The following article was submitted by a member of the Maize n Brew Extended Universe in Jay Winkler, who had previously done non-revenue sports for us. You can follow him on Twitter at @ThoseWhoJay for updates from Michigan athletes competing in the Tokyo Olympics.
The Tokyo Olympics have begun. At this morning’s Opening Ceremonies, 29 athletes with ties to the University of Michigan marched in the Olympic parade, representing fourteen different countries.
Tokyo is 13 hours ahead, which means many exciting events will happen overnight. But if you want to watch the Wolverines live, there are plenty of great opportunities. I am keeping track of all of them in my new project, The Big Google Doc About Michigan At The Olympics. Part preview, part tracker, part huge watch grid, you can bookmark it and get all the latest about the maize and blue winning gold and silver.
There are lots of exciting stories among the Wolverines at this year’s Olympics. Here are five I am particularly excited about, and what the best time to watch them is:
Maggie MacNeil, Canada, Swimming
Maggie Macneil is an active member of the Michigan swimming team and may represent the Wolverines’ single best opportunity to win an individual medal at the Olympic games. She’ll compete for Canada in both the medley and freestyle relays, but her main event is the 100m butterfly. Her gold at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships makes her the reigning world champion in this event, and she’ll try to duplicate that performance in Tokyo. At Michigan, she has won two individual national championships (in this year’s 100 free and 100 butterfly) and fourteen Big Ten Championships.
Best time to watch: Sunday, July 25th at 9:30 PM (all times here are Eastern), in the 100m fly finals. Yes, she needs to qualify for the final first, but her fifth-place performance in the preliminary round should hold up for the final. A final in primetime on NBC.
Jayde Riviere and Shelina Zardosky, Canada, Soccer
It’s not often that two weeks after playing in the Olympics, an Olympian will have to play Bowling Green. But that is exactly what will happen to Jayde Riviere, a current member of the Michigan women’s soccer team who also happens to be a mainstay for Canada’s senior women. Riviere has extensive experience with Canada, with 21 senior caps. She was named to the 2019 World Cup squad, where she had one start and two other appearances. At Michigan in 2019, she anchored the backline of one of the most successful Wolverine women’s soccer teams of all time, as they finished second in the Big Ten and made the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Shortly after that, she would score her first goal for Canada.
Shelina Zardosky was a two-time All-Big Ten defender in her time at Michigan and started every game— except for the ones she missed due to her commitments to Canada. Zardosky’s teams made two NCAA Tournaments, and with her help, they kept clean sheets for three rounds in 2013. This will be her second Olympics after Canada took bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Canada has won bronze at two straight Olympics and will be pushing to improve on that performance. Barring a huge upset to Chile, they’ll more than likely make the knockout round. Anyone who makes the semifinals will play in the medal round as well, and while I’m not marking my calendar yet, Canada is in the mix.
Best time to watch: Tuesday, July 27th, 7:00 AM v. Great Britain (NBCOlympics.com). This is the final match of group play and you can watch it over breakfast. There is a very good chance that the winner of this match wins the group.
Stevan Micic, Serbia and Myles Amine, San Marino, Wrestling
Michigan is sending a pair of recent graduate wrestlers who are US-born but representing European countries through ancestry. Both have a reasonable shot at medaling, Micic at 57kg and Myles at 86kg.
Micic qualified for the Olympics by finishing fifth at 57kg at the 2019 World Championships to qualify for the Olympics and won silver at the 2019 European Games. Micic is also a 3-time All-American and was the runner-up at 133 pounds at the 2018 National Championship. He won one Big Ten Championship as a sophomore.
Amine qualified for the Olympics at 86kg after finishing fourth in the 2019 World Championships. Amine’s best finish in international competition is silver at the 2020 European Championships. Amine is a 3-time All-American and won one Big Ten Championship during his sixth-year senior year.
Best time to watch: Wednesday, August 4th at midnight, in the quarterfinals. The Olympics wrestling schedule pairs up weight classes and it just so happens that Micic and Amine will wrestle on more or less the same schedule. If you’re willing to stay up just a little irresponsibly towards the end of the Olympics, you could see two Michigan wrestlers fight for their spot in the semis, which guarantees that at worse they will end up in the bronze medal match.
Moe Wagner, Germany, Basketball
Hey! You know this one! Do I need to set the stage for Mo Wagner? An all-time Michigan basketball favorite will be representing his country after he helped Germany pull off consecutive upsets in qualifying to make it to Tokyo. In the qualifying final in Split, Croatia, Wagner went off for 28 over Brazil. Now they’ll try to keep their upsets going in the Olympics. (Unfortunately, Franz will be attending the NBA Draft instead of the Olympics, which is perfectly fair. Would have been cool though.)
This is an extremely tough group, and even just coming in third will involve upsetting someone. If you, like me, believe that the United States will not win gold, then Australia is the Vegas favorite (I think that +850 looks pretty good). Nigeria has medaled at 3 of the last 4 AfroBasket tournaments and recently upset the United States in a preseason exhibition in Las Vegas. Germany got some luck drawing Italy, the lowest-ranked team in their pot. The top 2 in each of the three groups will advance to the 8-team knockout round, with 2 third-place teams qualifying as well.
Best time to watch: Tuesday, July 27th, 9:00 PM v. Nigeria. This is the only Germany game that is optimized for Eastern time, and could certainly be the difference between a second place in the group and missing out on the knockout rounds.
Uche Eke, Nigeria, Gymnastics
Uche Eke is one of the most exciting stories of this Olympics for the Wolverines. Eke will be the first-ever athlete to represent Nigeria in Olympic Gymnastics. Eke qualified through a third-place finish in the all-around at the 2021 African Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Only two qualifying slots were designated for that tournament, but they had to represent different countries. Since both the gold and silver winners were from Egypt, Eke took the second spot. At that championship Eke took bronze on the pommel horse and silver on the high bar, after winning gold on the horse at the 2019 All-Africa games. If Eke is going to stand out in Tokyo, the Pommel Horse might be the place to do it.
Sam Mikulak, of the United States, will also represent the Wolverines in men’s gymnastics.
Best time to watch: Eke has unfortunately already been eliminated, but he’s one of my favorite stories among the Olympic Wolverines so I wanted to include him. His best finish in qualifying was 52nd place on the pommel horse. Mikulak, meanwhile, will represent the US team in the team finals and compete individually in the all-around and on the parallel bars.
A Quick Look at Everyone Else
-Amanda Chidester has already helped lead USA Softball to a 2-0 start.
-Val Barthelemy will help Belgium try to pull an upset in the new mixed-gender triathlon relay.
-The Australian women’s water polo team features two former Wolverines, Abby Andrews, and Amy Ridge.
-Two rowers and a cyclist complete the list.
I will likely be back in this space with some recap content but please keep an eye on the Google Doc for near-constant updates!