Where Do Olympians Come From?

Where Do Olympians Come From?

Let’s just start with Stanford.

Stanford has had an Olympian in the games since the 4th Olympiad, the 1908 Olympics in London, and a Stanford graduate on the medal stand in every Olympics since first winning a medal in 1914.  Up to the start of this Olympic cycle in Rio, Stanford athletes had won a total of 280 medals.  Kaitie Ledecky will add another four gold medals by herself.  In the 1996 Atlanta games, Stanford won more medals than all but three nations, more than China, France, and Great Britain.

That’s impressive.  More than impressive.  Stunning.

At the start of this year’s games, however, Stanford ranked 2nd in medal tally behind USC (288).  UCLA (230) had been in the second spot, but now lags behind Trojans and the Cardinal.  Stanford has now added another 17 medals (9 gold), bringing their medal total to 297 while USC has added another 7 medals to push their total to 295, leaving Stanford in the lead, at least until competition in track and field is in the count.

Cal Berkeley was 4th with 185 medals, but their dominant swimming program sent a number of Berkeley Golden Bears to Rio, where they have racked up 12 gold, 4 silver, 4 bronze a full week before the end of the games.

In the fifth spot, the University of Michigan with 134 and counting, remembering that Michael Phelps was a swimming Wolverine in preparation for the 2008 Olympics.

The University of Texas, Harvard, Florida, Yale, and Ohio State round out the top ten.  Texas, Florida, and Ohio State are far more likely than Yale and Harvard to pump out current Olympians, but Harvard still has 9 Olympians competing this year and Yale 8.

Texas sends 22 athletes to the games, one of whom, Kevin Durant, is likely to add to the Texas medal count, while Florida packed 30 competitors off to Rio.   Ohio State is not likely to jump too dramatically in medal count, as they are sending twelve Buckeyes to the Rio games.

Harvard’s 10 and Yale’s 8, however, do reveal a particular slice of Olympic competition.  The Harvard contingent includes 6 rowers, men and women, a fencer, a shot putter, and a wrestler.  The rowers represent the U.S., South Africa, and Bermuda.  The shot putter is Nigerian, and the wrestler hails from Uzbekistan.  Yale’s athletes provide a similar profile.  Three Elis row, two for the U.S.and one for Canada.  Three more are sailors, joined by a fencer (Brazil) and one lone track athlete.

Other significant entries?  The University of Georgia is sending 11 athletes, but so is Princeton.  Tigers will be competing in rowing, field hockey, and steeplechase.  Dartmouth is represented by 9 athletes, in track, cycling, rowing, javelin, rugby, and dressage.  The Big Green represent the U.S, Korea, Greece, and Canada.

It’s not surprising that the University of Washington is sending 11 athletes, many of whom will row as they have for the Huskies’ championship program in crew.  The University of Oregon in Eugene is a haven for runners, and the 12 Ducks will take the track in a number of events.

Equally unsurprising are the number of women who played soccer for the University of North Carolina and now have a place on the national team; UNC has 13 Tar Heels in Rio.

Less widely known but widely respected, the volleyball program for men and women at Penn State has dominated national competition and sends many of its best to the Olympics as 13 Nittany Lions land in Brazil.  The University of Connecticut’s absolute dominance of women’s basketball is clear in the selection of the women’s coach, Geno Auriemma, and stars Sue Bird, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, and Tina Charles.  Other Huskies will compete in field hockey, track, and soccer.

Small colleges also add diversity to the mix.  Williams’ swimmer Faye Sultan will compete under the Olympic flag rather than the Kuwaiti flag as she did in 2012.  Amherst’s Michael Hixon won a silver medal in synchronized diving in Rio, and Middlebury sends three panthers to Brazil, two cyclists and a marathon runner.

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