Shields, Sander stand out at Rio Games

Tom Shields of Huntington Beach won a gold medal as part of the U.S. men’s 4x400 medley relay team.
Tom Shields of Huntington Beach won a gold medal as part of the U.S. men’s 4x400 medley relay team.
(Martin Meissner / Martin Meissner | AP)

The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ended with a closing ceremony Sunday.

In the final weekend of the Games, one local athlete won a bronze medal. Taylor Sander of Huntington Beach, one of two local athletes to earn a medal in Rio, was part of the USA men’s volleyball team which stormed back from two sets down to stun Russia, 23-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-19, 15-13 Sunday at Maracanãzinho arena.

The other medalist in Rio was Tom Shields of Huntington Beach who won gold by swimming (prelims) the butterfly leg of the men’s 4x400 medley relay.

Below are the final results for local athletes, five of whom were competing in their first Olympic Games.


Men’s Indoor Volleyball

The bronze medal victory Sunday capped a strong finish for Team USA and for Sander. It wiped away any lingering letdown left from a tough, 3-2 semifinal loss to Italy.

Sander had 14 kills, seven digs, one block and two aces in the bronze match against Russia.

“It was a 9:30 match in the morning,” the 24-year-old starting outside hitter, who was born in Fountain Valley, said of the bronze-medal showdown. “We were still emotionally drained from the Italy match. We didn’t bring out the energy we needed, and once our coach [John Speraw] told us to dig deep and find that energy, we started to play better and became more alive. We had a great comeback and it was just a great way to end our play in Rio.”

After losses to Canada (3-0) and Italy (3-1) to start the tournament, Team USA bounced back and went on to defeat host and world No. 1 Brazil (3-1), France (3-1), Mexico (3-0) and Poland (3-0). That winning streak ended in a stinging semifinal loss to Italy.

Sander grew out a mustache during the tournament which he didn’t shave off until the tournament was completed.


He was greeted at the airport by well-wishers who had donned paper mustaches in his honor.

“That was really great,” he said. “They asked me why I had shaved it off and I told them I did that as soon as we were done playing. I already had some stubble after our first two matches (Canada, Italy) which didn’t go well for us and as it started to grow out, we started winning so I kept it. I didn’t want to jinx our run.”

Sander said his first Olympics experience was “something special.” That feeling continued when he arrived home on Tuesday. Family and friends greeted him with banners and flags during a surprise welcome-home party.

“To represent the U.S. and be part of an amazing tournament and see all these amazing athletes from around the world, is unforgettable,” he said. “Being in the opening and closing ceremonies — and it was pouring during the closing ceremonies, was so much fun. To end it by winning an Olympic medal was just incredible.”

Sander also said the 2010 Olympic Games in Toyko, Japan, is on his radar.

“A lot of the older guys on our team said you kind of get into the Olympic fever once you are there, and you want to go back” he said. “For sure, going to the Tokyo Games is one of my goals.”

Men’s Swimming

Tom Shields of Huntington Beach captured his first Olympic medal, a gold, at the Rio Games.


The former Edison High star, 25, swam the butterfly leg for Team USA in prelims in the men’s 4x400 medley relay at Olympic Aquatics Stadium. In the event final Aug. 12, the quartet of Ryan Murphy (backstroke), Cody Miller (breaststroke), Michael Phelps (butterfly) and Nathan Adrian (freestyle) led Team USA to the gold medal in a new Olympic record time of 3 minutes 27.95 seconds. Murphy started the finals race by setting a new world record in the backstroke (51.85).

The 4x400 medley relay prelims race was the third event at the Rio Games for Shields. He began the competition in the 200 butterfly where he finished sixth in his heat and 20th overall. He went on to win his qualifying heat in the 100 butterfly (51.58) to earn a spot in Friday’s final. He finished in seventh place (51.73) in an event won by Joseph Schooling (Singapore, 50.39).

Team USA’s Michael Phelps, Chad Le Clos of South Africa, and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary each finished in 51.14 and tied for the silver medal.

Shields will be the guest of honor for Edison High’s football home opener against Tesoro at Huntington Beach High’s Sheue Field Saturday at 7 p.m.

Women’s Canoe/Kayaking

Maggie Hogan of Huntington Beach competed Wednesday in the Canoe sprint kayak single 500 meters. The 37-year-old finished sixth in a qualifying heat with a time of 1 minute, 58.97 seconds.


Hogan’s first competition at the Olympics was the Canoe sprint Kayak single 200 meters Monday. She turned in a time of 44.66 seconds and finished 27th.

Men’s Water Polo

In its final game of the tournament, Team USA, which includes Bret Bonanni, played its final game of the tournament Aug. 14 and posted a 10-7 comeback victory over Italy in group play. Bonanni scored twice and netted the final goal of the tournament for the U.S. which put the lead at 10-7 lead with 2:41 to play.

Team USA went 2-3 overall in Group B play. The U.S. lost consecutive matches to Croatia (7-5) and Spain (10-9) before defeating France (6-3), and lost to Montenegro (8-5) before closing out the tournament with a win over Italy.

“It was the epitome of sports – sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t,” Bonanni said of Team USA’s tournament run. “We trained hard and played hard, but things didn’t go our way. Getting knocked out early from the tournament was a big disappointment and if we had won a few games, my entire Olympic experience would have been a bit different. That said, playing with my teammates and having a common goal was a pretty awesome experience.”

Bonanni scored nine goals in the tournament including a game-high four goals in the loss to Spain.


He stayed with his family and some friends in Rio through the Sunday’s closing ceremony and returned from Rio Tuesday. He said climbed to the top of Christ the Redeemer, “did the whole Sugarloaf Mountain thing,” and surfed local beach spots.

“The whole thing was the biggest emotional experience of my life,” the 22-year-old said of his Rio experience. “To walk the opening ceremony was so unbelievably incredible, as was being in the Olympic Village and seeing all these amazing athletes from all over the world. To be a part of the Olympic Movement is really special.”

Bonanni, who begins the final 10 weeks of his studies at Stanford next month, said he has his eye on making the team for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

“That’s definitely in my plans,” he said. “Losing some games left a sour taste and I want to come back, put in the time and hard work and hope to make the podium next time.”

Men’s Beach Volleyball

Olympic veteran Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson went 1-2 overall in pool play and were eliminated from the tournament Aug. 10.


The pair won their opening match Aug. 6 by sweeping Qatar’s Jefferson Pereiraand Cherif Younousse (21-16, 21-16) but dropped consecutive matches to Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl of Austria (21-18, 21-18), and Spain’s Adrian Gavira Collado and Pablo Herrera Allepuz (21-19, 16-21, 15-7).