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The Daily Tar Heel

How Crystal Dunn, Ryder Ryan and other athletes fared representing UNC in Tokyo

Current and former UNC athletes represent their respective countries in Tokyo Olympics.

Tobin Heath was one of two Tar Heels representing Team USA in Tokyo. Heath is pictured preparing to pass the ball on Fetzer Field on September 7, 2008. Photo Courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications.

On July 23, nine alumni, two athletes and two coaches — representing both UNC and four different countries — walked at the Parade of Nations at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

Dozens of former UNC athletes have attended the games dating back to 1936, competing in a wide array of sports.

The school is no stranger to bringing home Olympic medals, either. Four UNC athletes left Tokyo with medals, bringing North Carolina’s all-time medal count to 53, greater than the medal count of 163 current national olympic committees.

Here’s an in-depth look at how UNC’s athletes performed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Women’s Soccer

Unsurprisingly, UNC has had more of its athletes compete at the Olympics in women’s soccer than any other sport.

This year, five former Tar Heels competed for their respective national teams. Defender Crystal Dunn and forward Tobin Heath returned to the Olympics as members of Team USA. Katie Bowen made her second appearance at the games representing New Zealand, while Lucy Bronze and Lotte Wubben-Moy of Great Britain made their Olympic debuts in Tokyo.

Team USA stumbled in its first match in Tokyo, losing 3-0 to Sweden for its first loss in 44 straight games. They eventually played their way into the bronze medal match against Australia, winning 4-3.

Heath entered rare company as the fourth UNC athlete to appear in the Olympics four times, and her podium-worthy effort gave Heath her third medal in four Olympic appearances.

Dunn also made history in her own right as being the only USWNT member to start in all six games in Tokyo, playing all but 16 minutes of game time.


Baseball made its return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008, and among the members of Team USA were two former Tar Heels: veteran catcher Tim Federowicz and New York Mets pitching prospect Ryder Ryan.

The U.S. took home the silver, falling short to Japan 2-0 in the gold medal game on Aug.7.

Ryan – who played third base at UNC for two seasons – played a crucial role out of the bullpen for Team USA. In four games, he pitched five scoreless innings, striking out five and allowing only two hits.


Divers Aranza Vázquez of Mexico and Anton-Down Jenkins of New Zealand were the only current UNC athletes to be competing in Tokyo. Joining them was UNC diving head coach, Yaidel Gamboa, who was a member of New Zealand’s coaching staff.

Vázquez and Jenkins competed in the three-meter springboard event, where they both advanced to the finals. Vázquez placed sixth overall and Jenkins placed eighth overall, a major accomplishment for athletes at the college level.

Track and Field

Former UNC sprinter Kenny Selmon qualified for his first-ever Olympic games as a member of the U.S.’s 400-meter hurdles squad. Selmon holds the UNC record in the event, which he set at the 2018 NCAA Championships with a time of 48.12.

Also competing for Team USA in the 400-meter hurdles was David Kendziera, a University of Illinois alumnus who now serves as a volunteer assistant for North Carolina’s track and field program.

Selmon and Kendziera both advanced to the semifinals but fell short of the finals, posting the 10th and 12th-fastest times, respectively.

Women’s Rugby

UNC alumna Naya Tapper was a member of the U.S.’s women’s rugby team, which left Tokyo sixth overall.

Team USA won its first three matches, but lost 21-12 to Great Britain in the quarterfinals. Tapper, who is the United States’ second all-time try scorer, scored twice in Tokyo for a total of ten points.


@dthsports |

Lucas Thomae

Lucas Thomae is the 2023-24 sports managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as an assistant sports editor and summer editor. Lucas is a senior pursuing a major in journalism and media with a minor in data science.