Razorback Olympians Win Two Golds, Two Silvers

Top from left: Gold medalists Taylor Ellis-Watson and Omar McLeod. Bottom: Silver medalists Sandi Morris and Veronica Campbell-Brown.

Top from left: Gold medalists Taylor Ellis-Watson and Omar McLeod. Bottom: Silver medalists Sandi Morris and Veronica Campbell-Brown.

Led by hurdler Omar McLeod and sprinter Taylor Ellis-Watson, Razorbacks won four medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this August.

Omar McLeod, No. 1 in the preliminary and semifinal rounds of the 110-meter hurdle competition, proved to be unrivaled in the international meeting of the world's best, sprinting to a gold medal time of 13.05 seconds during his Olympic debut.

He is the third Razorback, joining Michael Conley (Barcelona, '92) and Veronica Campbell-Brown (Athens, '04 and Beijing '08) to win an individual Olympic gold and the first to do so since Campbell-Brown's 200-meter-dash victory at the 2008 games in Beijing.

McLeod was also the third member of Jamaica's athletics delegation to earn a spot on top of the podium at Rio, joining the elite company of Usain Bolt (100) and Elaine Thompson (100). One of the most dominant hurdlers in NCAA history McLeod is Jamaica's first gold medalist in the event.

Improving his speed through each round, McLeod proved unaffected by the preliminary competition's torrential downpours, slicing through the rain with a powerful lead to cross the finish in 13.27. As the weather conditions improved, so did McLeod, taking advantage of the increased clarity and dry surface to clean up his race execution in the semifinals by coming through in 13.15.

Lining up in lane five for the final track and field event of the day McLeod gave the audience a reason to cheer, besting the event's runner-up by 0.12 seconds as he closed his first Olympic outing with a gold medal performance.

Relays Lead to Razorback Medals

Ellis-Watson won a gold medal competing on the U.S. women's 4x400 relay team. A nine-time All-American at Arkansas, she narrowly missed qualifying for the individual 400-meter race at the U.S. trials, but her time was fast enough to put her on the relay team for Rio. As part of the team, she ran during the qualifying round to make sure the U.S. team advanced to the finals but was substituted out for the finals. Nevertheless, all members of the pool are awarded a medal if the team succeeds.

Pryor to the finals, Ellis-Watson posted a note to Facebook: "I want to say one more time, thank you for the overwhelming support I am receiving from my family and friends. I also want everyone to know that I will not be running in [Saturday's] final … but that is okay. I played the part I was supposed to play this time around and helped this 4-x-400 team get to the position they are in now to get the gold, which I know will happen. Thanks again for the support and Go Team USA!"

In similar fashion, Campbell-Brown won a silver medal as part of the Jamaican 4x400-meter relay team, her eighth Olympic medal overall. She won a silver in 2000, a bronze and two golds in 2004, a gold in 2008, and a bronze and silver in 2012. She also competed in the 200-meter race this year but didn't make the finals.

Unfortunately for the U.S. men's 4x100 team, which included former Razorback runners Jarrion Lawson and Tyson Gay in its pool, the hand-off between the first two U.S. runners in the relay was deemed to be outside the hand-off zone, and the team was disqualified after finishing second in the finals.

Morris Wins Silver Medal in Pole Vault

One of the greatest collegiate vaulters in NCAA history, Sandi Morris took her prestige to new heights, earning a silver medal in Rio de Janeiro to cap her Olympic debut in phenomenal fashion.

The Greenville, South Carolina, native kicked off the night with two-consecutive first attempt clearances before faltering slightly at 15 feet and 5 inches.

Regaining her composure on her second attempt of the height Morris resumed her methodical rhythm, clearing the bar with ease and positioning herself in contention for place on the podium as one of only six vaulters to post a successful clearance.

Following another slight misstep at 15-9, Morris continued to forge on determined in her pursuit of an immensely coveted Olympic medal. Bouncing back once again on her second attempt, Morris joined an elite group of only four athletes who managed to clear the high 15 foot bar.

