For some members of Team USA, life after the Olympic Games in Rio meant returning home and preparing to head out the door again, this time to college.
These student-athletes represent not only the United States but also their universities. In honor of Thursday’s NCAA National Student-Athlete Day, here are a dozen individuals who went straight from the Olympic Games to the fall semester and have continued to make their marks in their respective sports.
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Kassidy Cook, Diving, Stanford
Cook won her first Pac-12 diver of the month honor in February after winning the 1-meter competition in all four January dual meets, while adding one win on 3-meter. She finished in eighth place on the 1-meter at the NCAA championships and third in the 3-meter. Beginning on April 12, she will compete in the USA Diving Synchronized National Championships in Atlanta.
J’den Cox, Wrestling, Missouri
Cox won a bronze medal in freestyle wrestling for Team USA last summer, and in his senior season at Missouri he won his third NCAA title at 197 pounds. He is the first Missouri athlete to win three NCAA titles and finished the season a perfect 28-0. Cox was also named a finalist for the Dan Hodge Trophy, given annually to the country’s best college wrestler.
Luca Cupido, Water Polo, Cal
After competing at his first Olympics, Cupido scored one of the biggest goals of the season in overtime to help No. 3 Cal top No. 1 USC to win the program’s 14th NCAA title. He was named a first team All-America for the second time in his college career. The junior attacker finished with 30 goals, including 16 in the last month of the season, and also earned first team All-NCAA Tournament honors.
Lee Kiefer, Fencing, Notre Dame
Kiefer became only the third fencer, male or female, to win four NCAA championships and helped the Irish to their first team championship since 2011 as she put an end to her college foil career. Just prior to the NCAA championships, Kiefer became the first U.S. foil fencer to win a second FIE Grand Prix gold medal and the first to achieve a world No. 1 ranking.
Madison Kocian, Gymnastics, UCLA
The 2016 Olympic champion as a member of the Final Five and Olympic uneven bars silver medalist is now a college freshman and the NCAA regional champion on uneven bars and co-champion on floor exercise. She won six all-around titles this season and was named first team All-America in the all-around and second-team on floor for the regular season. Kocian also scored her first perfect 10 on uneven bars during a meet in February and was twice named Pac-12 freshman of the week. No. 5 UCLA will seek its seventh NCAA gymnastics title beginning with the team semifinals on April 14.
Katie Ledecky, Swimming, Stanford
Ledecky proved herself to be the best in the world several times over at the Games, so it was no surprise when she began her college career at Stanford with a dominant Stanford season. She won five NCAA titles (200-, 500- and 1,650-yard freestyle, 400- and 800-yard freestyle relays), set five individual American records and seven individual NCAA records in three different events, all the while helping the Stanford women to their first NCAA championship since 1998.
Simone Manuel, Swimming, Stanford
Ledecky wasn’t the only Stanford swimmer who left her mark on the NCAA record books this season. Manuel, who in Rio became the first black woman to win Olympic swimming gold, won four national titles in her second season at Stanford, set American records in the 200-, 400- and 800-yard freestyle relays, became the first woman to break 46 seconds in the 100-yard freestyle and was undefeated in the 100 free during the dual meet season. She now holds eight NCAA titles and 14 All-America honors.
Alexander Massialas, Fencing, Stanford
The two-time Olympian’s quest to become the second man in Stanford history to win three individual NCAA fencing titles fell just short, but the fifth-year senior nonetheless finished his college career as the most decorated fencer in school history. The Olympic silver medalist in foil tied for third in the nation at the championships and leaves as a four-time first team All-American.
Keturah Orji, Track and Field, Georgia
Orji was recently named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association National Women’s Indoor Field Athlete of the Year after winning the SEC and NCAA indoor triple jump titles. It was Orji’s second consecutive indoor triple jump championship, and the win at the NCAA championships made her 20-1 all-time in collegiate competition in the event. Orji won the triple jump at the 2016 Olympic Trials and finished fourth in Rio, 3 centimeters behind the bronze medalist.
Kyle Snyder, Wrestling, Ohio State
Snyder, a junior who wrestles at 285 pounds, became the youngest Olympic champion in U.S. wrestling history last summer in Rio. He then returned to the Buckeyes to win a second straight NCAA title. While continuing to wrestle with Team USA, Snyder went a perfect 17-0 with Ohio State for his second consecutive undefeated season and was named a finalist for the Dan Hodge Trophy.
Ginny Thrasher, Shooting, West Virginia
Thrasher was the first athlete of any nation to win gold at the Rio Games, and then she returned for her sophomore year at WVU, where she was named a first-team NRA All-American in air rifle and smallbore, a first-team CRCA All-American, and CRCA Rifle Athlete of the Year. She also finished second in smallbore and seventh in air rifle at the NCAA championships and helped West Virginia to win its fifth straight NCAA title.
Kendell Williams, Track and Field, Georgia
Williams became the first woman to win an event at the NCAA indoor track championships four years in a row when she completed the sweep in pentathlon. Her 4,682 points was the third-most in collegiate history (she also holds the record of 4,703). Williams finished 17th in her first Olympic Games in 2016.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.