Tokyo Olympics Day 14: Greensboro’s moment in the ‘Rising’ Sun

Within an hour of each other Friday, UNCG's Paul Chelimo wins bronze while NC A&T's Trevor Stewart Randolph help the U.S. into the 4 x 400 relay finals

UNC Greensboro graduate Paul Chelimo falls to the ground after lunging to the finish for a bronze medal in the 5,000 meter run in Tokyo (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Greensboro had a day to remember at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

It started in the men’s 4 x 400 relay when NC A&T teammates Trevor Stewart and Randolph Ross ran the first two legs to help the U.S. win its heat, qualify for the final and establish itself as the gold medal favorite. About 30 minutes later, UNC Greensboro graduate Paul Chelimo took his turn on the track and raced to a bronze medal in the 5,000 meter run.

Chelimo, who was twice an NCAA runnerup while running for the Spartans from 2011-13, finished the 3.1-mile race in a time of 12:59.05, an American Olympic record. He barely edged Kenya’s Nicholas Kimeli to the finish line with a dramatic lunge that sent him crashing to the ground in celebration.

Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda won the gold medal while Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed took silver.

The bronze medal was the second of Chelimo’s Olympic career. He took silver in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, the first medal ever won by a UNCG athlete.

A native of Kenya, Chelimo became a U.S. citizen in 2014 by joining the Army and becoming part of its World Class Athlete Program.

NC A&T sprinter Randolph Ross Jr., second from right, prepares to pass the baton to USA teammate Bryce Deadmon during Friday’s Olympic 4 x 400 relay semifinal (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Stewart and Ross, meanwhile, used their experience together with the Aggies to help ease the disappointment of Team USA’s failure to qualify for the final in the 4 x 100 meter relay earlier in the Games.

The Americans were done in by a bad pass of the baton in that earlier race. Stewart and Ross, however, had no trouble while running the first two legs of the 4 x 400, having done so many times in the past while leading A&T to an NCAA championship in May.

Stewart, who has already won a bronze medal in the mixed relay, got the U.S. off to a fast start with a time of 44.79. Ross ran his leg in an even faster 44.56 before Bryce Deadmon and Vernon Norwood brought it home with the final two laps.

The two Aggie runners will get a medal if the U.S. wins one, even if they aren’t selected to run in Saturday’s final.

Medal count

________________________________Gold    Silver    Bronze    Total

USA                                                31           36           31            98

China                                             36           26           17            79

ROC                                               17            23           22           62

Great Britain                                18           20           20           58

Japan                                             24           11            16            51

Carolina Connections

Duke graduate Quinn battles Sweden’s Fridolina Rolfo for the ball during Friday’s Olympic women’s soccer final (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Former Duke women’s soccer player Quinn became the first transgender athlete to win an Olympic medal on Friday when Canada earned the gold medal by beating Sweden in a penalty kick shootout.

Quinn, who was known as Rebecca Quinn when she played for the Blue Devils, started in the midfield for the Canadians, who advanced to the championship game by upsetting the heavily favored U.S. in the semifinals.

Javianne Oliver, who spent one season at UNC before transferring to Kentucky, won a silver medal by running the leadoff leg for the U.S. women’s 4 x 100 relay team that placed second behind Jamaica.

Morrisville diver Jordan Windle finished strong to qualify for the semifinals of the men’s 10-meter platform diving competition.

Jordan Windle of Morrisville competes in men’s diving 10 meter platform diving preliminary at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Mired in 21st place after missing on his third and fourth dives, Windle came through in the clutch with scores of 81.60 and 82.80 on his final two attempts to jump up to 15th. The top 18 divers qualified for the semifinals. Scores do not carry over to the next round.

Duke graduate Jessica Springsteen, daughter of rock star Bruce Springsteen, teamed with Laura Kraut and McLain Ward to put the U.S. in fifth place after the preliminary round of the equestrian team jumping event. Springsteen and her horse Don Juan van de Donkhoeve will ride for a medal in Saturday’s final.

Another former Blue Devil, golfer Leona Maguire, shot a one-under 71 in the third round of the Olympic golf tournament. Magire, playing for Ireland, stands at five-under-par (208) for the event and heads into the final round tied for 18th, 10 shots behind leader Nelly Korda of the U.S. and five strokes out of the bronze medal position.

Team USA Highlights

Allyson Felix won her record 10th Olympic track medal with a bronze in the 400 meters. She finished two spots behind gold medalist Shaunae Miller-Uibo. Felix now has more Olympic track and field medals than any woman in history. She came into the Tokyo Games even with Jamaican runner Merlene Ottey. Hope Mills resident and Livingstone College alumnus Quanera Hayes finished seventh in the race.

April Ross and Alix Klineman won the women’s beach volleyball gold medal. The American pair beat Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy of Australia 21-15, 21-16 for the championship on Friday. It’s Ross’ third medal in as many Olympics, to go with the silver she won in London and a bronze from Brazil. Klineman is a first-time Olympian.

Wrestler Gable Steveson, scoring trailing by three points with 23 seconds remaining, scored a dramatic takedown and near fall just before the final buzzer to stun Georgia’s Geno Petriashvili 10-8 and claim wrestling gold in the men’s freestyle 125-kilogram division.

Ariel Torres took bronze in men’s kata, the first karate medal in U.S. history.

Next up

UNC student Camilla Feeley will compete in individual event finals in rhythmic gymnastics, Asheville cyclist Adrian Hegyvary will be part of the U.S. team in the track cycling event known as “The Madison” while athletes with state ties will be competing in event finals in men’s 10-meter platform diving, women’s golf, equestrian team jumping and both the men’s and women’s 4 x 400 relay races on the track.

The Associated Press contributed to this story