With the Winter Games underway in Sochi, Russia, the imprint of NCAA colleges and universities can be seen throughout Team USA and beyond.
More than 100 athletes with ties to NCAA schools will compete in Russia, including more than six-dozen on Team USA alone. Some of the athletes competing in the Winter Games, including University of Minnesota junior Amanda Kessel, are current student-athletes. Others, including three-time ice hockey Olympic medalist Julie Chu, are graduates who pursued their sport in college and continue as Olympic athletes. Chu is a 2007 Harvard University grad coached once again by Crimson coach Katey Stone, who is now pursuing her first medal as coach of Team USA.
Still others used their student-athlete experience to build different Olympic dreams. The U.S. bobsled team is packed with former student-athletes who never saw snow on their collegiate playing fields. But Lolo Jones, an 11-time NCAA All-American track athlete and two-time Olympic sprinter, will join five-time University of Illinois All-American sprinter and shot putter Aja Evans and former George Washington University softball star Elana Meyers in their quest for gold in the women’s bobsled.
And there are many more: former softball and volleyball student-athletes will compete alongside peers who once threw shot put and javelin. There are former golfers, swimmers, football and lacrosse athletes pursuing a dream that they first started preparing for in college. And their moment in the international spotlight all sprang from robust and diverse college athletics programs that helped them develop the skills to succeed on the field and in life.
"For many of our Team USA athletes, the road to the Olympic Winter Games is paved with the dedication and skills these young men and women honed while competing in college," said Scott Blackmun, chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee. "Team USA and the U.S. Olympic Committee have greatly benefited from the talents and experiences of our many current and former NCAA student-athletes, and I expect we will see much success in Sochi in part because of these amazing athletes. The commitment of hundreds of NCAA colleges and universities to sponsor Olympic sports on their campuses is a direct benefit to the USOC and the Olympic games.”
So when you watch the games this month, remember that many of those athletes took their first steps to Sochi at America’s colleges and universities before graduating to a chance at Olympic glory.