Four Alumnae Share Their Olympic Stories

August 22, 2016
Libby Law Photography

Wellesley congratulates four alumnae who brought their athletic and journalistic talents to the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which closed yesterday with the extinguishing of the Olympic torch.

Isheau Wong ’11 was the first competitor ever to represent Taiwan in international show jumping at the Olympics. She also had the unexpected honor of carrying the Chinese Taipei flag in the opening ceremony on August 5, as she explained in an interview with “The tunnel going to the stadium was the most memorable, where you can see the oncoming sea of people,” she said, noting that the flag wasn’t easy to maneuver. “It took some concentration just to walk straight with it and not hit the little girl next to me.”

“I’m so excited she made it to the Olympics! Really, really amazing!” said Cleo Stoughton ’11, who, like Wong, was a member of Wellesley’s equestrian club.

A difficult qualifying round challenged many experienced horses and riders, including Wong and her horse, who unfortunately did not advance further. Yet as she has written on Instagram and Facebook, competing in the Olympics “was an amazing experience and [I] hope to have your support to reach my goal of going to Tokyo!”

Amy Parratto ’83, a five-time All-American diver at Wellesley, also played a role in Rio, as the proud mom (and first coach) of Jessica Parratto, a diver making her Olympic debut. Jessica placed 10th in the 10-meter platform and seventh in the women’s synchronized 10-meter with her partner, Amy Cozad.

Before she left for the games, Jessica wrote an online thank-you letter to her mother, which said, in part, “Thank you for being the one to teach me the sport I love… Thank you for teaching me to never give up … to be brave and take risks, even if it meant moving your little girl halfway across the country to chase her dreams.”

“We couldn’t be more grateful for all of this,” Amy Parratto told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “It was obviously hard, but it was well worth it.”

Alex Azzi ’15 (@AlexAzziNBC) is an Olympic veteran. She interned for NBC Olympics during the 2012 London and 2014 Sochi games. After graduating from Wellesley, she took a full-time position as one of NBC’s five Olympic researchers.

In the lead-up to Rio, she traveled to various competitions, from rural France to London to Las Vegas, to interview Olympic hopefuls and learn about the major storylines of the games. Azzi used that information to write research manuals—“basically sport-by-sport encyclopedias,” she said—that include athlete biographies, recaps, and previews of every event.

During the games, Azzi was in Rio, based at the International Broadcast Center, where she worked fact-checking scripts and providing background information for studio hosts. “It’s exciting to see athletes like Katie Ledecky, who make you rethink what’s possible by breaking records seemingly every time she dives into the pool,” she said. “But it’s also inspiring to see athletes who may not make the podium, but accomplish so much just by getting to the starting line.”

Azzi said one of her favorite stories in Rio was that of Tania Cagnotto, an Italian diver who finished fourth in London in both the synchronized springboard and individual springboard competitions. She decided to go for another Olympics in Rio, her fifth games, where she won a silver and a bronze.

For Nia Phillips ’12, who earned a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia and now produces stories for Good Morning America in New York City, Rio was her first Olympic experience. During the games, her projects—which involve writing, researching, and working with correspondents and an editor—included a piece explaining how much a gold medal is really worth and profiles of gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Dana Vollmer.

“Every day was new and exciting,” said Phillips, who found the achievements of women Olympians particularly inspiring. “We’ve had stories and interviews on our show the past couple weeks featuring many amazing women from Team USA—from the moms of the Final Five gymnasts to the amazing women’s basketball team on yet another great run.”

Phillips said her favorite storylines from Rio involved Biles and swimmer Simone Manuel, who won gold in the women’s 100-meter freestyle and in the women’s 4x100-meter medley relay.

“It was emotional to see how overwhelmed Manuel was the moment she realized she was the first African American ever to win an individual gold medal in the pool,” Phillips said. “There was so much history behind that moment. As a Wellesley alumna, I was thrilled to be part of it—even from afar.”