Thursday, May 17, 2012

Villanova At The Olympics

Mike Neill Catching the final out to win Villanova's most recent gold medal

With The Olympics at London coming up in August, I figured I would take today to reflect on Villanova's history at the Olympics. Since 1948, when George Guida and Browning Ross made the second London Olympics, there has been an unprecedented string of Villanova at least one Villanova product competing at every single Summer Olympic Games, including an American representative at each games. To add to representatives at each Olympics, Villanovans have won 12 Olympic medals, eight gold and four silver.

The first Olympics where Villanova brought home a medal was the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where Ron Delaney (1500m) of Ireland and Charlie Jenkins (400m) of USA each won an individual gold, and Jenkins added a gold in the 4x400m Relay. Four years later in Rome, pole vaulter Don Bragg won the third individual gold medal, and the most recent gold medal not won as a member of a team or relay. In the next Olympics in Tokyo, Paul Drayton won Villanova's first silver, in the 200m dash and a gold as the lead off leg of the 4x100m relay. The 1968 Olympics at Mexico City represented the high watermark for Villanova's participation at The Olympics, with Larry James winning an individual silver in the 400m dash and a gold in the 4x400m relay. Also in Mexico City, hurdler Erv Hall  finished second to legend Willie Davenport in the 110m Hurdles. After 1968, it was a long 24 years before Chip Jenkins won a gold medal for running in the rounds of the 4x400m relay, becoming the first son of an Olympic Champion to win an Olympic gold medal in the same event. Finally in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, on her third try at The Olympics, Sonia O'Sullivan of Ireland won the Silver medal in the 5000m in a thrilling sprint finish, marking the first time that a Villanova woman won an Olympic medal. To cap things off there was Mike Neill's performance for the USA baseball team, winning Villanova's most recent gold medal.

Now what do the 2012 London Olympics hold for Villanova? Well, New Zealand 5000m record holder Adrian Blincoe is a virtual lock for the Olympics in that event provided that he shows fitness tomorrow night at Occidental College. There's also Bobby Curtis, who peaked a little too early last season but is one of the fastest Americans ever over 10,000m. American Jen Rhines is looking to tie the Villanova record by making her fourth Olympic games, presumably at the 10,000m. There is also the current queen of Villanova athletics, Sheila Reid looking to represent Canada for the first time, and Marina Muncan who will try to qualify to compete for Serbia. Former Villanova basketball player Andrew Sullivan will be captaining the British side as they attempt to not get embarrassed by the established basketball powers.

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