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A Look Back at NJCAA Alum in 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo, JP – The NJCAA was well-represented at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic games that took place from July 23, 2021, to August 8, 2021. While the stands appeared nearly empty and extra health and safety precautions were put in place, former NJCAA student-athletes showed up and some even took the podium. More than 20 successful individuals from over 15 countries kickstarted their careers at a two-year institution.

Former Cochise (AZ) and University of Wyoming guard Nathan Sobey was a part of the first Australian men's basketball team to win an Olympic medal, the bronze medal. Sobey played for the Apaches from 2010-12 and made his mark in the NJCAA. He won an NJCAA Region I and ACCAC championship with Cochise. While playing for Australia, the Aussies won the bronze medal by defeating Slovenia who was led by NBA All-Star Luka Doncic. Sobey's best performance in the games came in Australia's matchup against Germany where he earned four points, one steal, one assist, and one rebound in 13 minutes of action.

Fresh off leading Ranger (TX) to the 2020-21 NJCAA Division I Men's Basketball semifinals, Keisei Tominaga was ready for a new challenge on the international stage. The former Ranger guard was a part of Japan's four-man roster for the 3x3 men's basketball event at the Olympic Games. He helped lead Japan to the quarterfinals where they fell to the eventual gold medal-winning Latvia 21-18. Tominaga led the team with eight points, and also netted three assists in the game. Tominaga was an NJCAA DI men's basketball Second-Team All-American, where he averaged 16.3 ppg. He will continue his collegiate career at the University of Nebraska in the Big Ten conference.

Two-time NJCAA Women's Golf Champion, Tiffany Chan, represented Hong Kong at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic games.  The former Daytona State (FL) student-athlete finished the women's individual golf tournament with a six-over total of 290, finishing the event in 50th place.

Chan's 2020 campaign marked her second Olympic appearance following a 37th place finish at the 2019 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. 

On the men's track and field side, Barton (KS) and South Plains (TX) each had three individuals competing in the Summer Olympics, of the 11 total former NJCAA men's competitors. Andre De Grasse, five-time NJCAA National Champion for the Red Ravens, made noise for Canada with a gold medal in the 200m and a bronze finish in the 100m. De Grasse's gold medal was Canada's first gold on the track since Donovan Bailey's 100m win in Atlanta in 1996. Just four years ago in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the sprinter claimed medals in all three events he competed in; silver in the 200m, bronze in the 100m, and bronze in the 4x100m relay. 

Also on the 200m podium was USA representative Kenny Bednarek, posting a personal best time of 19.68, the best finish in the 200-meter dash by an American male since 2008. In his lone season with Indian Hills, the freshman won the 200m and 400m at the NJCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships, to become the second man ever and first American to run the 200 and 400 in less than 20 seconds and 45 seconds on the same day. With a Tokyo appearance, Bednarek became the first NJCAA student-athlete from Iowa to qualify for the US Olympic team. 

In eighth place for the 200m, Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago hailed from South Plains, a program with rich Olympic and professional success. In 2015, Richards was the NJCAA Division I Men's Indoor Track and Field champion and NJCAA Division I Men's Outdoor Track and Field Champion in the 400m before going on to run at Alabama. Richards became the fourth Trinidad and Tobago sprinter to make an Olympic final in the 200m.

In the 100m, Fred Kerley took home silver in the final just 0.04 seconds behind Italy's Marcell Jacobs, the winner with 9.80s. Both times were personal best individual performances. In the 3000m steeplechase, Spc. Benard Keter represented team USA in 11th place. Benard attended Cloud County (KS) and Texas Tech upon moving from Kenya and today is a soldier-athlete with the Army's World Class Athlete program.

Four women from the former NJCAA student-athlete list competed for South Plains before qualifying for the Olympics. Those individuals competed for Canada, Jamaica, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States flags. A well-known field athlete in the professional track and field world, Brittney Reese is no stranger to long jump success. Reese is the owner of three Olympic medals (one gold), four gold world outdoor medals, four world indoor medals (three gold), and 11 major championship medals (eight gold). The four-time olympian closed out her final Olympic appearance this year in Tokyo with a silver in the long jump, making Reese one of four women in US history to earn four Olympic long jump berths.

Former South Plains seven-time All-American Sally Kipyego, posted a season-best time in the marathon, finishing 17th overall. At the 2012 London Olympics, Kipyego earned silver in the 10,000m and fourth in the 5,000m. The Kenya native was named Lady Texan Track MVP in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 and the Lady Texan Cross County MVP 2005-2006.

For Israel, Adva Cohen made her Olympic Debut, claiming 14th in the 3,000m steeplechase. At Iowa Central from 2017-18, Cohen won the 1,500m, 5,000m, and 3,000m steeplechase at the NJCAA Division I Women's Track and Field Outdoor Championships to become the only female student-athlete in the association to win the three events at the same Division I championship meet.

24-year-old Natassha McDonald competed in the 400m and 4x4m relay in her Olympic debut. With the Texans, McDonald was a two-time NJCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Champion outdoor in the 400m (2017, 2018). 

NJCAA Alumni in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

  Tal Erel Palm Beach State (FL) 2018-19 Israel  
  Brandon Dickson Central Alabama 2004-05 United States  
  Anthony Carter Georgia Perimeter 2004-05 United States  
  Eddie Alverex Salt Lake (UT) 2010-11 United States  
  Jose Bautista Chipola (FL) 1999-2000 Dominican Repulic  


  Nathan Sobey Cochise (AZ) 2010-12 Australia  
  Patrick Samoura Cochise (AZ) 2019-21 Czech Republic  
  Keisei Tominaga (3x3) Ranger (TX) 2020 Japan  
  Mihailo Vasic (3x3) Harcum (PA) 2015-16 Serbia  


  Tiffany Chan Daytona State (FL) 2013-15 Hong Kong  


  Tarni Stepto Salt Lake (UT) 2018-19 Australia  
  Elisa Cecchetti Tallahassee (FL) 2016-17 Italy  
  Greta Cecchitti Polk State (FL)  2009-10 Italy  
  Marta Gasparotto Chipola (FL) 2016-17 Italy  


  Bradley Tandy Indian River State (FL) 2011-13 South Africa  


  Judith Meauri Iowa Central 2011-12 Papua New Guinea  


  Andre De Grasse Coffeyville (KS) 2012-14 Canada  
  Emmanuel Yeboah Western Texas 2018-19 Ghana  
  Phillip Lemonious Barton (KS) 2019-20 Jamaica  
  Karayme Bartley Iowa Central 2016-17 Jamaica  
  Emmanuel Matadi Butler (KS) 2010-11 Liberia  
  Alonso Edward Barton (KS) 2007-09 Panama  
  Jereem Richards South Plains (TX) 2013-15 Trinidad & Tobago  
  Benard Keter Cloud County (KS) 2013-14 United States  
  Kenny Bednarek Indian Hills (IA) 2018-19 United States  
  Fred Kerley South Plains (TX) 2013-15 United States  
  Vernon Norwood South Plains (TX) 2011-13 United States  


  Natassha McDonald South Plains (TX) 2017-18 Canada  
  Adva Cohen Iowa Central 2017-18 Israel  
  Natoya Goule South Plains (TX) 2012-14 Jamaica  
  Juan Pachecho Colby (KS)  2012-13 Mexico  
  Amya Clarke Iowa Western 2019-20 Saint Kitts and Nevis  
  Brittney Reese Mississippi Gulf Coast 2004-06 United States  
  Jessica Ramsey South Plains (TX) 2011-12 United States  
  Sally Kipyego South Plains (TX) 2004-06 United States