 55 goals. Illes scored 48 and then 41 goals.

Olympians in the coaching staff:

Heather Petri (USA) - The Cal alum and 4x Calympian (Silver in 2000 Sydney, Bronze in 2004 Athens, Silver in 2008 Beijing, and Gold in 2012 London) is serving as a volunteer assistant coach.

Coralie Simmons (USA) - The new head coach of Cal Women’s Water Polo won a Silver with team USA in the 2000 Sydney games. The UCLA grad has also worked extensively with the very successful USA National Team. For the long term success of the program, Cal Women’s Water Polo really needs to tap more into the USA National Team pipeline.

Home Schedule:

Friday, January 27th - 7 PM PT: Cal vs. CSUN

Saturday, March 11th - 1 PM PT: Cal vs. Harvard

Saturday, March 25th - 1 PM PT: Cal vs. Arizona State

Saturday, April 1st - 1 PM PT: Cal vs. Stanford (BIG SPLASH)

Saturday, April 15th - TBD: Cal vs. USC

Other Bay Area appearances:

Lou Tully Memorial - Sunday, January 15th at Saratoga, CA: Cal vs. San Jose State at 9:30 AM PT; Cal vs. Pacific at 1:30 PM PT

Stanford Invitational - Saturday and Sunday, February 4th and 5th

Saturday, April 8th - TBD: Cal at San Jose State (Saratoga, CA)

Cal Men’s Swimming and Diving

Team Outlook:

Golden Bears will look to reclaim the top spot and the NCAA national championship (1st one since 2014) from the likes of Texas and Michigan in 2017. Senior Ryan Murphy will look to complete the career NCAA individual national championships in both the 100 yard and 200 yard backstroke. Golden Bears leapt to No.1 in the ranking after a very dominant Georgia Invitational in December. After winning the team title in his freshman year, I can see Murphy doing something magical in March from Indianapolis in the relays to will the Bears to another team national championship.

Calympian to watch:

Ryan Murphy (USA) - 2016 Rio Calympian

Long Gutierrez (Mexico) - 2016 Rio Calympian

Ryan Murphy won 3 Gold medals while setting a new world record in Rio. Murphy won both the 100 meter and 200 meter backstroke before setting a new world record while leading USA to a 4x100 Medley Relay Gold when he swam the starting backstroke leg. In addition to the backstroke, Murphy will also swim freestyle for the Golden Bears in various relays.

Long Gutierrez qualified for Rio in 100 meter butterfly. He will be a big contributor for the Bears in both the individual Fly races as well as the relays.

Home Schedule:

Friday, February 3rd - TBD: Cal vs. USC

Saturday, February 18th - TBD: Cal vs. Stanford

Cal Women’s Swimming and Diving

Team Outlook:

Comparing to rival Stanford, Cal women’s swimming often has the best swimmer (Natalie Coughlin) but not the depth. 2017 is just the opposite with Katie Ledecky starting her NCAA career down at The Farm. To counter Ledecky and Rio 2016 darling in Simone Manuel, Golden Bears will counter with the fantastic foursome of Kathleen Baker, Amy Bilquist, Katie McLoughlin, and newcomer and Calympian Abbey Weitzeil. Senior and Egyptian Calympian Farida Osman is also back to anchor the relays as the Bears look to capture a 5th NCAA title in 9 years. Bears do lack a dominant distance swimmer after the defection of Cierra Runge to Wisconsin after taking 2016 off as an Olympic sabbatical, but freshman Anina Lund (who qualified for the 400 meter and 800 meter events in the US Swim Trials) may pick up that slack.

Calympian to watch:

Kathleen Baker (USA) - 2016 Rio Calympian

Abbey Weitzeil (USA) - 2016 Rio Calympian

Noemie Thomas (Canada) - 2016 Rio Calympian

Farida Osman (Egypt) - 2012 London and 2016 Rio Calympian

Marina Garcia (Spain) - 2012 London Calympian

Kathleen Baker overcame her Crohn’s disease to win a Silver in 100 Back in Rio. Abbey Weitzeil won two Golds in relays (4x100 free and 4x100 medley) before matriculating in Berkeley this fall. Although overshadowed by teammate Missy Franklin, now senior Farida Osman’s performance in 2015 NCAA championships in the relays were instrumental to the Bears’ title. Osman’s relay swims may be the X-factor as to whether the Bears can win NCAA relay and team national championships in 2017. Breast specialist Marina Garcia is perhaps Cal’s weakest link in the medley relay. Can she recaptures the form that made her a 2012 London Olympian (prior to attending Cal) or will another Cal breaststroker step up?

Home Schedule:

Friday, January 27th - 2 PM PT: Cal vs. USC

Saturday, January 28th - noon PT: Cal vs. UCLA

Saturday, February 11th - noon PT: Cal vs. Stanford