With August finally here, one of this year’s most exciting events is about to begin, the 2016 Summer Olympics. This year’s games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Twenty years ago, the Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta, Georgia. While the majority of the events were held in Atlanta, some events were held on the UGA campus. Soccer matches were held in Sanford Stadium, while rhythmic gymnastics and indoor volleyball were held in Stegeman Coliseum.
UGA has had many students-athletes and former students compete in past Olympic Games. Since 1936, UGA has had eighteen students win gold medals in many events. The first student to win a gold medal was Forrest ‘Spec’ Towers in the 1936 summer games. Towns won a gold medal in the 100 meter high hurdles while also setting a world record that would go untouched for the next fourteen years. The famous Olympic torch was run through campus before the 1996 Summer Olympics by former head football coach Vince Dooley. Dooley ran the torch from inside Sanford Stadium through campus before passing it off. Little known fact? In addition to being a football player and MMA fighter, Herschel Walker was an Olympic athlete! He was a member of the U.S. bobsledding team in 1992 Winter games. See the complete list of UGA’s former Olympics athletes and coaches here.
The Georgia Athletics Museum, located in the Butts-Mehre building on South Campus, has a display year-round showcasing the UGA Olympic athletes. The display showcases the official 1996 match volleyball used in Stegeman Coliseum. The display also holds four of Teresa Edwards’ (BSED ’89) medals, three gold and one bronze. Edwards competed on five different U.S. Olympic women’s basketball teams during her career. Edwards’ first medal was won while she was a student at Georgia. The display lists every UGA student, along with their event, that has ever competed in any Olympics. Butts-Mehre is open for any visitors to walk through and tour all displays, including the Olympics display. For more information about the Georgia Athletics Museum, visit the Athletics website.
At this year’s Olympic Games, many current or former UGA athletes will be competing along with UGA Swimming Coach Jack Bauerle who will be the U.S. assistant men’s swimming coach. UGA’s track coach, Petros Kyprianou will coach the Estonian track team at the games. Chase Kalisz ‘17, Jay Litherland ‘18, Olivia Smoliga ’17, Brittany MacLean ’17, Chantal Van Landeghem ’17, Matias Koski ’16, Melanie Margalis (BSFCS ’14), and Allison Schmitt (BS ’14) will be competing in swim. Kendell Williams ‘17, Keturah Orji ‘18, Maicel Uibo ‘16, Leonti Kallenou ‘16, Cejhae Greene ‘18, Karl Saluri ‘18, Levern Spencer (BSHP ’08), Quintunya Chapman ’16, and other former athletes will compete in track and field. All athletes will be representing their home country. The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication is sending two students, Jaylon Thompson ’17 and Nicole Chrzanowski ’16, from the Sports Media Certificate Program to cover the Olympics in Rio. Grady College will also send nine students to cover the Paralympics in September.
You can watch the opening ceremonies this evening at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC.