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Bears in the Olympics
Swimmer Uvis Kalnins has a tattoo of the Olympic rings on his bicep. He has competed in two games: London and Rio. Photo Illustration by Bob Linder

Bears in the Olympics

Two alumni, two student-athletes and a coach traveled to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Three of the athletes talked to MSU for Q&As that detail their experiences competing against some of the best athletes in the world.

Student Uvis Kalnins

Majors: Economics, international business

Expected graduation date: Spring 2017

Olympic event: Swimming 200-meter Individual Medley for his home nation of Latvia

What did you think of the opening ceremony?

I felt a sense of pride; the experience is just very uplifting. Like the atmosphere in general, walking with the best of the best, all eyes on you from all over the world. That feeling is something I’ll never forget.

What was it like to race next to Michael Phelps and other Olympic stars?

It’s completely different than what I’m used to. There were definitely differences in their level of preparation and athletic ability as compared to the U.S. trials. Seeing them through each stage continually motivates me to work harder.

What do you think the future has in store?

The world championship meet (was this) December — that’s my main focus for now. If I do well there, I should be set for another year financially. And if not, I’ll have to find a job once I wrap up my degree in economics. When I wrote my résumé, I added “two-time Olympian” to the top! I think that’ll get future employers excited, to see how I was able to represent my country and illustrate my work ethic and leadership skills.

Fabian FlorantAlumnus Fabian Florant

MSU degrees: Bachelor’s in finance, 2006; master’s in administrative management and sports management, 2009

Job title: Professional track and field athlete; business owner/entrepreneur

Olympic event: Triple jump for his home nation of the Netherlands

How did you feel about your performance at the games?

I missed the finals by three inches, which was painful — but not too bad for a first timer! However, the last time a Dutch triple jumper was at the Olympics was 80 years ago (1936). So I’m still very proud to reach this far and perform at the highest level.

How did your experience at MSU help shape you into the athlete you are today?

Competing in the highest level of collegiate sports at MSU was the foundation for my road to a successful Olympic debut. I left Missouri State with an indoor school record, three MVC titles, two NCAA appearances and an All-American title. These accomplishments provided the mental strength and preparation that would later propel me to the Olympics Games.

Do you hope to compete in the Tokyo games of 2020?

As long as God gives me the strength to continue doing what I love doing, why not? However, I have a lot to focus on before the next Olympic Games — for example, the European championships, world championships and many other professional competitions around the world.

Marissa KurtimahStudent Marissa Kurtimah

Major: Criminology

Expected graduation date: May 2018

Olympic event: Track and field 4×100-meter relay for her home nation of Canada

What was your favorite part about being at the Olympics?

I loved the atmosphere; I loved being around all these fast and amazing people. I loved meeting the new people and experiencing the different cultures. And I loved calling myself an Olympian. There I was, finally accomplishing my goal and dreams.

Did you get to meet other Olympics athletes?

Yes — every Olympian you can think of, I most likely met. We were all sharing the same cafeteria and were basically closed in the same village. So, everywhere I went, I would meet someone; it was amazing. Oh, and I figured out I’m super-tiny compared to Usain Bolt!

How has your experience at Missouri State helped you reach your Olympic dreams?

My experience being in Missouri State has helped me a lot. I have transformed into this sprinter that no one thought I could be. Coach (Ron) Boyce believed in me, everybody at Missouri State believed in me, and my university support team pushed me to become an actual Olympian. I would not trade my experience here for anything.

Jamial RolleAlumnus races for Bahamas

Jamial Rolle ran the 200-meter dash in Rio for his home nation of the Bahamas.

Rolle ran for Missouri State from 1999-2002, and graduated with a degree in biology in 2003. He was named to the All-MVC Indoor Team in 2001 and All-MVC Outdoor Team in 2000-02. He was also part of the Missouri State 4x400m relay team in the NCAA Division 1 National Qualifiers in 2002.

Rolle also competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Dave CollinsCollins serves as Latvian swimming coach

Dave Collins, Missouri State University’s swimming and diving head coach, served as the Latvian swimming coach for the Summer Olympic Games. He coached Bears standout Uvis Kalnins.

“It’s neat to think that Uvis is an athlete who came clear across the world from Latvia to Missouri State to get an education and prepare for an Olympic experience,” Collins said. “It was very exciting for our program to have representation at this global event. Uvis has made a terrific statement for our school on the international stage.”

Sharing their journey