2012 Olympics: Yes, There Are MAC Athletes

Natalia Gaitàn's blue and yellow is slightly different than Toledo's midnight blue and gold, but that's the price of representing your country in the Olympics.

Not many, and possibly not favored ... but they are there if you look hard enough. Here is everybody that we can track back to a MAC school:

Name: Natalia Gaitàn
MAC school: Toledo
Country: Colombia
Event: Women's soccer

Gaitàn earned her fifth international cap yesterday in a 2-0 loss to North Korea. She also represented Colombia in the 2011 Women's World Cup. Colombia is in Group G and they play the United States on July 28, followed by France on July 31. Eight of the top 12 teams advance to the quarterfinals, so if you're OK with bucking jingoism, root for Colombia on Saturday.

Name: Nate Reinking
MAC school: Kent State
Country: Great Britain
Event: Men's basketball

Playing Olympic basketball at 38 years old. Holy smokes. Reinking played for Kent State from 1992-1996 and has been playing professionally in Great Britain ever since. GBR has a couple of players you might recognize (Chicago Bulls winger Luol Deng and George Washington University alum Pops Mensah-Bonsu) but they don't have much of a chance to medal. They have a team because they're the host country, and according to FIBA they're ranked 43rd. But it's a great opportunity for Reinking to play against the best. Great Britain is in Group B (not with USA) and here's their schedule (all times local):

July 29, 8:00 p.m. vs Russia
July 31, 4:45 p.m. vs. Brazil
August 2, 8:00 p.m. vs. Spain
August 4, 8:00 p.m. vs. Australia
August 6, 4:45 p.m. vs. China

Name: Jamie Nieto
MAC school: Eastern Michigan
Country: United States
Event: Men's high jump

The lone MAC athlete representing the US of A. Not that there's anything wrong with that — it's not about one country. Nieto is a veteran high jumper, having been active since his graduation from EMU in 1999. He actually won the U.S. high jump trials so he should be a medal contender, you'd think. High jump qualifications begin on August 5 with the finals on August 7.

He narrowly missed out on a high jump medal in the 2004 games, finishing fourth by jumping 2.34 on his second attempt. The silver and bronze winners jumped 2.34 on the first try.

And, no, it's not pronounced "neato." It's "nie-ETT-oh." Disappointing, isn't it?

Name: Mazen Aziz
MAC school: Southern Illinois
Country: Egypt
Event: Men's 10K swimming marathon

Yes, SIU is a MAC school, at least in men's swimming. Aziz is one of two people of Arab descent competing in this open-water event. His coach at SIU, Rick Walker, was also named Egypt's men's swimming coach. The race is on August 10 at noon London time. And on the Olympic website, his name is listed as Mazen Metwaly, but it's the same dude.

Name: Csaba Gercsak
MAC school: Southern Illinois
Country: Hungary
Event: Men's 10K swimming marathon

And this makes SIU the MACest school in London. Who'd have thunk it?

Name: Eric Alejandro
MAC school: Eastern Michigan
Country: Puerto Rico
Event: Men's 400-meter hurdles

Missed this man on the first run. Oops and thanks @EMU_Dave! Alejandro graduated from EMU in 2008 and holds the school record for 200-meter indoor hurdles. Heats for his event begin on August 3, with semifinals on August 4 and the finals on August 6.

Name: Richard Oruche
MAC school: Northern Illinois
Country: Nigeria
Event: Men's basketball

Tipped off by Huskiewire on this one. It was a cup of coffee by MAC standards but it still counts. The 24-year-old played for NIU for a single season in 2006-2007 before transferring to Division II University of Illinois at Springfield. Nigeria is in Group A, so unless they and Great Britain both advance, we won't have a true #MACsketball experience here. Nigeria's schedule:

July 29, 9:00 a.m. — vs. Tunisia
July 31, 2:30 p.m. — vs. Lithuania
August 2, 10:15 p.m. — vs. United States
August 4, 10:15 p.m. — vs. Argentina
August 6, 2:30 p.m. — vs. France

Nigeria is a longshot favorite to win the gold, with Bovada putting them at 500-to-1 odds, only worse than Tunisia. So that might be a win.

If there are any omissions, let us know. And because this is about MAC players in the Olympics, this is enough of an excuse to post BGSU graduate Dave Wottle's gold medal run in 1972. Let's hear it for hats.

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