Illinois State alum Aisha Praught Leer ’12 will represent Jamaica on the track as she will compete in the 1,500-meter run. Women’s basketball player Jada Stinson, who will suit up as a graduate transfer from Arkansas State this winter for the Redbirds, will represent a Puerto Rico team making the Olympic tournament for the first time.
Despite no fans being allowed due to an increase of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Japan’s capital, being an Olympian is a title so very few athletes can claim, and that’s special regardless of the circumstances.
It will be Praught Leer’s second Olympic experience. She finished 14th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase event at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She switched to the 1,500 in 2019.
While at Illinois State, Praught Leer had her best NCAA finish in a similarly distanced event, the indoor mile run, when she placed second at the 2012 NCAA championships. That race proved Praught Leer belonged with elite competition, but her itinerary after that race was one of a kind. At 5 a.m. that next morning, she boarded a plane for Texas as the geology major rushed off to her summer field experience.
While she won’t be flying to a dig, presumably, the morning after her Tokyo runs, Praught Leer exemplified what it meant to a student-athlete at Illinois State, and her impact on the program has meant the world to head cross country and track and field coach Jeff Bovee.
“To do extraordinary things, you’ve got to be a special person,” Bovee said. “Special people aren’t necessarily born that way. She’s just really somebody that has taken advantage of every opportunity that has come her way.”
The first round of the 1,500-meter run will take place Monday, August 2, at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. The semifinals will be run on August 4, with the finals scheduled for August 6.
Stinson, who eagerly awaits her Redbird debut, led Arkansas State in scoring last season at 12.6 points per contest. She played the 2017–2018 and 2018–2019 seasons at Memphis. The Fayetteville, North Carolina, native was first called up to the Puerto Rican national team in March for the Centrobasket Tournament in El Salvador and helped Puerto Rico finish second, behind the United States, in the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup tournament in June
Stinson, the youngest player on the Puerto Rican roster, said the schedule has been hectic since her college season ended, but she’s thrilled to be a part of the first team from Puerto Rico to make the Olympics.
“It means a lot honestly just to be a part of history,” Stinson said. “It’s just been wonderful to represent Puerto Rico. I never thought I’d be able to do it, and here I am I’m doing it.”
The women’s basketball group play begins on Sunday, July 25. Puerto Rico is in Group C with Australia, Belgium, and China. Puerto Rico will open against China at 7 a.m. CT on Tuesday, July 27.