As we spend the next two weeks glued to our televisions watching the Olympic Games, it's important to note that so many of these competitors are our peers. 417 of the over 550 athletes on Team USA are incoming, current or former NCAA athletes from 130 universities. Say hello to these current student-athletes representing the USA in Rio this summer.
Ryan Held: Swimming
21 year old Held is a junior at North Carolina State University majoring in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation. The Illinois native swam the third leg of the 100 meter freestyle relay to win his first gold medal alongside Michael Phelps, Nathan Adrian and Florida Gator Caeleb Dressel. Held became the subject of an internet firestorm as he cried upon accepting his medal.
Mallory Pugh: Soccer
Pugh is an incoming freshman at the University of California, Los Angeles, but she has one more thing to take care of first. Pugh is the second youngest player to represent the USA in soccer, and the youngest to score for the USWNT in the Olympics. “I just tried to shoot it as hard as I can, so it would actually go in,” Pugh nonchalantly told the Denver Post after her historic goal.
David Higgins: Shooting
Higgins just graduated from the Air Force Academy, where he majored in economics. His father is a retired Marine Corps colonel, which inspired Higgins to join the armed forces. "I always knew I wanted to be in the military," he told Team USA. Higgins was supposed to begin his career with the Marine Corps in June, but his start date was pushed back to September to allow him to compete in the 50 meter rifle prone event.
Lilly King: Swimming
The rising sophomore at Indiana University won gold and set an Olympic record in the 100 meter breaststroke event. She has also become the target of criticism after calling out Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova, who has returned to the Olympics after having been involved in Russia's doping scandal. "You know, you're shaking your finger No. 1, and you've been caught for drug cheating. I'm just not, you know, a fan," King said in response to the incident.
Luca Cupido: Water Polo
The Italy native is an attacker on the US water polo team. The junior at University of California, Berkeley, moved to California before his junior year of high school. "It wasn't an easy decision to make,” he told the Orange County Register during his senior year. As Cupido gears up to compete in Rio, it seems as though it was worth it.
Haley Augello: Wrestling
Twenty-one year old Augello took a year off from wrestling with King University to compete in the Olympics after leading the University to two college national championships. She is the first Tornado to compete in Olympic wrestling and will compete in the 48 kilogram freestyle.
Michael Hixon: Diving
The Indiana University junior is majoring in economic consulting and has been diving since he was seven years old. He was coached by his mother until he began his college career. He qualified for the individual and synchronized 3 meter springboard events and will compete in the synchronized final alongside former Stanford Cardinal Kristian Ipsen.
Lexi Weeks: Track and Field
Weeks, who will be a sophomore at the University of Arkansas, will represent Team USA in the pole vault competition. She is majoring in chemistry, and her twin sister, Tori, also competes in the pole vault for the Razorbacks.
Alex Massialas: Fencing
A first year graduate student in mechanical engineering at Stanford, Massialas won silver in the men's individual foil competition. This was the USA's first medal in the event in 32 years. He will go on to compete in the team foil event.
Madison Kocian: Gymnastics
Kocian will be a freshman at the University of California, Los Angeles. She competes in the all-around competition, but her specialty is the uneven bars. She is the only member of Team USA gymnastics that has maintained her NCAA eligibility. She helped lead Team USA to a gold medal in the team all-around competition.
These faces are just a few of those competing for Team USA, but it's important to remember that there are hundreds of other athletes as well. Go USA!
Lead Image Credit: Christophe Simon