When the torch is lit Friday night to mark the start of the 26th Summer Olympic Games, Long Beach State can count on six former 49ers and one current coach to be among the more than 10,000 athletes competing in Beijing.
Men’s volleyball head coach Alan Knipe will be one spectator keeping an eye on 49er athletes competing at the Games.
“Three former men’s volleyball players will be on the 12-man USA volleyball roster,” he said. “Most of any university in the nation.”
The three Beach alumni on the men’s volleyball team are Scott Touzinsky, David Lee and Tom Hoff.
Touzinsky and Lee, both of whom graduated in 2004, will make their Olympic debuts in Beijing, while Hoff — a ’96 grad — will make his third appearance at the Games.
The women’s squad will feature two former 49er volleyball players of its own in Danielle Scott-Arruda and Tayyiba Haneef-Park. Scott-Aruda, who made her Olympic debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games, will make her fourth Olympic appearance in China, which ties a U.S. volleyball record shared by Tara Cross-Battle, another former LBSU player.
Haneef-Park will make her second Games appearance, having previously participated in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Another former 49er volleyball standout will participate at the Games in beach volleyball. Misty May-Treanor, a 1999 LBSU grad, will defend her 2004 gold medal alongside partner Kerri Walsh. The duo will carry a 101-match winning streak into Beijing.
Tairia Flowers, an assistant coach on the 49er softball team, will play on her second U.S. squad in softball’s final year in the Olympics.
Aside from events featuring 49er alum and coaches, the Olympics will be ripe with intriguing storylines.
Swimmer Michael Phelps will be in pursuit of an Olympic-record eight gold medals, as he is scheduled to race in five individual and three relay events. On the women’s side, 41-year old Dara Torres will compete in the 100-meter freestyle.
In women’s gymnastics, the U.S. team will be led by Shawn Johnson, who is a favorite to win the individual all-around and is a contender in the floor exercise.
Track and field will be highlighted by a much-anticipated showdown in the men’s 100 meters between American sprinter Tyson Gay and Jamaican star Usain Bolt, who is the world record-holder in the event with a time of 9.72 seconds.
Also, in basketball, the U.S. men’s national team — touted as the ‘Redeem Team’ — will attempt to capture a gold medal after settling for bronze in 2004.
Long Beach State women’s guard Karina Figueroa will be paying close attention to the Games.
“I’m looking forward to watching both men’s and women’s USA basketball and soccer teams,” she said.
The star 49er guard said she used to play soccer before deciding to focus primarily on hoops.
“I still have a love for the game, and actually, one of my teammates back in the day is now a part of the women’s soccer team, so I’m looking forward to watching her play.”
NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony, which will include the parade of nations and the torch-lighting, kicks off tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.