Seven former University of Utah student-athletes will compete in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, held Aug. 5-21. The Utes will also have one alternate and one coach at the games.
Six of Utah’s seven athletes will compete in basketball, including four former women’s basketball players. Kim (Smith) Gaucher, Shona Thorburn and Michelle Plouffe will be making their second appearance in the Olympics for Canada, while Leilani Mitchell (2007-08) makes her first appearance with Australia.
On the men’s side, Ute All-American and National Player of the Year Andrew Bogut (2003-05) makes his third Olympic appearance for Australia. Kim Tillie (2006-10) was named to the France team. Australia and France will meet in the first game of the Olympics for both teams on August 6.
Three-time winter Olympian and former Utah alpine skier Chirine Njeim (2007-09) will compete for Lebanon in the marathon. Only 27 women have competed in both the winter and summer Olympics.
MyKayla Skinner, an alternate for the U.S. gymnastics team, will join the Utah gymnastics team in the fall.
Working as a scout coach for USA volleyball is second-year Ute assistant coach JJ Niel. He helped the national team win a gold medal at the 2014 FIVB World Championship.
Other notable Utah graduates competing in the Olympics include Jake Gibb, who is making his third Olympic appearance in beach volleyball. While not an NCAA athlete for the Utes, Gibb graduated from Utah with a degree in information systems in 2002.
Events will be streamed live at nbcolympics.com with a cable or satellite provider login, or check your local listings.
Continue below for more on each athlete.
Canada Women’s Basketball
Gaucher, Thorburn and Plouffe will be making their second appearance in the Olympics for the Canada women’s basketball. They helped Canada place eighth at the 2012 London games. Canada will play in Group B. Four of the six teams in the group will move on to the knockout round. Canada opens group play against China on Saturday, August 6 and faces Serbia, Senegal, the USA and Spain before the knockout round begins on August 16.
Gaucher (née Smith) is in her 15th year with the Canadian National Team. She has played professionally in Belgium, Spain, Hungary and most recently France and also played three seasons in the WNBA (2006-08). The only women’s basketball player in Utah history to have her number retired, Gaucher was a four-time MWC Player of the Year and a third-team All-American as a senior after earning honorable mention honors the previous three seasons. She helped lead Utah to the Elite Eight as a senior in 2005-06.
Thorburn is in her 11th year with the Canadian National Team. She has spent the last five seasons playing in France – the last two in Nantes. Thorburn has also played professionally in Spain and spent two years in the WNBA (2006-07). A four-time all-conference player who was a two-time honorable mention All-American and the 2005 co-MWC Player of the Year, she helped lead Utah to the Elite Eight as a senior in 2005-06.
Plouffe is in her seventh year with the Canadian National Team and has played two seasons in France since graduating from Utah (most recently for Modeville). She was a three-time honorable mention All-American and a two-time All-Pac-12 pick. Plouffe holds the Utah career record for rebounds and is second all-time in scoring.
Australia Women’s Basketball
Mitchell, who has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Australia, will compete in her first Olympics for Australia. She made her debut with the national team in 2014. Australia is in Group A with four of the six teams in the group moving on to the knockout round. Australia begins play against Brazil on August 6 and faces Turkey, France, Japan and Belarus before the knockout round begins on August 16.
Mitchell has played seven seasons in the WNBA, most recently with the Phoenix Mercury. She has also played professionally in Australia, Croatia and France.
In her one season at Utah in 2007-08 after transferring from Idaho, Mitchell was the 2008 MWC Player of the Year, earned honorable mention All-America honors and was one of three finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the nation’s top point guard.
France Men’s Basketball
Tillie is playing in his first Olympics for France. France will compete in Group A with four of the six teams in the group moving on to the knockout round. France begins play against Australia on Saturday, August 6, and faces China, Serbia, Venezuela and the USA before the knockout round begins on August 17.
Tillie is in his sixth season playing professionally in Europe, most recently with Laboral Kutxa Vitoria in Spain. He has also played professionally in France.
Tillie played in 98 games with 52 starts over four years at Utah from 2006-10. He averaged 7.0 points and a team-high 5.5 rebounds as a team captain during his senior season. He was a four-time Academic All-Conference selection. The Utes reached the NCAA Tournament in his junior year after winning the MWC Tournament.
Australia Men’s Basketball
Bogut is playing in his third Olympics with Australia. He participated in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, helping the country finish ninth in 2004 and seventh in 2008. Australia will compete in Group A with four of the six teams in the group moving on to the knockout round. Australia begins play against France on Saturday, August 6, and face Serbia, the USA, China and Venezuela before the knockout round begins on August 17.
Bogut recently completed his 11th year in the NBA after being drafted out of Utah in 2005 as the No. 1 overall pick. He was recently traded to the Dallas Mavericks after helping the Warriors to back-to-back NBA finals appearances, including an NBA title in 2015.
As a sophomore in 2004-05, Bogut was named the consensus National Player of the Year, earning all five awards recognized by the NCAA: John R. Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy, Associated Press Player of the Year, USBWA Oscar Robertson Trophy, and NABC Division I Player of the Year. He had his number retired by Utah in 2006.
Njeim is a former alpine skier at Utah and a three-time winter Olympian for Lebanon (2002, 2006, 2010). She will make her summer games debut in Rio in the marathon. Njeim holds the Lebanese record in the event. Through the 2014 Sochi Olympics, only 132 athletes (105 men, 27 women) have competed in both the winter and summer games. None has doubled in alpine skiing and track and field. The women’s marathon will be held on Sunday, August 14.
Njeim was a three-time NCAA qualifier at Utah (2007-09), earning All-America honors as a freshman in 2007 in the giant slalom with a sixth-place finish.
USA Beach Volleyball
Gibb is competing in his third Olympics, finishing fifth in both 2008 and 2012 with then-partner Sean Rosenthal. He began competing with Casey Patterson in 2013. Gibb and Patterson finished fifth at the 2015 Beach World Championships. They were named the 2014 AVP men’s Team of the Year after winning the AVP Championship and Gibb was selected as the Most Valuable Player. Beach volleyball competition begins on August 6.
Skinner first signed with Utah in November, 2014, and deferred her enrollment to train for the Olympics. She will join the Utes this fall.
Skinner finished fourth in the all-around and was second on the vault at the Olympic Trials. Skinner, who won the all-around at the 2016 Glasgow World Cup, is a three-time U.S. silver medalist and two-time bronze medalist on the vault and also has a silver and two bronze medals on floor at the U.S. Championships. Skinner helped the U.S. win a team gold at the 2014 World Championships while finishing third on vault and fourth on floor. She was an alternate for the 2015 World Championships.
JJ Van Niel
Scout Coach, USA Volleyball
Van Niel is in his second season as an assistant coach for the Utes. Prior to joining the Utes he was a consultant coach/scoutman from 2013-14 for the USA national team where he also served as a team leader and assisted in group training. While with the USWNT, Van Niel helped lead the squad to the gold at the 2014 FIVB World Championship.