While five Cornellians represented the United States at this year’s Summer Olympic Games, two managed to find their way onto the podium. Taylor Knibb ’20 and Kyle Dake ’13 each made history in their own right, expanding their talents into new realms within their respective sports to come out ahead of the competition.
Knibb made her Olympic debut on July 27 as part of a series of firsts — competing in the first Olympic Triathlon Mixed Relay as the youngest female triathlete to ever qualify for the United States, in addition to competing in the Women’s Individual Triathlon.
Knibb joined the relay team hours before the event alongside Morgan Pearson, Kevin McDowell and Women’s Individual Triathlon bronze medalist Katie Zaferes to finish the historic event second only to Great Britain with a time of 1:23:41.
The event, created to establish greater gender parity at the international level, comprises of each athlete completing a 375 meter swim, 10 kilometer bike ride and a 2.5 kilometer run. Knibb took the third of four legs of the race, finishing her leg with a time of 22:06 and coming within 11 seconds of first place, before handing off the baton to Pearson. Overall, the United States finished 14 seconds behind Great Britain to take second place.
Knibb also participated in the Women’s Individual Triathlon four days prior, where she completed a 1.5 kilometer swim, 40 kilometer bike ride and 10 kilometer run. Despite consistent top 10 worldwide placements leading up to the event, she finished in 16th place with a time of 2:00:59.
While at Cornell, Knibb competed in cross country, with her most prolific season coming during her 2018-2019 campaign. As a junior, she earned four personal records while finishing in the top-two five times in Ivy League competition, including one first-place finish. Her excellence in the Ivy League earned her a spot in the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, where she finished 109th of 255 participants. Knibb would also go on to participate on the Cornell Women’s Swim team during her senior year, notably placing second in both the 500 meter and 1000 meter freestyle events in her collegiate debut against Columbia University.
Now, at only 23 years old, Knibb holds 12 major triathlon wins under her belt to go along with being an Olympic medalist. With time on her side, she will hopefully have another chance at reaching a gold-medal finish at the next Olympic Games in Paris three years from now.
Meanwhile Dake became the second Cornellian to medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Aug. 6, earning a bronze medal in the men’s freestyle 74kg event.
Dake took his place at the Tokyo games with Team USA after defeating four-time world champion and 2012 London Olympics gold medalist Jordan Burroughs. His 3-0, 3-2 victory over Burroughs in the U.S. team trials in April signified the first time Burroughs had ever been defeated at the U.S. trials in a best-of-three format.
In his Olympic debut on Aug. 4, Dake notched a victory by points against Mostafa Hosseinkhani of Iran in the 1/8 final. In the first period, he scored two individual points and then gained two more in the second period to earn the 4-0 win.
Later the same day, Dake fell to Mahamedkhabib Kadzimahamedau of Belarus in the 1/4 final. Kadzimahamedau defeated Dake via a victory by points, scoring nine points in the first period and two in the second period to secure a 11-0 victory.
Kadzimahamedau, the 2020 European champion in the freestyle 79kg, went on to win the silver medal after losing to gold-medal winner Zaurbek Sidakov of the Russian Olympic Committee via a 7-0 victory by points in the event final.
On Aug. 5, Dake earned his way to the bronze medal match by defeating Jeandry Garzon Caballero of Cuba in the second round repechage contest. His victory by technical superiority came when the refs called the match in the first period, after Dake scored 10 consecutive points against Garzon Caballero.
Dake fought hard to earn his place on the podium early on Aug. 6, defeating Frank Chamizo Marquez of Italy via a victory by points in the event semifinal. He scored four points in the first period and one more in the second to beat Marquez, the two-time World Champion and 2020 European champion in the 74kg, gaining a bronze medal for Team USA.
Dake’s first Olympic medal, one of 15 in the 2020 games for Team USA wrestling, adds to his long list of accomplishments. He was the 2013 Dan Hodge trophy winner, awarded to the best wrestler in collegiate competition, and was the only four-time national champion at four different weight classes in NCAA history.
Since graduating from Cornell in 2013 with a degree in sociology, Dake has gone on to win two world championships in the 79kg weight class and is the 2021 Pan American champion in the 74kg class.