Big Ten to Send At Least 100 Participants and Coaches to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing
Aug. 5, 2008
Park Ridge, Ill. - As the 2008 Olympic Games commence this week, the Big Ten Conference will boast at least 100 participants and coaches competing for gold medals in Beijing, China, from August 8-24. The group of Big Ten Conference competitors, which includes 11 former Olympians and five past medalists, will represent 28 different countries and 10 Big Ten institutions in 17 different sports.
The Big Ten contingent of current or former student-athletes, coaches or alumni will be representing their countries as participants in the 2008 Olympic Games. That list includes 55 members of the United States Olympic Team, along with participants from the Bahamas, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Guyana, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, St. Vincent, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Venezuela and the Ukraine.
This collection of elite performers is highlighted by 11 former Olympians and includes five returning medalists in former Michigan swimmer Peter Vanderkaay, Michigan volunteer assistant coach Michael Phelps, former Ohio State basketball player Katie Smith, former Ohio State gymnast Morgan Hamm and former Wisconsin rower Beau Hoopman. Phelps will be competing in his third straight Summer Olympics after claiming six gold and two bronze medals in 2004. Vanderkaay sprinted to a gold in the same games in the 800-meter freestyle. Smith was a member of the gold-medal-winning women's basketball squads in 2000 and 2004. Hamm helped the U.S. team to a silver medal, while Hoopman won gold in the Eight in the 2004 Games.
Four former Big Ten men's gymnasts are part of the six-athlete Olympic team, including Nittany Lion Kevin Tan, who will serve as team captain. Tan is joined by Hamm, who will be taking part in his third Olympic Games, and Illini Justin Spring and Buckeye Raj Bhavsar, both making their Olympic debuts. Overall, Michigan leads the way with 22 Olympic participants this year, followed by Ohio State (16), Minnesota (9) and Penn State (8).
The Big Ten will also be represented by eight individuals serving as coaches in Beijing, including a pair of head coaches in Michigan's Mike Bottom (USA men's swimming) and Steve Fraser (USA wrestling). Bottom has coached in the last four Games and was a member of the 1980 Olympic team, while Fraser earned a gold medal on the mat in 1984. Big Ten coaches and former student-athletes will serve in a variety of roles in this year's Games, including former Illinois gymnast Butch Zunich, who is the men's gymnastics head floor judge in Beijing. Ohio State women's soccer coach Lori Walker will serve as an NBC television announcer during the Games.
Big Ten student-athletes and coaches have been a part of the Olympic experience on more than 1,183 occasions, including many making multiple trips to the international event. That list of conference standouts has accumulated at least 438 medals, including 194 of the gold variety. Some of the medalists include former OSU track star Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Former Indiana swimmer Mark Spitz won four medals, including two golds, in the 1968 Games before claiming an unprecedented seven gold medals during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. The winter games have also been rewarding, as 12 members of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" United States hockey team were from Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The complete list of 2008 Big Ten Olympians and an all-time Big Ten Olympic list (through the 2006 Winter Games) are attached.