Scene Magazine | Winter 2021
In the cavernous echo of a mostly empty 70,000-seat stadium in August in Tokyo, Michael Ohioze '17 swears he heard the familiar voice of fiancé and former St. Ambrose track and field teammate Charlette Flanders '18.
No matter that Flanders (pictured) was a thousand miles away, forced to watch Ohioze on TV with spectators banned from the pandemic-impacted 2021 Summer Olympics.
Ohioze ran the anchor leg of the men's 4x400 relay for his native Great Britain, an epic yet eerily quiet moment on the world stage.
It's one that led back to St. Ambrose. "I have always been able to drown out the crowd," said Ohioze. "But I could always hear her over the crowd this year and that always gave me an extra boost. At the Olympics, I could still hear Charlette's voice in my head. I could feel her spirit carrying me to the finish.
"I'm so fortunate to have met Charlette because I don't know where I'd be without her," he said. "I am blessed to have a great team of people around me, but Charlette is on another level of love helping me on this journey."
Ohioze is believed to be the second SAU Olympian, joining Kim Clarke '91, who played handball for Team USA at the 1988, 1992, and 1996 Olympics before, during, and after a Hall-of-Fame SAU basketball and softball career.
SAU's Olympic connections are growing, however. Anthony Carter, husband of 2011 alumna Audrey (Stanek) Carter, won a silver medal with the USA baseball team in Tokyo. Also, watch the Chinese National ice-skating team at the 2022 Winter Olympics in February in Beijing. Alex Wright, who earned an SAU Bachelor of Science degree in Human Performance and Fitness in 2019, served as the team's weight training and strength coach until the pandemic forced him to return to the U.S. in the spring of 2020.
Ohioze was an all-conference soccer player at St. Ambrose, which is the sport he traveled here to play. He joined the track team as a stay-busy, workout option upon learning the college soccer season was confined to the fall.
He went on to become the most-decorated track athlete in SAU history as a 10-time All-American and two-time Chicago Collegiate Athletic Conference Track Athlete of the Year.
"It's surreal to look back at my journey," said Ohioze, who also ranks among SAU men's soccer's career leaders in goals (33) and points (78) after a four-year starting career. "Not that people have to do exactly what I did, but don't limit yourself to what you can do. Put your heart into it and leave the door of potential open, because you never know where it will lead. You never know the heights you could reach."
Ohioze earned the Tokyo trip after finishing third in the individual 400 meters at Great Britain's championships in late June.
"The track was unreal. The stadium was unlike anything I've ever seen before," Ohioze said of his Olympic experience in Japan, mentioning the elaborate spotlight effects featured before many events. "It also was incredible to walk around and see all of the world class athletes I have watched on TV. It was like a dream."
Ohioze also loved the camaraderie, especially the tradition of trading pins with other athletes from around the globe in the Olympic Village.
The 26-year-old is motivated now to see a "normal" Olympiad, perhaps in Paris in 2024.
"It wasn't anything different than what we're living through," Ohioze said of restrictions imposed on athletes in Tokyo. "Anything was a small sacrifice to get to compete."
–Steve Tappa '91