Alumna and coach take on Beijing

For Ali Riley ’06, competing in the Olympics was a dream come true. Riley, who played defense for the New Zealand women’s soccer team and also plays for Stanford called it “an amazing experience and one that I will never forget.” Although the New Zealand team advance beyond group stages. “It was an honor to play for my country,” Riley said.

Riley competed with the New Zealand National Women’s Soccer team last September in the Women’s World Cup, and during her senior year at Harvard Westlake claimed New Zealand citizenship to play for their under-20 national team.

Aside from the actual competition, she describes being in the Olympic Village as one of her favorite parts of the trip. She appreciated “being surrounded by incredible athletes from every country imaginable,” as well as the smaller advantages to being an Olympian such as the key ring which the athletes could swipe at the vending machine to get whatever they wanted for free.

Another experience that made an impression on Riley was when her team overlapped with the Brazilian men’s team in Shenyang and spent time with Ronaldhino. “That was definitely a highlight,” Riley said. “I still can’t believe that even happened.”

Riley is modest about her accomplishments, claiming that the achievements of the other Wolverine athletes in the games, Peter Hudnut ‘99 and Dara Torres ‘85, outshone her own.

“If I am in half as good shape as Dara when I am even 25 I will be happy,” she joked. She also praised the American team, saying “I could not have picked more deserving players to win the gold.”

For Riley, playing at the international level was inspirational because seeing so many talented players and different styles of play reminded her that there is always room to improve. In comparing the Olympics to the World Cup, she claimed that the levels of play are the same but nothing can compare to the atmosphere surrounding the Olympics.

She said that to her, the purpose of the Olympics is to bring people together.

Track and Field coach Félix Sánchez entered the Beijing Summer Olympics last month as a gold medal winner and a defending champion. Sánchez has represented the Dominican Republic since 1999, and in 2004 he won the gold medal for his parents’ home country in his 400 meter hurdles event at the Summer Olympics in Athens. He carried the Dominican Republic’s flag in the Opening Ceremonies last month in Beijing.

Sánchez, one of the few hopes for the Dominican Republic to win a medal in Beijing, lost to American favorite Kerron Clement in a pre-heat competition. Sánchez had been bothered for several years by an injury to his left ankle, which was blamed for his disappointing loss last month.