Tennessee Vols in Tokyo: Meet the VFLs at the 2020 Olympics

Tennessee Olympians
university of tennessee vols at Tokyo Olympics 2020

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Nearly 20 current, former and future University of Tennessee athletes will continue a proud tradition of Volunteers representing their nations at the Olympic Games this summer in Japan. In all, 18 Tennessee Volunteers will represent a dozen countries in seven sports at Japan 2020.

According to UTSports.com, Japan 2020 will mark the 15th consecutive Olympic Games with participants from the University of Tennessee. A total of 117 past, current and future Volunteers have competed in the Olympics. Current and former Tennessee athletes and coaches have won 63 medals at the Olympics, including 39 gold.

The largest crop of Tennessee Vols at Japan 2020 will be found in the swimming pool. Six current, former and future Lady Vol swimmers will represent five different countries at the Games. Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Lady Vols have had at least one swimmer qualify for the Olympics.

The track & field competitions will boast four current and former Tennessee Volunteers, including the only athlete in the world to qualify in both the long jump and triple jump. Two former Lady Vols will participate in the soccer tournament. The remaining four VFLs will compete/coach in softball, 3-on-3 basketball, volleyball and tennis.

Swimming

Erika Brown (USA)
Erika Brown (far left) and Tess Cieplucha (far right)
Photo: Tennessee Athletics/ UTsports.com

Two-time SEC Female Swimmer of the Year Erika Brown will represent Team USA in the 100-meter freestyle and the 4×100 freestyle relay. Brown, who swam at Tennessee from 2017-2020, is the current world-record holder in the 4×100 medley relay and holds the American record in the 100-meter butterfly.

In her senior year on Rocky Top, Brown was a vital part of the a 2020 Lady Vols swimming and diving team that won its first SEC championship in school history and finished the season undefeated for the first time since the 1972-73 season.

Tess Cieplucha (Canada)

Another Lady Vol who helped Tennessee to the 2020 SEC championship is Tess Cieplucha. In three years on Rocky Top, she earned eight All-American honors and two SEC gold medals. She will represent Canada in the 400-meter individual relay.

Lyubomir Epitropov (Bulgaria)

Tennessee’s only male Olympic swimmer will compete for Bulgaria in the 200-meter breaststroke. Epitropov, who joined Tennessee this year, already holds the school-record for the 200-meter breaststroke with a time of 1:52:69.

Michael Houlie (South Africa)

Cape Town-native Michael Houlie will compete for South Africa in the 100-meter breaststroke. In three seasons at Tennessee, Houlie has garnered four medals at the SEC Championships. He also holds the school record for the 100-meter breaststroke.

Mona McSharry. Photo: UTSports.com
Mona McSharry & Ellen Walshe (Ireland)

2021 SEC Female Freshman Swimmer of the Year Mona McSharry and incoming Tennessee freshman Ellen Walshe will aim to bring home the gold for their native Ireland. McSharry will compete in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke, two events where she holds UT program records.

Walshe will compete in the 200-meter individual medley after setting an Irish national record during qualifying. McSharry set her own Irish national record during in the 100-meter breaststroke qualification.

Cherelle Thompson (Trinidad & Tobago)

The former Tennessee All-American spent three years in Knoxville from 2013-15, helping the Lady Vols to top-15 finishes at the NCAA Championships in all three seasons. She will compete in the 50-meter freestyle.


Kira Toussaint (Netherlands)
Netherland’s Kira Toussaint reacts after winning the women’s 50 meter backstroke final at the European Aquatics Championships in Duna Arena in Budapest, Hungary, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Toussaint will compete in her second consecutive Olympic Games after becoming the first women’s swimmer in school history to compete in the Olympics while currently on the Tennessee team at Rio 2016.

From 2016-17, she earned eight All-America recognitions and won three Southeastern Conference gold medals. She holds world record in the 50-meter backstroke (25.60) and the UT program record in the 100-meter backstroke. She will represent the Netherlands in the 100-meter backstroke.

Track & Field

Joella Lloyd (Antigua & Barbuda)

The Tennessee redshirt freshman will become the third Lady Vol track & field Olympian to run the 100-meter dash at the Games. In 2021, Lloyd tied a school record with a 7.15 second 60-meter dash and set a Lady Vol freshman record with a 11.19 second 100-meter dash. Both achievements set national records for Antigua & Barbuda.

