The countdown to the London 2012 Summer Olympics reached double digits this week, meaning that it won’t be long before we witness the next feats of greatness by the best athletes on Earth.
Four years ago, American swimmer Michael Phelps captivated the globe by becoming the first athlete to capture eight gold medals in a single Games. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt also grabbed headlines for his other-worldly speed that has yet to be consistently matched. These are just two of the tens of thousands of athletes who have the honor to compete for their respective countries every four years.
But apart from national pride, these athletes have different institutions that they are also representing. For some of them, their roots stem back to Cambridge, Mass., where they went to or currently attend school.
Since the inception of the Summer Games in 1896, over 130 Harvard alumni have participated in the Olympics, representing a plethora of countries but only one alma mater.
A few Harvard alumni have excelled in figure skating, including Dick Button ’52, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who later became a commentator for ABC Sports. Tenley Albright ’53-’55 also secured the gold in the 1956 Olympics, and Paul Wylie ’91 won silver in 1992.
Crimson hockey has always been well-represented at the Games, with several standouts garnering medals: Jennifer Botterill ’02-’03, Julie Chu ’06-’07, and Bob Cleary ’58, just to name a few. Current Harvard men’s hockey coach Ted Donato ’91 played in the 1992 Olympics and competed in the NHL for 14 years, scoring 150 goals at the professional level. Bill Cleary ’56 played alongside his brother Bob at the 1960 Olympics, both earning gold medals. Bill went on to take the helm of the men’s hockey program before becoming the Crimson’s Athletic Director.
A world power for several decades now, Harvard rowing has naturally sent many athletes to compete and win medals at the Olympics. At the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, former Crimson rowers Caryn Davies ’04-’05 and Malcolm Howard ‘05 took home gold in the eights, while Michelle Guerrette ‘02 won the silver in the single. For Davies, this was her second medal after winning the silver in 2004.
Apart from Davies, Howard, and Guerette, three other former Crimson athletes and one current student—senior Noam Mills—flew to Beijing to participate in their respective competitions.
With only 98 days left before the opening ceremonies in three-time host London, there is still no definite list of Crimson athletes that will cross the Atlantic to take part in the Games. Many are still on the bubble, such as freshman Temi Fagbenle, who was included on the preliminary roster to the British women’s basketball training camp that starts on May 5. Several Crimson rowers, such as Davies, Howard, Dave Wakulich ’11, Esther Lofgren ’07-’09, Henrik Rummel ’09, and sophomore Andrew Campbell, to name a few, are still vying for spots on their respective teams.
There is one Harvard athlete who has made it to the Olympic roster, though. Last summer, Alex Meyer ’10 placed fourth in the FINA Open Water World Championships to become the first American swimmer to book his ticket to London. After suffering a broken collarbone this February, recent reports from USA Swimming state that Meyer is back in the pool again, still on track to compete this summer.
Finding out which Harvard alumni or which of your peers is participating in the Olympics is exciting to me. Four years ago, when watching the Beijing Olympics, I was so captivated by Phelps, Bolt, and Team USA that I didn’t even pay attention to which Harvard athletes were competing; after all, I hadn’t even attended this school yet. But after nearly four years of residing in Cambridge, I will most certainly keep an eye out for Meyer and the numerous Crimson alumni who make it to the big stage, despite whatever crazy thing is happening in the Games. I feel like this will be something I will always do from here on out—I’m sure some of my peers will continue trying out for their national squads in the future. Who knows, maybe in four years, Jeremy Lin ’10 will be vying for a spot at the 2016 Olympics. Just saying.
—Staff writer Brian A. Campos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.