Noe Ponti won’t arrive at NC State for his freshman year until next month. But already, the native of Switzerland has upheld what is rapidly becoming a Wolfpack tradition.
By finishing a surprising third in the 100-meter butterfly behind American superstar Caleb Dressel and Hungary’s Kristof Milak, Ponti extended State’s streak to four straight Olympics with a swimming medal winner.
Ponti’s bronze medal winning time of 50.74 broke the Swiss national record he set two days earlier in the semifinals and left the 20-year-old at a loss for words to describe his accomplishment.
“I’m just speechless. Unbelievable, something crazy,” he said in a postrace interview with the Swiss newspaper Blick. “This morning I made history for my country, so there are really not a lot of words to describe what I was feeling at that moment. ”
Although Ponti wasn’t among the favorites in the highly competitive race, he said he wasn’t intimidated by the star power in the lanes beside him — especially Dressel, whose winning time of 49.45 set a world record.
“My mentality made the difference,” he said. “It’s not always the best one that wins, but the one that wants it more maybe. So I was lucky enough or good enough to make a medal.”
Ponti may have been the first Swiss swimmer ever to make it to a 100-meter butterfly final, but by winning his bronze medal, he earns entry into a club that also includes Wolfpack alums Cullen Jones and Ryan Held. Jones won gold for the U.S. in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay in 2008 and two silver medals in 2012. Held was a member of the gold medal winning American 4 x 100 relay team five years ago in Rio.
________________________________Gold Silver Bronze Total
USA 16 17 12 45
China 21 12 12 45
ROC 11 15 11 37
Japan 17 5 8 30
Great Britain 8 9 11 28
Cary resident Katie Zaferes won her second medal of the Tokyo Games by teaming with fellow Americans Taylor Knibb, Kevin McDowell and Morgan Pearson in the first mixed triathlon in Olympic history. Zaferes, who won bronze in the women’s individual competition, combined with her teammates to finish the grueling race in a time of 1:23.55, just 14 seconds behind gold medalists Great Britain. Queens University student Anabel Knoll helped Germany to a sixth-place finish.
Trevor Stewart, one of four NC A&T runners in Tokyo, won a bronze medal as part of the U.S. team in the 4 x 400 mixed relay team. Stewart ran the leadoff leg of the coed race, which also includled American teammates Kendall Ellis, Kaylin Whitney and Vernon Norwood.
World record holder Keni Harrison and Gabbi Cunningham both easily advanced into the semifinals of the 100 meter hurdles. Harrison, of Clayton, won her preliminary heat, coasting to the finish line in a time of 12.74. NC State’s Cunningham, who was added to the team after Briana McNeal was banned for missing a drug test, was third in her heat at 12.83.
Anna Cockrell of Charlotte also qualified for her semifinal in the 400 meter hurdles by placing third in her opening round heat.
UNC diver Aranza Vazquez put herself into medal contention by placing fourth in the semifinals of the women’s 3-meter springboard diving competition.
Fellow Tar Heel Naya Tapper scored a try — her second of the Olympics — for the U.S. Rugby Sevens team in its 33-14 consolation round win against China. The U.S. later lost to Australia to finish sixth.
Team USA Highlights
Katie Ledecky closed out her Tokyo Olympics with another gold medal, becoming the first female swimmer to capture six individual gold medals in her career with a victory in the 800-meter freestyle. Australian rival Ariarne Titmus claimed the silver in 8:13.83. Ledecky finished the Tokyo Games with two golds, two silvers and a fifth-place finish in the 200 free.
Brian Burrows and Madelynn Ann Bernau won the bronze medal match in the mixed team trap shooting event in a shoot-off 3-2 after tying Slovakia Erik Varga and Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova with 42 targets each.
The duo of Hannah Roberts and Perris Bengas finished 1-2 in the qualifying round of the women’s BMX freestyle event heading into the medal round of the first-time Olympic event on Sunday.
NCAA champion Randolph Ross of NC A&T will make his first appearance on the track in the preliminaries of the 400 meter run. Cary’s Claire Curzan has a chance to win a medal when the U.S. takes to the water in the 4 x 100 medley relay. And UNC’s Vasquez will dive in the finals of the 3-meter springboard event.
The Associated Press contributed to this story