Dear Mr. Mudd,
What are the connections between Princeton and the Olympics?
With the upcoming 2012 Olympics on the horizon, this is a popular question. We have a blog entry from a few years ago concerning what Mudd has in its collections relating to the 1896 games.
Princeton University’s ties with the Olympics began at the revival of the Olympiad in 1896 when Dr. William Sloane, a Princeton professor, formed an American team for the games. On that team were four Princeton students. Robert Garrett, 1897 threw the discus 96 feet to defeat a Greek champion. Three other students participated in the Athens games: Herbert B. Jamison ’97 (second in the 400 meters), Francis A. Lane ’97 (second in the 100 meters), and Albert Clinton Tyler ’97 (second in pole-vault).
In 1984 NBC-TV aired a miniseries entitled The First Olympics: Athens 1896. The following clip shows the discus throw of Garrett.
Also in the archives is a laurel branch that was awarded to Albert C. Tyler for his second in the pole vault a the 1896 games.
There are a number of alumni that have won gold medals in the Olympics, as cataloged by Princeton Alumni Weekly writer, Gregg Lange ’70. Lange’s list and commentary includes:
• Karl Frederick ’1903 is the only Tiger to win three gold medals, all in 1920 in Antwerp. One of the better-shooting Princeton lawyers of the post-Burr era, he won an individual gold in the 50-meter pistol and team golds in the same event and the 30-meter, too. He later pulled off an unlikely double, as president in turn of the National Rifle Association and the New York State Conservation Council.
• Herman “Swede” Whiton ’26 is the only Princetonian to win in two separate games and the first American yachtsman to win a race twice – the 6-meter sailing race at both the 1948 and 1952 Olympics in London and Helsinki with different crews.
• Nelson Diebel ’96 who was semi-rescued from weirdness by his Peddie swimming coach, then suffered chronic rotator-cuff inflammation, but put together an annus mirabilis after his Princeton freshman year in 1992 to win both the Olympic 100-meter breaststroke and the 4×100 medley relay gold in Barcelona.
• Four years after Garrett’s triumph in Athens, Frank Jarvis 1900 (a direct descendent of George Washington) won the 100-meter dash in 1900 in Paris. The first great Princeton sprinter, he already had won the national AAU title at 100 yards and two different Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A) titles.
• Bill Stevenson ’22, an Illinois cousin of his famed classmate Adlai II ’22 and a Rhodes scholar, had won the national championship AAU title in the 440 yard race in 1921. He went to Paris for the 1924 games and ran on the U.S. gold-medal 4×400-meter relay team. He eventually became president of Oberlin, then ambassador to the Philippines.
• Jed Graef ’64, whose high school didn’t have a swimming team, swam for the great Bob Clotworthy in Dillon Pool and went on to win the 200-yard backstroke at the NCAA and U.S. championships. Then he set a world record winning gold in the 200 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, beating two Americans who earlier had defeated him. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1988.
• Then came the rowers, products of the ever-burgeoning program down on Lake Carnegie. The first champion was Mike Evans ’81, whose gold medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics came, ironically, for Canada by 0.42 seconds over the United States, the first Princeton gold won for another country. It also was Canada’s first win in the featured men’s heavyweight eights, establishing a global stature that Canadians retain to this day. [Evans is now vice chairman of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.]
• Chris Ahrens ’98 waited six years after stroking the Princeton heavyweight eight to national championships in 1996 and 1998 to win his gold in 2004 in the men’s eights in Athens, coming out of retirement in 2003 after a wrenching fifth-place finish in Sydney in 2000.
Caroline Lind ’06, stroke and heart of the magnificent 2006 women’s undefeated – and practically unchallenged – national champion open crew, rowed the No. 7 oar for the gold-medal-winning women’s eight in Beijing, their first Olympic championship in 24 years. She’s the first alumna to grab gold for the Tigers.
A search of our Senior Thesis Database shows there are 16 theses that have been focused on the Olympics. All theses can be viewed in our reading room.
In 1935 a travel agency advertised tours in the Daily Princetonian: “The steamship agency “Adriatic Exchange Travel Bureau,” at 226 East 86th Street, New York City, specialists in German travel since 1918, announces a number of “Thrift Tours” for next year’s Olympics to be held in Berlin, Germany. These tours are reasonably priced and are organized to appeal to all students who are interested in athletics.”
The Olympic Flame traveled through the Princeton campus in 1980 as a part of the Princeton Relays. Alison Carlson ’77 held the honor of holding the flame high.
The Princeton Alumni Weekly has put together a list of the Princetonians in the 2012 Olympics.
And from Princeton University Communications: 16 past and current Princeton students ready to compete for gold at Olympics in London