West Michigan roots for Olympians Alex Rose and Rhyan White

Japan 2020

Alex Rose’s family gathers to watch him compete in the 2020 Olympics in Japan. (July 29, 2021)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Alex Rose’s wife decorated their basement with his jerseys and various pictures highlighting his athletic achievements as friends and family gathered at their Walker home to watch him compete Thursday night.

This is Rose’s second time competing in the Olympics. Rose, who was born in the U.S., is representing Samoa, his father’s native country.

“I’m so proud,” his wife Samantha said. “2020 was a tough year for everybody. For him to even be there right now is a huge accomplishment. He’s already won in all of our eyes. We’re so proud and excited for him.”

His road to Tokyo was filled with various obstacles.

“It takes a lot of patience and his coach is in Pennsylvania,” Samantha Rose said. “So, he doesn’t have a coach in person, that’s another thing that’s made it unique.”

In Byron Center, Sally Koeze McDonough can’t stop talking about her granddaughter Rhyan White, a United States swimmer competing in the 200 backstroke.

“She swam for Alabama but now, she’s swimming for Team USA,” Koeze McDonough said. “She’s an awesome little girl.”

White is from Utah but has dozens of family members on her mother’s side, who live in West Michigan.

Earlier this week, her family gathered at a sports bar to watch her compete.

“It was close to 60 (people) almost, all immediate family, not a whole lot of friends there because such short notice,” Koeze McDonough said. “Short notice on T-shirts we got for everyone in the family, and it’s just been so much excitement. Having something this great to look forward to after a pandemic.”

White qualified for the 200 backstroke final and will compete for the gold Friday.

Rose’s time in the Olympics came to an end Thursday night. His family and friends and West Michigan remain proud.

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