Local Catholic school alumni active at Rio Olympic games

BRAINTREE -- The 2016 Summer Olympics Games in Rio, Brazil is an international event, but for three schools in the Archdiocese of Boston, it hits close to home.

Brianne Camilleri, an alumnus of Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, Jimmy Pedro, an alumnus of St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, and Michael DiSanto, an alumnus of Mount St. Alvernia Academy in Chestnut Hill, are each playing key roles in this year's Summer Olympics, which runs from Aug. 5 to Aug. 21.

Camilleri, Central Catholic class of 2001, is the General Manager of the Olympic Organizing Committee responsible for the "Copacabana cluster" of events, which includes sailing, beach volleyball, the triathlon, marathon swimming, road cycling, and rowing.

In order to work in this role, Camilleri lived in Rio for the past two years, and will remain there for the Paralympic Games, which will run from Sept. 7 to Sept. 18.

This is Camilleri's third time working as an organizer for the Olympics -- she also worked as an Organizing Committee member for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

"International sports cuts through the turmoil and politics of the world that seems to abound year after year. International competition has the power to change the world -- even if for a time. To know you have had a small role in bringing nations together in celebration and ideally promote respect and understanding among peoples, is the greatest feeling I can imagine," Camilleri said in an interview provided to The Pilot by Dave DeFillippo, Director of Communications at Central Catholic High School.

Part of St. John's Prep class of 1988 and a member of its Athletic Hall of Fame, Pedro was a champion wrestler at the school. He has since taken his athletic abilities and brought them to the Olympics by competing in the 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 games on the USA Judo Team, winning bronze in 1996 and in 2004.

He also trained 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Kayla Harrison and Travis Stevens, both of whom are competing in this year's Olympic Games, and is acting as the 2016 Olympic USA Judo Head Coach.

Keith Crowley, principal of St. John's Prep, said in an interview Aug. 9 with The Pilot that he recently spoke with Pedro, who assured him, he and his team "are having a lot of fun" in Brazil, and were enjoying the competition.

"I know that he takes a lot of pride in his role as coach, and works really hard to prepare the athletes," Crowley said.

He said that Pedro has continued to have a relationship with St. John's Prep since graduating, noting that he "was one of the first people to jump onboard with some of our ideas to engage our students in different wellness opportunities."

Additionally, Crowley said, Pedro helps train two coaches a year as part of an "Olympic training program" and he provides coaches to the school to help teach judo to the students.

"I just think he's a great representative for our country and the judo program," said Crowley.

DiSanto, 2002 graduate of Mount Alvernia Academy and 2012 graduate of Harvard University, is competing in his first Olympic Games as part of the USA Rowing Team.

Mark Lippolt, a longtime friend of DiSanto's family and an active parishioner at St. Cecilia Parish in Boston, the parish DiSanto grew up in, said in an Aug. 10 interview with The Pilot that DiSanto was "always very active, very sports minded," and started his rowing career back in high school.

"Michael in general is a brilliant kid and very hardworking, so it's really wonderful to see someone pursue a dream like this and make it happen," he said.

Lippolt noted that DiSanto was an active member of St. Cecilia Parish for many years, receiving first Communion and Confirmation there. He said DiSanto participated in Young Neighbors in Action, a national service group, while he was in high school, allowing him to spend a week of service in Washington, D.C.

He said St. Cecilia posted information about DiSanto on its Facebook page earlier this month to inform parishioners.

"We're all cheering him on," said Lippolt.

A number of DiSanto's friends and family members are in Rio to watch him row, and in an email interview with The Pilot, his mother, Ginny DiSanto, said "there are no words to adequately describe" her feelings while watching her son compete.

"This has been Michael's goal since he was 18 years old. As parents, we have experienced every high and low with him, we know what he has sacrificed to get here, and how hard and he and teammates have worked to accomplish this goal," she said.

"I am proud and overwhelmed every time I walk into the rowing venue. I am brought to tears every time I hear any national anthem played because I know how every mom in the stands is feeling. We were finally able to see Michael for ten minutes yesterday in the 'kiss and cry area' and I couldn't stop crying or hugging him," she continued.