Three Pioneer Alums Headed to 2016 Rio Olympics

Three DU 2016 Olympians: Left: Jessica Lopez ’09 Gymnastics, Venezuela, Top Right Espen Kofstad ’11 Golf, Norway; Lower Right: Simona Castro ’13 Gymnastics, Chile.  Photos Courtesy University of Denver

Three University of Denver athlete graduates  will represent their respective countries at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil — one men’s golfer and two women’s gymnasts, representing the countries of Norway, Venezuela, and Chile, respectively.

Former three-time DU all-American Jessica Lopez (DU Class of 2009) will represent Venezuela at her third Olympic Games in gymnastics. Lopez, 30, finished 18th in the all-around competition at the 2012 London Olympics, and also participated at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing when she was still a student at DU. Lopez was the first gymnast in DU history to participate in the Olympic Games. She also scored a silver medal in uneven bars in the Pan-Am Games last year in Toronto, and she still lives and trains in the Denver area.

The other DU Olympic gymnast is Simona Castro, 27, (DU Class of 2013), who will represent her native Chile in her second Olympics. Castro finished 43rd overall in London in 2012. Her best overall international performance was a Gold Medal in the South American Games in 2014 on the balance beam. She was the first female gymnast to ever represent Chile at the Olympic Games when she participated in the London Games. She was between her junior and senior year as a Pioneer that year and a four-year member of the DU gymnastics team.

The third DU Olympian is Espen Kofstad (DU Class of 2011) who will represent his native Norway at the first Olympic Golf Tournament since the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. Koftstad won the D+D REAL Slovakia Challenge in Senica, Slovakia this past weekend, birdying the second hole of a sudden death playoff to secure his spot in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad.

Since turning pro in 2011, Kofstad has amassed three professional victories in Europe. He has previously represented Norway at the World Cup (2013) as a professional and the Eisenhower Trophy as an amateur (2008 & 2010). In 2009-10, Kofstad recorded the third-best scoring average in DU history (71.26) while registering 22 rounds at par or lower which is the second-best total in program history.

Kofstad will get to play the new The Rio Olympic Golf Course, which  was designed by DU graduate Gil Hanse (Class of 1985) who has become one of the world’s leading golf course designers. Hanse won the Olympic Golf Course design competition against some of the biggest names in Golf, besting Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Greg Norman and Robert Trent Jones II among the eight finalists.

The Rio Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies are August 5th.