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One to Watch: David Smith

Overcoming adversity to thrive on the court

David Smith
University of California, Irvine
Sport: Volleyball

As a senior at the University of California, Irvine, David Smith earned All-America status while leading his team to the NCAA championship. After graduating with a civil engineering degree in 2007, Smith earned a spot in the 2012 games in London, helped the U.S. team win the FIVB World League silver medal in 2012 and competed at the 2014 FIVB World Championship. Smith and Team USA won the 2015 FIVB World Cup to punch their ticket to Rio.

When to watch: The U.S. team will meet France on Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern time in Pool A preliminary play.

Why we’re cheering: At 6-foot-7, David Smith always possessed the skills to be a volleyball standout. However, born with severe hearing loss in both ears, Smith has a hard time communicating on the court and is sometimes unable to hear at all when sweat builds up in his ears, affecting his hearing aids. But his coach at the University of California, Irvine, John Speraw, believed in his raw athleticism coming out of high school and invested faith in him, providing the foundation from which his career took off. Together, Smith and Speraw led UC Irvine to the school’s first NCAA Division I championship in 2007 before tackling the Olympic stage together in 2012.

Others to watch for:

Chantal Van Landeghem (swimming): After failing to qualify for the 2012 London Games, Chantal Van Landeghem qualified for Rio as a member of Team Canada. She was part of the Canadian team that won a bronze medal early on in Rio in the 4X100-meter relay. The University of Georgia swimmer helped the Bulldogs win back-to-back NCAA championships in 2013 and 2014. Van Landeghem makes a priority of balancing athletics and academics and was named a 2014 NCAA Elite 89 winner. She plans to pursue her Ph.D. after she graduates from Georgia.