After 19 days of history, heartbreak and redemption the Games of the XXX Olympiad came to an end on Sunday with the London Games’ closing ceremonies. As the torch is quite literally passed to Brazil, it is an appropriate time to look back at some of the memorable moments that involved the Ivy League’s 49 athletes as well as several League coaches who took part in the London Games.
History was made for the United States on the fencing strips when the women’s epee team of Maya Lawrence (Princeton ’02), Susannah Scanlan (Princeton ’14), Courtney Hurley and Kelley Hurley downed Russia in sudden death, 31-30, to win the Bronze medal in dramatic fashion – the first ever Olympic women’s epee medals for the U.S. history.
History was also made in the women’s eights final at the Eton Dorney Rowing Centre – and not just because eight Ivy League alumnae combined for five Gold and three Silver medals. When the USA boat, including Caryn Davies (Harvard ’05), Esther Lofgren (Harvard ’09), Susan Francia (Penn ’04), Caroline Lind (Princeton ’06) and Taylor Ritzel (Yale ’10), edged the Canadian boat, including Andreanne Morin (Princeton ’06), Lauren Wilkinson (Princeton ’11) and Ashley Brzozowicz (Yale ’04), to take the Gold, Davies won a medal for the third consecutive Summer Games.
As part of the USA women’s eights boat in 2008, Davies (as well as Francia and Lind) earned a Gold medal and she was also part of the USA women’s eight boat that won Silver at the 2004 Athens Games. Prior to Davies, the last Ivy alum to medal in three consecutive Summer Olympics was Frederick Morgan Taylor (Dartmouth ’25), who captured gold in the 400-meter hurdles sat the 1924 Paris Games and followed with a bronze in 1928 in Amsterdam and a silver at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Davies became the first female Ivy graduate to medal at three consecutive Summer Games.
But the Olympics are not always about medals and records. They are often about endurance, triumph, years of dedication and, sometimes, heartbreak. For Ivy fans – at least the several gathered in front of a laptop on last Friday afternoon at the League office – the women’s 1,500m final showed that side of the Games, too. Morgan Uceny (Cornell ’07) was positioned to possibly become the first U.S. medalist in the event but she was clipped by another runner in the pack and fell to the track as her Olympic hopes were lost.
But the London Games also provided some redemption stories. For example, when Diana Matheson (Princeton ’08) slotted home a rebound goal for the Canadian women’s soccer team in the 92nd minute of the Bronze medal game, she made history by leading Canada to the country’s first medal at the Summer Games in a traditional team sport since 1936 (men’s basketball won Silver in Berlin). That Bronze medal triumph came just days after a heartbreaking 4-3 semifinal loss to the United States, which came in added time after 120 minutes of thrilling action could not separate the teams. In picture form, the Canadians went from a striking low to an Olympic high:
For the first time ever, the Ivy League had representatives on both a men’s and women’s basketball team in the same Olympic Games. Harvard sophomore Temi Fagbenle was a starter for the host Great Britain squad, and Koko Archibong (Penn ’03) played for Team Nigeria. It also marked the first time that multiple Ivies competed in one Olympics at the same time. Although neither squad made it past group play, both Fagbenle and Archibong played significant minutes for their respective teams and proved that Ivy League basketball is still a force to be reckoned with, just as it was when Bill Bradley (Princeton ’65) led the US team to Gold in 1964.
Fagbenle and Scanlon were not the only current Ivy athletes to compete in the Summer Games. Princeton sent a trio to the US field hockey team in sisters Julia and Katie Reinprecht. Columbia sophomore Nzingha Prescod was a member of the US women’s foil team. Two recent Ivy graduates in Columbia’s Nicole Ross (US fencing, women’s foil) and Princeton’s Donn Cabral (US track & field, steeplechase), also competed in London.
Brown’s Jimmy Pedro ’94, who competed in judo in four Olympics himself, winning Bronze in 1996 and 2004, coached Kayla Harrison to Gold in the half heavyweight division. Harrison became the first American, male or female, to take Gold in judo, punctuating a marvelous comeback from a tough childhood.
As a teenager, Harrison was the victim of sexual abuse by her former coach, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in 2007 and banned for life by USA Judo. At age 16, Harrison went to Massachusetts to train at Pedro’s Judo Center, run by Jimmy and his father, and they immediately worked to lift her spirit while at the same time honing her skills on the mat. Harrison’s toughness combined with the Pedro’s help proved to be a Golden combination.
Thanks for following along with us as we tracked the League’s impressive group of athletes and coaches who helped make the London Games memorable.
– Dan & Trevor
P.S. – Further showcasing how the London Games will also be remembered as the first fully engaged social media Olympics, we are aware that McKayla was not impressed by this blog.