Hawaii's Olympians leave a lasting mark

Dave Shoji
Dave Shoji
Jamie Houston
Jamie Houston

By Leland Kim - bio | email

MANOA (KHNL) -   A day after the closing ceremony for the summer games in Beijing, Hawaii's still beaming with pride over our Olympic athletes.  Besides superstars like Bryan Clay and Natasha Kai, sixteen other athletes with Hawaii ties also made a mark.

Hawaii athletes did very well. Twelve out of 18 medaled; a tremendous feat considering they competed against the best in the world, in some of the most grueling sports at the Olympics.

He won the title of "world's greatest athlete" after destroying his competition in the decathlon. Bryan Clay is one of a handful of Hawaii athletes who put the aloha state on the Olympic map.

"Kids grow up now thinking they can compete with anybody," said Dave Shoji, University of Hawaii at Manoa's wahine head volleyball coach.  "I'm sure Bryan Clay when he was a kid, had some inspiration from somebody that he could be the best in the world and it's awesome to see that."

Natasha Kai had some key moves, assisting the U.S. women's soccer team lock up its third Olympics gold medal.  And Clay Stanley helped stop Brazil, helping the U.S. men's volleyball team come out on top.

"He's had to work hard at his craft and it was neat to see him put that last ball away, too," said Shoji, who has coached some Olympians during his 33 years as head coach at UH.

Ten out of 18 Hawaii-based Olympics have ties to University of Hawaii at Manoa, and all ten came back with medals.

"Other people should understand that we're playing at the highest level at UH no matter what the sport," said Shoji.

Hawaii Olympians' success gives current UH athletes the extra motivation they need as they start a new season.

"I think it gives us a lot momentum," said Jamie Houston, a UH senior and an outside hitter for the wahine volleyball team. "I think it gives us a lot of opportunities that we know that we can do anything. Anything is possible, so I think it helps."

And this athlete is already looking ahead, planning her future.

"I'm just hoping that after this year, we win a national championship and I can go overseas and try out for the U.S. team and be in London in four years," said Houston.

"And come back with?" asked KHNL.

"Gold.  A national championship. Gold, four years. I like 'em both," said Houston, with a laugh.

No doubt, Hawaii's success at Beijing will help with recruitment and game attendance for UH athletics.

A parade for them and the Waipio Little League champs is in the works, but an exact date and time have not been set.