Morris closed the night with a final clearance of 15 foot, 11 inches, capturing a silver medal for Team USA in the pole vault after a near miss attempt at 16 feet and ¾ inch, the first time a Razorback has won an Olympic medal for pole vault.

Three Fourth-Place Finishes

Jarrion Lawson, who won three events at the NCAA Outdoor National Track and Field Championships in the early summer, had a gold-winning effort in his last long jump at the Olympics, but his left hand barely scuffed the sand. His jump jump was marked at that spot, nearly a foot back from where his feet landed, meaning that he hopes to medal for the United States were dashed. He finished fourth in the event during his first Olympics.

Alumna Stacy Lewis, now a professional golfer, finished fourth in women's golf, one stroke away from a playoff for the bronze medal. Lewis fired a final round 5-under 66 coming up one shot short of the medal stand. Lewis had a great final round playing the front nine 3-under and she added two birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 making a run at the leaders. Lewis needed a birdie on the final hole and her putt hung on the lip of the cup refusing to fall. The former Razorback finished tied for fourth overall shooting 70-63-76-66—275.

Meanwhile, David Lingmerth competed for his native Sweden in the men's golf competition, which returned to Olympic competition this year after 104 years away. Lingmerth had a rough second round but returned to leaders during the third- and four-rounds of the tournament, finishing fourth with scores of 69-79-68-71—278 on the par 71 Olympic Golf Course.

Other Razorbacks at the Rio Olympics:

  • Tina Šutej of Slovenia finished 11th in the women's pole with a height of 4.5 meters.
  • Clive Pullen of Jamaica finished 17th in his qualifying group of the men's triple jump, not high enough to move on to the finals.
  • Running for South Africa, Dominique Scott finished 21st in the women's 10,000-meter race.
  • Kemoy Campbell placed 25th during the qualifying round of the men's 5,000-meter run, not high enough to qualify for the finals.
  • Sparkle McKnight finished 30th in the first round of the women's 400-meter hurdles and didn't not advance to the semi-finals.
  • Chrishuna Williams placed 35th in the first round of the women's 800-meter run and didn't qualify for the finals.
  • Playing for Mexico, Gaby López finished 36th in women's golf.
  • Christine Kalmer of South Africa placed 96th in the women's marathon.
  • Lexi Weeks finished tied for 19th during the qualifying round of the women's pole vault and didn't qualify for the finals.

Razorback athletes now have won 21 medals beginning when Clyde Scott became the first Razorback to win the silver medal for the 110-meter hurdles in 1948.

Olympic Medalists

The following students and alumni of the University of Arkansas have won Olympic medals:

1948
Clyde Scott - 110-meter Hurdles - Silver
Gordon Carpenter - Basketball - Gold
Robert C. Pitts - Basketball - Gold

1984
Joe Kleine - Basketball - Gold
Alvin Robertson - Basketball - Gold
Mike Conley Sr. - Triple Jump - Silver

1992
Mike Conley Sr. - Triple Jump - Gold

1996
Calvin Davis - 400-meter Hurdles - Bronze

2000
Veronica Campbell-Brown - 4x100 - Silver

2004
Veronica Campbell-Brown - 100 meters - Bronze
Veronica Campbell-Brown - 200 meters - Gold
Veronica Campbell-Brown - 4x100 - Gold
Deena Drossin Kastor - Marathon - Bronze
Matt Hemingway - High Jump - Silver

2008
Veronica Campbell-Brown - 200 meters - Gold

2012
Veronica Campbell-Brown - 100 meters - Bronze
Veronica Campbell-Brown - 4x100 - Silver

2016
Omar McLeod - 110-meter Hurdles - Gold
Taylor Ellis-Watson - 4x400 - Gold
Veronica Campbell-Brown - 4x100 - Silver
Sandi Morris - Pole Vault - Silver

 

 

Contacts

Charlie Alison, executive editor
University Relations
479-575-6731, calison@uark.edu

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