The University of Michigan will have solid representation at the 2016 Summer Olympics, sending 18 former and current student-athletes to Rio de Janeiro to compete with many more still attempting to qualify. This week, two of those athletes found out they would be making the trip.
The first athlete to clinch a spot was former Michigan men’s gymnast Sam Mikulak. Mikulak graduated in 2014 and will be participating in his second Olympic Games after qualifying in 2012 for London.
During Saturday’s Olympic Trials, Mikulak compiled the highest all-around score, 362.750, to clinch his spot in Rio.
“To finally see the team and who it’s going to be, we look at each other and realize that we’re all about to do something great,” Mikulak told USA Gymnastics. “I’m itching to get back in the gym, and I’m glad I have another opportunity to do that.”
Mikulak had a storied career while competing at the collegiate level for the Wolverines. A three-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, Mikulak was instrumental in helping the Wolverines clinch the NCAA title in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Mikulak won the all-around and parallel in both NCAA Championships, including becoming the high bars champion in 2013 as well.
In the 2012 Olympics, the United States gymnasts secured a fifth-place finish, with Mikulak placing fifth in the vault.
The second athlete to qualify for the Rio Games was Michigan men’s swimmer Connor Jaeger who, like Mikulak, graduated from Michigan in 2014 and will be participating in his second Olympic games.
Jaeger punched his second ticket to the Olympic games on Sunday with his performance during the men's 400-meter freestyle final at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Neb. Jaeger was trailing for most of the race, but a burst of energy in the final 100 meters propelled him to a first-place finish with a time of 3:43.79.
“I almost had an out-of-body experience at the 200 (meter mark), thinking, 'Man, am I out of this or am I going to turn it around?,' ”Jaeger said in a statement. “I basically said there was no giving up. I just went until I couldn't feel my legs or arms anymore. The last 50, I peeped over and I was ahead. It was an incredible realization. I just went as hard as I could. I couldn't believe I placed first."
At Michigan, Jaeger was a two-time national champion in the 1,650-yard freestyle and was a champion in the 500-yard freestyle in 2013. Jaeger was a team captain for Michigan during the 2014 season, in which Michigan earned its fourth straight Big Ten championship and finished fourth at the NCAA Championships.
His individual performance made him a two-time University of Michigan Male Athlete of the Year and two-time Big Ten Swimmer of the Year.
Both Mikulak and Jaeger left lasting legacies at Michigan and have continued their dominance at the international level. This August in Rio, they’ll have yet another chance to leave their mark.