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A&S 4th-Year Leah Smith Brings Home Swimming Gold with other UVA Olympians

Published August 11, 2016 in News

By: Tom Fenstermaker  |  University Communications

If the University of Virginia were a nation, the three medals swimmer Leah Smith and rower Inge Janssen had earned at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro by Thursday morning would match such countries as Sweden, New Zealand, Poland and South Africa, and would top the number earned by Spain, Greece and host Brazil.

With Smith and Janssen’s medals in Rio, UVA athletes now have won 26 overall Summer and Winter Olympic medals across all sports, including 15 gold, five silver and six bronze.

Janssen, a 2010 UVA alumna, earned a silver medal for The Netherlands in the women’s quadruple sculls today. The team finished second in a time of 6 minutes, 50.33 seconds, just behind Germany (6:49.39), and ahead of Poland (6:50.86). Janssen was in the three-seat of the Dutch quadruple sculls that also included stroke-seat Carline Bouw, two-seat Nicole Beukers and bow-seat Chantal Achterberg.

It is Janssen’s first Olympic medal in her second appearance. She finished eighth as part of the Dutch double sculls at the 2012 London Games.

Virginia women’s rowing has now produced five Olympic medals. Lindsey Shoop won gold with the U.S. eight in 2008, Marlies Smulders earned a silver in 2008 and a bronze in 2004 with the Dutch eight, and Melanie Kok of Canada earned bronze in 2008 in the lightweight double sculls.

Smith, a rising fourth-year student, won an Olympic gold medal Wednesday night with the U.S. 4x200-meter freestyle relay team at the Rio Olympics. It was her second medal in as many events – and she’s not done yet.

The Pittsburgh native swam the second leg of the American relay, which also included Allison Schmitt leading off, Maya DiRado in the third leg and anchor Katie Ledecky. The U.S. won in a time of 7 minutes, 43.03 seconds, followed by Australia (7:44.87) and Canada (7:45.39). Smith’s second leg split was 1:56.69.

Smith earned bronze in the 400-meter freestyle on Sunday. She is the first female Cavalier swimmer to earn two Olympic medals and the second overall, joining Ed Moses in 2000 (gold with 4x100-meter medley relay, silver in 100-meter breaststroke).

Smith will be back in action today in the prelims of the 800-meter freestyle, where she is among the favorites to earn a third medal. The finals are scheduled for Friday night.

Smith now has three senior international gold medals. She also won gold with the American 4x200-meter freestyle relay at the 2015 FINA World Championships and the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.

At Virginia, Smith is a four-time NCAA champion, winning the 500- and 1,650-yard freestyle events in both 2015 and 2016. She is an 11-time All-American and 10-time ACC champion.

In other finals action, former UVA softball and volleyball player-turned-rower Meghan O’Leary, a 2008 alumna, finished sixth in the double sculls with U.S. teammate Ellen Tomek. It was O’Leary’s first appearance at the Olympics.

Several other UVA athletes are still contending for medals, including three rowers with finals scheduled over the weekend. Matt Miller, a 2011 graduate, is a member of the U.S. men’s four scheduled to compete in the finals Friday morning. Also, 2013 graduate Susanne Grainger and 2011 alumna Christine Roper are part of the Canadian team that was still contending in the women’s eight; the finals are set for Saturday morning.

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