Minnesota alum Bowe Becker embodied every bit of the Golden Gopher name at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Sunday night, as he left the pool deck with his first ever Olympic gold medal hanging around his neck. Becker and Team USA earned the honor in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay, winning in a time of 3:08.97.
The action started for the 2019 grad in the morning’s heat session, where he and teammates Brooks Curry, Blake Pieroni and Zach Apple laid down the second-fastest time of the morning to earn a spot in the night’s final. Becker’s split was the second-fastest of the foursome (47.59), coming as the third leg.
The night’s session proved even more exciting, with Team USA battling against incoming favorites ROC, powerhouse teams France and Australia and preliminary winners Italy amongst others. The addition of 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials 100m freestyle champion Caeleb Dressel to the squad (replacing Curry), however, added the extra bit of speed the Americans needed, as they cruised to an incredible gold medal finish, touching just over a second faster than the silver medal finishers, Italy. Becker once again swam the third leg of the race, dropping just over a tenth of a second to touch in an impressive 47.44.
“We could not be happier for Bowe and his teammates,” said Minnesota head coach Kelly Kremer. “That was a huge swim for him, for the U.S. and certainly for Minnesota and our program!”
With Sunday’s finale, Becker became the seventh Gopher in history to medal at the Olympic Games, the sixth to do so for Team USA and the fourth to earn gold, joining Minnesota legends Virgil Luken (1964), Walter Richardson (1964) and David Plummer (2016). His win also brought the Gophers program their second gold medal in as many Olympic meets.
Becker wasn’t the only Gopher in the water Sunday, as alumna Kierra Smith and sophomore James Freeman both hit the water during the day’s action as well.
Smith made her 2020 debut in the women’s 100m breaststroke, an event in which she finished 24th in a time of 1:07.87, while Freeman brought home a 38th place finish in the men’s 200m freestyle (1:52.87). Freeman’s appearance Sunday was his second of the 2020 Games, as he also tallied a 35th place finish the day prior in the men’s 400m freestyle in a time of 4:03.10. Sunday’s results wrapped up competition in Tokyo for both.
Past Gopher Olympic Medalists
o Virgil Luken – 1964 – USA – 4x100m Medley Relay
o Walter Richardson – 1964 – USA – 4x100m Medley Relay
o David Plummer – 2016 – USA – 4x100m Medley Relay
o Bowe Becker – 2020 – USA – 4x100m Free Relay
o Kelci Bryant – 2012 – USA – 3-meter Synchro
o Craig Lincoln – 1972 – USA – 3-meter Individual
o Bengt Zikarsky – 1992 – Germany – 4x100m Free Relay
o Bengt Zikarsky – 1996 – Germany – 4x100m Free Relay
o David Plummer – 2016 – USA – 100m Backstroke
(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)