Carey McLeod (Jamaica)

McLeod turned heads in qualifying by becoming the only athlete in world to qualify for both the long jump and triple jump at Tokyo 2020. The Vols redshirt sophomore will be the first male athlete from UT to represent Jamaica in the Olympics. He was named the 2020 Indoor SEC Men’s Field Athlete of the Year after setting school records in both events.

Stamatia Scarvelis. Photo: Tennessee Athletics/ UTSports.com
Stamatia Scarvelis (Greece)

The Tennessee senior will become the second member of her family to represent Greece in the Olympics after her brother, Nicolas, competed in the shot put at Rio 2016. She will compete in the hammer throw in Tokyo. She won the SEC hammer throw title in 2018 and 2019 in addition to her program record throw of 71.33 meters.

Darryl Sullivan (USA)

Tennessee graduate student Darryl Sullivan will become the first Tennessee track & field athlete to represent Team USA in the high jump competition. He placed second at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials with a lifetime-best mark of 2.33 meters (7 feet, 7.75 inches). Sullivan holds the Tennessee program record in the event.

Daryl Sullivan. Photo: Tennessee Athletics/UTSports.com

Soccer

Hannah Wilkinson (New Zealand)

The Lady Vols second all-time leading goal scorer will represent New Zealand for the third consecutive Olympic Games. Wilkinson also represented the Football Ferns in the FIFA Women’s World Cup three times. She was named a third team All-American by the NSCAA as a freshman in 2012, in addition to earning First Team All-SEC honors in 2012 and 2016.

Rhian Wilkinson (England)

After representing the Canadian National Team in the previous three Olympic Games, the former Lady Vol is on the coaching staff for the England National Team at Japan 2020. From 2000-2003, Wilkinson was a three-time All-SEC performer. Her tally of 32 assists still stands as program record and she ranks second all-time in program history with 88 total points.

Softball

USA Softball’s Monica Abbott pitches in an exhibition softball game against USSSA Pride Friday, June 4, 2021, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Monica Abbott (USA)

Few collegiate softball players had a more storied career than Monica Abbott from 2004 to 2007 at Tennessee. She recorded 23 no-hitters and six perfect games while leading the Lady Vols to three straight Women’s College World Series appearances. Abbott was the first pitcher in NCAA Division I history to record 500 strikeouts in 4 different seasons. She also helped USA to silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The USA softball team began play before the opening ceremonies and is already 2-0 with wins over Italy and Canada. Abbot got the win, a one-hitter, against Canada, 1-0, on Thursday. The hard-throwing southpaw struck out nine batters and walked three in 102 pitches. She also recorded the save Tuesday against Italy by striking out the side.

FILE – Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, file photo, then-Boston Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

3-on-3 Basketball

Kara Lawson (USA)

The former Lady Vols guard and current Duke women’s basketball coach will lead Team USA in the inaugural three-on-three basketball tournament. Lawson helped Tennessee to three NCAA Final Fours and four SEC championships from 1999-2003 and ranks in the top 10 in school history in multiple statistical categories. She played 13 seasons in the WNBA, winning a league title in 2005.

United States’ Kelsey Robinson celebrates during a women’s preliminary volleyball match against China at the 2016 Summer Olympics on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Volleyball

Kelsey Robinson (USA)

The 2011 SEC Player of the Year will look to add to her medal collection after helping Team USA to a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics. From 2010-12 Robinson helped the Lady Vols to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, earning two AVCA All-American recognitions in the process.

United States’s Tennys Sandgren plays a return to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during their first round match on day three of the French Open tennis tournament Tuesday, June 1, 2021, at Roland Garros in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Tennis

Tennys Sandgren (USA)

Sandgren arrived on Rocky Top in 2010 as the No. 1 recruit in the country. The Gallatin, Tennessee-native earned ITA All-American honors in 2011 before joining the professional tennis circuit.

He won his first professional tournament in 2013 and achieved a career-high ATP singles ranking of No. 41 in 2019. He will represent Team USA in both the singles and doubles competitions.

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