Precious Medals

Erin McLeod, Joe Kovacs, Alyssa Naeher, and Erica Dambach added to the Penn State hardware haul from Tokyo.

Four Penn State Olympic Athletes

Erin McLeod ’06 Com was the Canadian soccer team’s starting goalkeeper at the 2012 Olympics in London, where her side met the favored U.S. in the semifinals. The Canadians led 3–2 in the final 15 minutes, when McLeod, holding the ball after grabbing a corner kick, was on the wrong end of what was widely viewed as an inexplicable decision: a six-second call, in the rule book to prevent time wasting but virtually never whistled, let alone late in a close game. The referee’s decision upended the game, which ended in a 4–3 U.S. win. Days later, the U.S. claimed the gold, and the Canadians settled for bronze.

McLeod, the most accomplished goalie in Canadian women’s soccer history, was a backup in Tokyo, but she celebrated like a match winner after Canada knocked out the U.S., 1–0, in this year’s Olympic semifinal, en route to finally grabbing that elusive gold. Her payback meant heartbreak for another member of the Penn State goalkeeping family: Alyssa Naeher ’10 H&HD is entrenched as the Americans’ No. 1 keeper, and she played a huge role in the team’s run to the 2019 World Cup championship. This time, it was Naeher’s turn to settle for a somewhat disappointing bronze, as the U.S. held off Australia, 4–3, in the consolation match. Penn State women’s head coach Erica Dambach was an assistant on the U.S. staff.

Joe Kovacs also fell just short of gold in the shot put, but he was all smiles after clinching his second Olympic silver medal, knowing he’d lost to an epic effort from his U.S. teammate. Kovacs ’11 EMS, the 2015 and 2019 world champion, threw 22.65 meters in Tokyo, but it wasn’t enough to top teammate Ryan Crouser’s Olympic-record throw of 23.3. Kovacs’ personal best throw of 22.91, set at the 2019 worlds, remains the fourth-best throw of all time.

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Lions at Play

A total of 25 Penn Staters, including current and former student-athletes and current coaches and staff, represented seven countries in Tokyo.

ATHLETES

Matt Anderson, volleyball, USA

Kayla Canett, rugby, USA

Gabe Castaño, swimming, Mexico

Micha Hancock ’14 Lib, volleyball, USA (gold)

Mohamed Hassan, fencing, Egypt

Max Holt ’09 Com, volleyball, USA

Joe Kovacs ’11 EMS, track & field, USA (silver)

Andrew Mackiewicz ’18 Lib, fencing, USA

Shawn Morelli ’98 Behrend, cycling USA (gold and silver)

Erin McLeod ’06 Com, soccer, Canada (gold)

Alyssa Naeher ’10 H&HD, soccer, USA (bronze)

Melissa Rodriguez, swimming, Mexico

Shane Ryan ’17 H&HD, swimming, Ireland

Michael Shuey ’17 Agr, track & field, USA

Jake Schrom ’11 Agr, powerlifting, USA

Kaito Streets ’16 Bus, fencing, Japan

David Taylor ’13 H&HD, wrestling, USA (gold)

Haleigh Washington ’17 Lib, volleyball, USA (gold)

 

COACHES AND STAFF

Ellen Casey ’00 H&HD, team physician, women’s gymnastics, USA

Casey Cunningham, personal coach, wrestling, USA

Erica Dambach, assistant coach, women’s soccer, USA

Tom Hovasse ’89 Bus, head coach, women’s basketball, Japan

Dane Miller ’07 Lib, personal coach, track & field, American Samoa

Cael Sanderson, personal coach, wrestling, USA

Cody Sanderson, personal coach, wrestling, USA