CSU senior Ben Pinkelman, who played a key role for Team USA in Rio, is already looking forward to 2020 in Tokyo. Current Ram Pinkelman ready for a second Olympic shotImage of

Current Ram Pinkelman ready for a second Olympic shot

By Tony Phifer, as appearing in SOURCE

 

CSU senior Ben Pinkelman, who played a key role for Team USA in Rio, is already looking forward to 2020 in Tokyo.

CSU senior Ben Pinkelman, who played a key role for Team USA in Rio, is already looking forward to 2020 in Tokyo.

 

Prior to the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics, Ben Pinkelman wasn’t sure if he wanted to spend four more years pursuing a berth on the 2020 USA Rugby squad that will compete in Tokyo.

But after spending a couple of weeks in Rio de Janeiro and experiencing the Games first-hand, the CSU sociology senior is determined to give it another go.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Pinkelman, who got back to Colorado on Aug. 18 and resumed classes Monday. “Rio was a lot better than the media portrayed and the Olympic Village was huge – overwhelming, really. Everything was really nice.”

‘Amazing experience’

Pinkelman and his Team USA teammates spent much of their time soaking up the Olympic experience. They participated in the opening ceremony and spent time mingling with athletes from the U.S. and other countries.

Among celebrity sightings we re Serena Williams, Missy Franklin, Michael Phelps – “I got a selfie with him, but he doesn’t know it,” he said, laughing – and the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.

“The gymnasts walked around in a little group, and they are insanely small,” he said. “But everyone was really nice.

Celebrity status

Pinkelman got to hang out with Carmelo Anthony and other members of the Team USA men’s basketball team while in Rio.

Pinkelman got to hang out with Carmelo Anthony and other members of the Team USA men’s basketball team while in Rio.

By far his favorite moment off the field came when the team was invited to watch a Team USA men’s basketball practice.

The basketball superstars were very friendly, Pinkelman said, and were happy to have their photos taken with the rugby players. New York Knicks and former Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony was particularly warm, inviting Pinkelman and his pals onto the court to toss the rugby ball around and then having them all autograph the ball for him to keep.

“It was a very cool experience,” he said.

While rugby – particularly the seven-man version played in the Olympics – has struggled to gain a foothold in America, Pinkelman and his teammates got to enjoy several days as celebrities. Between his team gear, Team USA outfits and lots of other freebies, Pinkelman needed two duffel bags – each filled with 65 pounds of new gear – to get everything home.

“I have a completely new wardrobe,” he said while sporting a Team USA T-shirt from Nike.

So close

The only disappointing aspect of the experience was the rugby itself. Team USA went into the competition – rugby was returning to the Games for the first time since 1924 – hoping to earn a medal but failed to get out of its four-team pool following narrow losses to Argentina and eventual champion Fiji.

“We missed out on a berth in the quarterfinals by one point,” Pinkelman said, shaking his head at the still-fresh memory. “A bounce here or there and we make it. It was incredibly frustrating – I’m still trying to get over it. We had a great opportunity to elevate rugby in America and we came up just short.”

The team eventually finished ninth, and will go into preparations for 2020 riding momentum.

Pointing toward Tokyo

As for Pinkelman, he’s got a full load of 15 credit hours this fall so he can graduate with a degree in sociology/criminal justice in December. In the meantime, he’s already practicing with CSU’s club team and busy recruiting players.

“We had more than 60 guys sign up at our first meeting – the most ever,” he said. “We should have a great team.”

As for his post-graduation plans, he plans to move to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., and give rugby his all for the next four years. If all goes as planned, he’ll be headed to his second Olympics in 2020.

“I was kind of iffy on 2020 before, but now I definitely want to go for it,” he said. “Hopefully by then we’ll be ready to take that big step with a team that can win us a medal. That would be amazing.”