University of Guelph athletes and support staff will shortly be on their way to Brazil to compete at the Olympics this summer.

Evan van Moerkerke
Evan Van Moerkerke

A number of current students, alumni and staff will visit Rio to compete and coach during the Games, taking place Aug. 5 to 21. More than 10,500 athletes are scheduled to compete in the first Olympics to be held in South America.

Competing for Canada at the Olympics will be varsity swimmer Evan Van Moerkerke and U of G alumni, including the following:

  • Britt Benn, rugby;
  • marathoners Krista Duchene and Reid Coolsaet;
  • wrestler Korey Jarvis;
  • Anthony Romaniw, 800-metre race;
  • Andrea Seccafien, 5,000-metre race;
  • Geneviève Lalonde, 3,000-metre steeplechase;
  • Amelie Kretz, triathlon;
  • Cristy Nurse, rowing, and
  • Lee Parkhill, sailing.

Current student Jason Wilson will compete in the triathlon for Barbados, while incoming student Maria Fernanda Far, who has been training at the Gryphon Aquatics Centre, will compete for Panama.

Supporting the athletes will be physician Margo Mountjoy and sports physiologist Trent Stellingwerff.

Updates and messages of support can be posted on Twitter under the hashtag #OlympicGryphons.

For Van Moerkerke, a spot on the Canadian Olympic team seemed unlikely many years ago.

“It had only been the last few years that the possibility of going to the Olympics was there,” he said.

“I had never dreamed of going. When I made the team it took a while for it to sink in. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience so I want to take in as much as possible while I’m there. ”

The agricultural science major clinched a spot on Canada’s 4×100-metre relay team at Canadian trials in April.

He hopes to achieve a new personal best time at this year’s Olympics and see his team make the finals.

“Being at the University of Guelph has definitely helped me to get here,” he said.

“If I hadn’t come to Guelph I probably would have quit swimming. Before Guelph, I was nowhere near the Olympic level. The past four years have been critical in developing me to make it to this point.”

This will be Van Moerkerke’s first Olympics, but it will be Mountjoy’s eighth Games.

Margo Mountjoy
Margo Mountjoy

She will be in Rio on behalf of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Swimming Federation. She will oversee the medical and anti-doping programs and swimming events.

She will also unofficially assist athletes she works with at the U of G Health and Performance Centre.

“I’m excited about getting to work with the athletes, co-workers, local volunteers, IOC colleagues and international friends,” Mountjoy said.

“I love the opportunity this experience offers me to improve my professional skills and to network with other professionals around the world to make the athlete experience more positive and healthy. Preparation methods may change, but the excitement at these Games doesn’t change, and it is amazing to see athletes so engaged and striving to achieve their best.”