The Rio games were ridiculously successful for the contingent of athletes Purdue sent. A total of eight athletes had Purdue ties in Rio and three of them will be leaving this morning with at least one medal. Two more just barely missed out on qualifying for the finals in their respective events.
David Boudia – Men’s Diving – The only dual medalist from Purdue, Boudia now has four career Olympic medals from three appearances in the games. Will he return for a fourth time in Tokyo in 2020? We’ll see. He now has the second most medals of any Purdue athlete ever behind the eight golds of Ray Ewry in the early 1900s. He leaves Rio with a silver in the 10-meter synchro event (with teammate Steele Johnson) and he went for it on his final dive in the individual event but came up short.
As Boudia was in second place after five dives he knew he needed a phenomenal final dive to have a shot at defending his gold from London. He tried a forward 4.5 somersault dive that carried the highest degree of difficulty for a platform dive. He didn’t quite pull it off, and Mexico’s German Sanchez passed him with a solid final dive of his own. That meant David had to settle for bronze, the second bronze of his career and fourth medal overall. Even if Boudia had nailed it, China’a Aisen Chen blew the competition away with final dives of 105.45 and 108.
Amanda Elmore – Women’s Rowing – Purdue’s only gold medalist of these games came on the water as Amanda Elmore, a West Lafayette native from Harrison HS who got her undergrad degree at Purdue, was a member of the women’s U.S. rowing 8’s. It was the third straight gold in the event for the U.S. women’s team. They beat Great Britain by more than 2.5 seconds to easily win gold.
Steel Johnson – Men’s Diving – Johnson was able to come back with silver (and a new hat) after pairing with Boudia in the Men’s Synchro event. The duo performed extremely well and comfortably outpaces British divers tom Daley and Daniel goodfellow. They were beaten by the diving cyborgs from China in Aisen Chen and Yue Lin. Those two were virtually unbeatable, just as Chen was in the individual event.
Individually, Johnson struggled. He did qualify for the semifinals in the 18th and final spot on Friday just as Boudia did in 2012, but there was no dramatic comeback like Boudia. In the semis Johnson placed 13th, missing the top 12 (and a trip to the final) by 6 points behind South Korea’s Haram Woo. Johnson will definitely be back for Tokyo, and he will resume his Purdue career this winter with sophomore eligibility. He already has two NCAA championships and will challenge Boudia’s record of six.
Kara Winger – Women’s Javelin – Competing in her third Olympics, the American record holder had her best performance yet. She had a throw of 61.02 meters that looked like it was going to hold up to qualify as one of the top 12 for the final, but Australia Kathryn Mitchell edged her on her final throw with a 61.63. The 13th place is Winger’s best finish yet at an Olympics. Her American record of 66.65 would have taken gold in the final, too. I don’t know if Winger has a fourth games in her, as she would be 34 in Tokyo. It should be noted that bronze medalist Barbora Spatakova of the czech republic was 35 this time around and she had won gold in Beijing and London.
Carmiesha Cox – Women’s Track – The Purdue senior-to-be ran the 4x400 relay for the Bahamas and helped establish a new national record. Her team finished in 3:26.36, which was 11th best among the 16 teams and not quite good enough to reach the final. Her time was 50.91, however, the second fastest third leg in her heat and it helped shave more than 2 seconds off the previous Bahamian national record.
Cox, who scored at the NCAA championships for Purdue, has one more season to run for the Old Gold and black and can easily return in 2020.
Paula Reto – Women’s Golf – The former NCAA champion from Purdue represented South Africa in Rio and was one of 60 women’s participating in the golf event. She entered the final round within striking distance of a medal, but a final round 71 knocked her down to 16th place. She was officially 6 strokes behind the bronze medalist and 12 behind gold medalist Inbee Park of South Korea.
Aya Traore – Women’s Basketball – Traore was a member of Purdue’s women’s basketball team from 2003-06 and averaged more than 13 points per game as a senior. She was selected to represent Senegal in the women’s tournament. Unfortunately, Senegal finished 12th out of 12 teams. She averaged 5.8 points per game in Senegal’s four games, all loses.
Jinq En Phee – Women’s Swimming – The youngest athlete at the games from Purdue, Phee will begin classes this week as a freshman. She qualified in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke for Malaysia with a national record time of 1:08.65 and was the only female Malaysian swimmer. This is the same event that Indiana’s Lilly King won in Olympic record time of 1:04.93. Phee raced in heat No. 2 and placed second with a 1:10.22, but it was not enough to make the semifinals. The slowest semifinal time was 1:07.22. Swimming for Malaysia, however, Phee stands an excellent chance of qualifying in 2020.