Virginia sends 18 representatives to 2016 Summer Olympics

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In her first Olympic appearance, Morgan Brian will look to continue her momentum on the soccer field as she starts at the midfielder position.

Brian Saunders | Cavalier Daily

When all eyes were on Beijing, China during the 2008 Summer Olympics, the Cavaliers sent nine representatives to compete and coach on the grandest athletic stage of them all. Eight years later, the Cavaliers have now doubled that number. Starting Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 18 individuals with ties to Virginia – 16 athletes and two coaches – will represent seven different countries in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Here are some highlights of a group of standouts:

Leah Smith, Women’s Swimming ’17 (United States)

With her incredible 2015-2016 season, Leah Smith has cemented herself as not only one of the best Virginia swimmers of all time, but as one the best-ever Virginia athletes, period. At the ACC Championships in February, Smith broke the NCAA record in the 1,650-yard freestyle. In addition to two NCAA titles from the 2015 championships, the Pittsburgh, Pa. native picked up two more this past year. In Rio, she will be competing in the 400- and 800-meter freestyle as well as the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. While this is only her first Olympics, Smith is one of the biggest stars representing the orange and blue and has a strong chance at bringing home a medal.

Filip Mihaljevic, Track and Field ’17 (Croatia)

Standing at 6-foot-7 and weighing 253 pounds, Filip Mihaljevic has the build of a track and field star, specifically in throwing events. This past season, he won himself a national championship in outdoor shot put, and he has seven ACC titles to his name through three years of competing. But Mihaljevic’s success hasn’t simply been confined to Virginia – just last week, he won discus and took second in shot put at Croatian Nationals. In his first Olympic appearance, he will be competing to receive a medal in shot put, his best event.

Morgan Brian, Women’s Soccer ’14 (United States)

As one of the all-time Virginia women’s soccer greats, Morgan Brian has already proven herself on both the national and international stage. Currently playing for the Houston Dash, Brian has also scored four goals in her play with the United States Women’s National Team. In her time at Virginia, she became the first Cavalier to score 40 career goals and rack up 40 career assists. In her first Olympic appearance, Brian will look to continue her momentum on the soccer field as she starts at the midfielder position.

Yannick Kaeser, Men’s Swimming ’16 (Switzerland)

Holding the Swiss national records in both the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke, Yannick Kaeser is a household name in Switzerland. Now, after an illustrious four-year career at Virginia in which he claimed four ACC titles and four All-American honors, Kaeser will look to make a splash in his second-consecutive Olympic appearance. In his last year at Virginia, Kaeser proved to be the face of the program as only he and then-freshman Zach Fong competed in the NCAA Championships. In Rio, Kaeser will compete in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke – by far his best events.

Emily Sonnett, Women’s Soccer ’16 (United States)

The fact that Emily Sonnett is an alternate on the United States National Women’s Team for the Olympics is a testament to just how good that team is. Starting as a defender at Virginia, Sonnett earned the title of ACC Defensive Player of the Year for the 2015 season, won the ESPNW National Player of the Year and was taken first overall in the NWSL draft by the Portland Thorns FC. Although she is an alternate for the team this time around, Sonnett’s future is incredibly bright; it’d be incredibly surprising if this were her last Olympic appearance.

Kemal Mesic, Track and Field Throws Coach (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

At the age of 31, Kemal Mesic is one of the oldest Virginia representatives in this year’s Olympics. However, he is not letting that slow him down. Graduating from Florida in 2013, this Virginia throws coach became a five-time first-team All American and won three SEC indoor shot put titles. In his second Olympic appearance, he will compete alongside his mentee, Filip Mihaljevic.

Other Virginia representatives competing in the Olympics include: Michelle Vittese (United States), Susanne Grainger (Canada), Inge Janssen (Netherlands), Matt Miller (United States), Meghan O’Leary (United States), Christine Roper (Canada), Becky Sauerbrunn (United States), Dominic Inglot (Great Britain), Robby Andrews (United States), Kevin Sauer (United States), Steve Swanson (United States) and Paige Selenski (United States)

Editor’s note: Leah Smith took Bronze in the 400-meter freestyle Sunday night.

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