L to R: Neville Wright, Christine de Bruin, and Alysia Rissling
Six former University of Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas have qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which begin this week in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Bears Alumni Bryan Barnett and Neville Wright, as well as former Pandas Joanne Courtney, Christine de Bruin, Melissa Lotholz and Alysia Rissling will all represent Canada at the 23rd edition of the Winter Olympic Games.
Barnett, Wright, de Bruin, Lotholz and Rissling will all participate in the bobsleigh competitions in South Korea, while Courtney will aim to continue Canada's Olympic dominance in women's curling.
Both of the former Bears are alumni of the Golden Bears Track and Field program. Of the two, Wright had the most prolific Track and Field career, spanning from 2003-2007. The three-time Olympian (2010, 2014, 2018) won numerous Canada West and national medals over his four-year Bears career, while also winning the 2006 Canada West Men's Track and Field Championship with the Bears. The short-distance sprinter won five CIS medals, including two gold's in the 4x200m relay, and a gold in the 60m dash. Wright also captured seven conference medals, and was named the 2005/06 Canada West Men's Track Athlete of the Year.
While having the shortest UAlberta career of the three, Barnett's biggest accomplishments have come on at the international level. Barnett spent the 2015-16 season with the Bears following a career that included three appearances at the World Track and Field Championships, a 2008 Summer Olympic berth on the 4x100m relay team, and two more appearances at the Winter Olympics (2014, 2018) after switching to bobsleigh.
Pandas alum Lotholz, and de Bruin are also both former Track Athletes who have made the post-varsity switch to bobsleigh. Lotholz spent four seasons with the Pandas (2011-2014), winning a 2014 Canada West gold medal in the 4x200m relay. de Bruin spent two seasons at the University of Alberta (2009-2011), winning a pair of conference medals in the 4x400 and 4x200m relays.
2018 will be Rissling's first appearance at the Winter Olympic games, after she spent five seasons on the Pandas Basketball team (2006-2011). The forward appeared in 95 games for the Pandas over five seasons, earning four Canada West medals, as well as a 2007 CIS silver and 2009 CIS bronze medal.
Perhaps the biggest medal threat from the group of former UAlberta student-athletes is former Pandas curler Joanne Courtney. Courtney is the reigning Women's World Championship gold medalist playing on Rachel Homan's foursome, while also having earned a World Mixed Doubles silver medal, and two Canadian Curling championship medals during her career. The Canadian Women's curling team has captured a medal in all five times they have been included in the Olympics, incluidng gold in 1998 and 2014.