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LDS women mine precious 'medal' in Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

Several Latter-day Saint Olympians are returning home with travel bags that are a bit heavier than when they arrived in Rio.

New Zealand’s Valerie Adams and Sarah Robles of the United States are hauling some heavy “medal.” Neither woman will have much trouble hefting the extra weight. Both demonstrated remarkable physical and “mettle” strength to earn spots on their respective Olympic podiums.

A shot putter and two-time gold medal winner from past games, Valerie claimed the silver in the 2016 edition of the Summer Games. Sarah, meanwhile, received her first Olympic medal after securing the bronze in the women’s 75kg weightlifting competition.

In the Aug. 12 shot put final at Olympic Stadium, Valerie’s top throw of 20.42 meters fell a few centimeters short of her American rival Michelle Carter, who recorded a gold-medal winning throw of 20.63 meters.

A fiery competitor, Valerie was disappointed not to win her third straight gold medal. “It’s tough, but it’s sport,” she said after the competition.

The 31-year old — who married Gabriel Price in the Hamilton New Zealand Temple in April — said she’s traveled a “tough road” since the London Games in 2012. She’s had to recover from five surgeries in the past three years.

“To even get a medal is awesome,” she said. “I’m going to enjoy this moment.”

Enjoying the moment, meanwhile, was easy for Sarah following her Aug. 14 weightlifting competition, where she earned the bronze.

“We’re here for the process,” said the California native, who pumped her fists and collapsed to the floor before standing to curtsey in the direction of family and friends following her final lift. “We’re here for the learning experiences. We’re here to represent our countries. ... I had an overwhelming sense of American pride and [Olympic] spirit.”

Sarah said her preparation for the Games went beyond the rigorous physical training. She also focused on her emotional and spiritual development. Last month she received her temple endowment and she received a priesthood blessing before traveling to Brazil. She and her coach, Tim Sword, a Catholic, also found strength studying scriptures together.

Valerie and Sarah were not the only LDS women to enjoy an unforgettable moment on the Olympic medal podium. Canada’s Ashley Steacy, a native of Lethbridge, Alberta, is a member of the women’s rugby team that won the bronze medal after defeating Great Britain 33-10 in the third-place match.

Ashley’s fellow Latter-day Saint rugby Olympians — Americans Maka Unufe and Akalaini Baravilala — competed in the men’s and women’s tournaments, respectively, but did not claim medals.

Several other LDS athletes — representing a variety of nations — have also completed their competitions. Others, at press time, continued to compete in their respective sports.

In men’s volleyball, former Brigham Young University outside hitter Taylor Sander is part of the American side that remained in competition to win a medal. They were scheduled to play Italy in the Aug. 19 semifinal.

Partners Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson came up short in their bid to medal in the men’s beach volleyball tournament. The pair was eliminated during pool play.

California’s Sami Hill is a goalkeeper on the USA women’s water polo team. The Americans will play Italy in the Aug. 19 final.

Track and field athlete Lydia Casey Jele of Botswana ran the women’s 400-meter race in 52.24 seconds but did not advance past the opening round. Peter Bol, an 800-meter runner from Australia, finished sixth in his heat and placed 41st in his first Olympics. Cook Islands sprinter Patricia Taea placed 61st in the women’s 100-meter competition with a round one time of 12.41 seconds.

Argentina women’s rowing veteran Lucia Palermo placed 17th in the single sculls competition. Lucia has now participated in three Summer Games.

Bruna Beatriz Benites Soares, a defender on the Brazil’s women’s soccer team, can win a bronze medal if her team defeats Canada in the Aug. 19 third place match, to take place after press time.

And Australia’s Leilani Mitchell, a point guard on the women’s basketball team, helped her team reach the quarterfinals before losing to Serbia 73-71.

Two other LDS athletes, racewalker John Nunn and marathon runner Jared Ward, were still awaiting their respective Olympic races at press time.

[email protected] @JNSwensen

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