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Thursday, September 23, 2021

UC Davis former athletes, doctor took part in Tokyo Olympic Games

Student-athletes and a UC Davis Health physician represented three different countries at the summer games

By REBECCA GARDNER — campus@theaggie.org 

Two former student-athletes and a UC Davis Health sports medicine physician participated in the Tokyo Olympic games. 

Ty Kelly, a 2012 graduate with a degree in communication and a former UC Davis baseball player, represented Israel in the Olympics this year. Hugh Hogland-Watanabe, an MBA candidate who played on the UC Davis basketball team during the 2020-2021 school year, played basketball for Japan. Dr. Marcia (Marcy) Faustin, a family medicine and sports medicine physician, served as co-head physician to the USA women’s gymnastics team. Dr. Faustin works as an assistant clinical professor at UC Davis. 

Kelly, 33, is a free agent who has played baseball for the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies. While earning his undergraduate degree, he played for UC Davis in 2008 and 2009. 

Kelly, an infielder, said many of his teammates in the Olympics were playing baseball for the last time in their careers. Although the Israeli baseball team did not make it to a medal round this year, it was the nation’s first time playing baseball in the Olympics. 

Kelly said that he and his teammates were devastated to lose their last game against the Dominican Republic.

“It felt surreal for everyone because going into the last inning of our last game, we had the lead and everyone would have expected to win,” Kelly said. “So it was just really sad and a difficult thing to swallow.”

During the games, athletes were confined to the Olympic Village and had limited social interaction. Despite these restrictions, Kelly said he enjoyed some normalcy and tradition in trading Olympic pins. 

“In those small instances when we were doing pin exchange with people from other countries, it was always really cool, especially with representing a country like Israel that is always in the news positively, negatively, all across the board, to be able to break down barriers of what your shirt says,” Kelly said.

Dr. Marcia (Marcy) Faustin, a former gymnast, Division 1 track and field athlete, sports fan and sports medicine physician, attended her first Olympic games as co-head physician of the USA gymnastics.  

Faustin volunteered for two years before becoming the co-head physician of the USA women’s gymnastics team. She works alongside Dr. Ellen Casey, the other co-head team physician, who is based in New York. The two care for gymnasts from junior and senior national teams and intermittently travel to training camps to provide additional care. 

At the Olympics, and at other competitions, Faustin treats muscle, tendon and bone injuries and also provides mental health care. 

Faustin said that watching the young women achieve their goals was the best part of the Olympics. 

“All of them came home with a medal, so that was really exciting to be a part of,” Faustin said.

Simone Biles, superstar American gymnast and four-time gold medalist, made the decision to withdraw from competition this year, sparking national conversations about mental health and toxic perfectionism among athletes. Faustin, who has supported Biles and teammates through their journeys, emphasized the interdependence of mental and physical health.

“I think that both physical and mental health are very important and not just in athletes but all patients,” Faustin said. “The pandemic has taught us how important it is to have relationships and how hard and difficult it can be on people when you don’t have your mental health well supported; […] it can affect your physical health.”

Hugh Hogland-Watanabe, 22, was a student in the Graduate School of Management at UC Davis and played on the basketball team last year. He paused his masters program to play professional basketball for the Ryukyu Golden Kings in Japan, where he holds dual citizenship.

“The [pro] contract was offered before he made the Olympic team,” said Matt Hogland, Hogland-Watanabe’s father. “He signed this contract, made the Olympic team and then he called Coach Les and said ‘Coach, I’m not going to make it back.’”

The UC Davis basketball team showed their support for Hogland-Watanabe via Zoom while he was in Tokyo.

“Our team did some Zooms with him when he was over there,” said Jim Les, the coach of the UC Davis basketball team. “He’s got a good fan base here on campus with his coaches and teammates who are wishing him well, and now we’ll be following his progress in the Japanese pro league.”

Japan was eliminated from the 12-team tournament prior to the medal rounds, and Hogland-Watanabe did not play. Hogland said it was frustrating that coaches chose to bench Hogland-Watanabe. 

“The craziest thing was that Hugh was an ameteur when he got there,” Hogland said. “Every other member of the Olympic basketball 12 teams that were there were pro. Hugh was the only amatuer, and he was the only guy that did not play a minute.”

Hogland watched the games from a bar in Hawaii, while Hogland-Watanabe’s brother traveled to Tokyo and quarantined for 14 days only to be turned away because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Les said an existing thumb injury prevented Hogland-Watanabe from frequently playing at UC Davis, but his former coach is supportive of Hogland-Watanabe’s future professional career.

“I do believe his best basketball is ahead of him because he continues to mature and I think building his skillset and the hard work he puts in is going to make him an awfully good pro in Japan,” Les said.

Written by: Rebecca Gardner — campus@theaggie.org 

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