Photo courtesy UTEP
The UTEP track and field program has had tremendous representation in the Summer Olympics, dating back to 1952. This year, the tradition continues as past, present and future Miners will compete in Tokyo.
Six UTEP alums, one current and one future Miner have punched their tickets to the Games of the XXXII Olympiad July 23-Aug. 8.
“It’s always exciting to have so many of our former student-athletes and, in this case, a current student-athlete and one we just signed competing in the Olympics,” UTEP Track and Field Head Coach Mika Laaksonen said. “I feel like this group of former UTEP student-athletes at the Tokyo Olympics is very potent with three to four true medal contenders in it.”
Sean Bailey, who recently wrapped up his collegiate career at UTEP, was the latest to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. A first-time Olympian, Bailey will represent his home country of Jamaica in the men’s 400m dash and 4x400m relay. Bailey was an All-American with the Miners in 2019, and claimed three gold medals and a bronze at the 2021 Conference USA Championships. His personal best in the 400m is 45.19.
Current UTEP student-athlete Ned Azemia will represent Seychellois in the men’s 400m hurdles. Azemia is competing in his second Olympics after running the 400m hurdles at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He is his country’s record holder in the event (49.88).
Loubna Benhadja, who recently signed an NLI to compete at UTEP, will run the 100m dash for her home country Algeria.
Also making the trip to Tokyo are UTEP alumnae Tobi Amusan (Nigeria, 100m hurdles) and Blessing Okagbare (Nigeria, 100m/200m/4x100m relay), and UTEP alumni Emmanuel Korir (Kenya, 400m/800m), Churandy Martina (Netherlands, 4x100m relay), and Michael Saruni (Kenya, 800m).
Amusan is now a two-time Olympian as she advanced to the semifinals in the 100m hurdles at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro when she was a freshman at UTEP. Amusan was a two-time All-American with the Miners in the 100m hurdles, including a first team honoree in 2017. Amusan holds the school record in the 100m hurdles (12.57) and 200m dash (22.92).
Okagbare is now a four-time Olympian. She claimed a bronze medal in the long jump at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Okagbare was a seven-time All-American at UTEP and holds the school record in the 100m dash (11.10), long jump (6.88 [20-07]) and triple jump (13.97 [45-10]).
Martina has the most experience in the summer games, being a five-time Olympian. Martina was a three-time All-American at UTEP. Most recently, he claimed bronze at the 2018 European Championships in the 4x100m relay (38.03) in Berlin, Germany.
“Blessing Okagbare, Tobi Amusan, Emmanuel Korir and Michael Saruni have all put themselves in a position where with a good day at the Games, anything is possible,” Laaksonen added. “I’m wishing the best of luck to this group and can’t wait for it to start!”