When it comes to milestone birthdays, Summer Rappaport will never forget her 30th.
The Villanova alum landed in Tokyo on Wednesday will turn 30 on Sunday, and is set to compete in her first Olympics triathlon on Tuesday (Monday, 5:30 p.m. our time)..
As she said in recent email exchanges while training in Monte Gordo, Portugal, it “means the world to me.”
Rappaport, a Colorado native who lives in Durham, N.C., graduated from Villanova in 2013 with a degree in Political Science. She finished in the top eight in the Big East swimming championship all four years, and made the track and field team as a walk-on. She was all-Big East in cross-country in 2012.
How Rappaport, who was all-conference in swimming and running at Mountain Range High School in Westminster, Colo., ended up at Villanova was a simple matter of geography.
“I had always been interested in going to college on the East Coast,” she said. “My dad grew up in New Hampshire, and when we would visit family there, we would often take trips to various cities down the seaboard, including Philadelphia.”
She picked up the cycling part of the triathlon after she left the Main Line, and now will continue a remarkable streak. At least one Villanova athlete has competed in track and field at every Olympics since 1948. Even in 1980, distance runner Don Paige was part of Team USA that boycotted the Moscow Games.
In addition to Rappaport in the triathlon, Patrick Tiernan (5,000 meters) and Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (800), representing Ireland, are the other Villanova track and field athletes in Tokyo.
Rappaport was the first American triathlete to make the Olympic team when she finished fifth in an August 2019 qualifying event in Tokyo. Like most other athletes, she accepted the decision to push the Games back a year because of the pandemic. And though the Japanese government is not allowing fans there in 2021, there is no reluctance on her part to get the Olympics going.
“I have no hesitation in going to Tokyo,” said Rappaport, who competed at Villanova as Summer Cook before she was married in 2018. “Our competitions for triathlon resumed in September of last year, and they all involved significant travel and little to no spectators, so I am very used to that by now.
“I raced in a strict bubble scenario in Yokohama, Japan, in May, so I also got a chance to see what some of the entry rules and restrictions we are facing for the Games are.”
In three triathlon competitions this year, Rappaport finished sixth, second and ninth. The second-place finish was at an event in Japan in which American teammate Taylor Knibb finished first by 30 seconds. Rappoport had the better times in swimming and running, while Knibb was 2 minutes, 20 seconds faster on the bike.
The five-member USA triathlon team is made up of three women (Rappaport, Knibb and Katie Zaferes) and two men (Kevin McDowell and Morgan Pearson). The men will compete on Monday, the day before the women.
For the first time, the Olympics also will feature a mixed relay race with two men and two women from each country. That competition is Friday. The two U.S. women will be selected following their race on Tuesday (Monday, our time).
“I started competitive swimming at age 9 after watching the Sydney Olympics in 2000,” Rappaport said. “Although my sport changed as I was introduced to new opportunities, I’ve spent my entire life working for the [chance] to compete at an Olympic Games. So to be in the final approach to the Games, 23 months after I qualified, is thrilling and means the world to me.”
Villanova’s track and field Olympians
At least one track and field athlete with ties to Villanova has competed in every Olympics since 1948. Here’s the list that was provided by the Wildcats’ sports information department:
Cummin Clancy, 1948; George Guida, 1948; Jimmy Reardon, 1948; John Joe Barry, 1948; Browning Ross, 1948, 1952.
Ron Delany, 1956, 1960; Charles Jenkins, 1956; Phil Reavis, 1956; Don Bragg, 1960; Alex Breckenridge, 1960.
Frank Budd, 1960; Noel Carroll, 1964, 1968; Rolando Cruz, 1956, 1960, 1964; Paul Drayton, 1964; Vic Zwolak, 1964.
Erv Hall, 1968; Larry James, 1968; Marty Liquori, 1968; Frank Murphy, 1968, 1972; Dave Patrick, 1968.
John Hartnett, 1972; Donal Walsh, 1972; Glenn Bogue, 1976; Dick Buerkle, 1976, 1980; Eamonn Coghlan, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988.
Don Paige, 1980; Sydney Maree, 1984, 1988; John Marshall, 1984; Marcus O’Sullivan, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996; Gerry O’Reilly, 1988.
Salaam Gariba, 1988, 1992; Vicki Huber, 1988, 1996; Charles Jenkins Jr., 1992; Sonia O’Sullivan, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004; Kim Certain, 1996.
Kate Fonshell, 1996; Maulan Byron, 1996; Jen Rhines, 2000, 2004, 2008; Carmen Douma, 2004; Carrie Tollefson, 2004.
Adrian Blincoe, 2008; Marina Muncan, 2012; Sheila Reid, 2012; Pat Tiernan, 2016, 2021; Sam McEntee, 2016.
Siofra Cleirigh Buttner 2021, Summer Rappaport 2021.
Here are the athletes with Villanova connections who have medaled at the Olympics in track and field:
1956: Ron Delany (1500 meters), Charlie Jenkins (400, 1,600-meter relay).
1960: Don Bragg (pole vault).
1964: Paul Drayton (400 relay).
1968: Larry James (1,600 relay).
1992: Chip Jenkins (1,600 relay).
1964: Paul Drayton (200).
1968: Erv Hall (110 hurdles).
1968: Larry James (400).
2000: Sonia O’Sullivan (5,000).