Olympic Dreams

October 31, 2019

A number of Liberty University student-athletes and alumni are Olympic hopefuls, and two are already solid contenders for the 2020 Summer Olympics, set for July 24-Aug. 9 in Tokyo, Japan.

  Modern pentathlete Charles Fernandez, a senior economics major who has dual U.S. and Guatemalan citizenship, clinched his second bid in four years to represent Guatemala at the Summer Olympics by defending his gold medal at the Pan Am Games, held in late July in Lima, Peru. Fernandez placed 15th in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, after becoming the youngest Pan Am Games pentathlon gold medalist at age 18. He is the first to win gold at back-to-back Pan Am Games.

Two Lady Flames swimmers, Alicia Finnigan, who graduated in May, and junior Payton Keiner, qualified for the Olympic Trials, set for June 21-28 in Omaha, Neb. Finnigan qualified based on her performance at the Winter National Championships in Greensboro, N.C., in December, and Keiner earned her chance with her times at the U.S. National Championships in Stanford, Calif., in August. Finnigan will challenge for Olympic bids in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly, while Keiner will compete in both the 100- and 200-meter backstroke.

Senior men’s track standout Alejandro Perlaza Zapata represented his native Colombia in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and is headed to Tokyo in 2020. He earned his second bid to the Olympics after winning the 4×400 meter relay at the World Championships in Qatar Oct. 5-6. He ran the opening leg of the relay. In August, he also ran the opening leg of the gold medal-winning 4×400 meter relay at the Pan Am Games in Peru and placed sixth in the 400 meters. In June, he placed fifth for the Flames in the 400 meter final at the NCAA Outdoor National Championships in Austin, Texas.

Flames freshman men’s swimmer Matt Davidson will compete for a bid to next summer’s U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100-yard backstroke and 50 and 100 freestyle at the Dec. 4-7 Toyota U.S. Open at Georgia Tech, formerly known as the Winter National Championships.

Jonathan Healy (’17), a two-time National Collegiate Taekwondo Association (NCTA) heavyweight black belt champion at Liberty, is a near lock to make his second consecutive U.S. Olympic Trials after moving up to No. 1 in the U.S. rankings in his over-80-kilograms division and striking gold at his first Pan Am Games in July.

Victoria Hendrix, a first-year recruit on Liberty’s shooting sports team and 2018 Junior Olympic champion for Team USA in the ladies bunker trap event, competed in the first phase of qualifying for the USA Shooting Olympic Trials from Sept. 10-14 in Texas. Although she did not reach the finals, she will contend for a bid to the world championships in February.

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