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Ramblin’ to Paris, Pt. 3: Georgia Tech’s Olympic History Pre-2020

Tech’s first Olympian, success on the track, and the “Redeem Team”

Tech’s first Olympian, Ed Hamm, at the 1928 Olympics
| Photo via Encyclopedia of Arkansas via Ed Campbell

Welcome to part 3 of 30 of my Ramblin’ to Paris series. Check out last week’s piece where I explain why I love the Olympics. Today’s piece is sponsored by Tech alumni and Travelmation travel agent, Nicolas Santine.


For a school where eight of the ten sports on campus participate in the Olympic Games (baseball, softball, track & field, basketball, swimming & diving, golf, volleyball, and tennis), Georgia Tech athletes have found their way to the Olympics a lot of over the recent decades. Even golf, the sport that wasn’t played at the Olympics after 1904 until 2016, has a Georgia Tech athlete involved. While we’re no Texas or Stanford, whose athletes win more medals per Olympics than most countries will, Tech’s body of work is solid.

Today, we’ll go sport by sport for every Games up until the 2021 Tokyo games (separate piece coming for that) and dig into who has represented Tech throughout the Olympiads and how they fared. While this may be obvious, Tech does not have at winter Olympians, as our athletic association does not sponsor any winter sports.

Men’s Basketball

Tech has had a load of players play for Team USA in some form or fashion in international basketball, but only three players or coaches participate with a non-U.S. team, Nigeria. Alade Aminu played for Nigeria in 2012 and 2016, and then Josh Okogie played with them in 2021 of which Mfon Udofia was an assistant coach.

On the U.S. side, three Jackets have been on the U.S. Olympic National team: Bobby Cremins, Stephon Marbury, and Chris Bosh.

(L-R) Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, and Chris Bosh after winning gold at the 2008 Olympics
Chris Bosh on Twitter

Cremins was an assistant coach for the 1996 gold medal winning team that featured Charles Barkley, Grant Hill, Reggie Miller, Karl Malone, Shaq, Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen, and John Stockton to name a some legends. The team was coached by the Atlanta Hawks coach at the time, Lenny Wilkins, meaning two Atlanta based coaches were part of the gold medal team at the Atlanta games.

Marbury played with the 2004 bronze medal winning team, known for its infamous 19-point loss to Puerto Rico before losing by nine to Argentina in the semifinals. Marbury led the team in assists per game at 3.4.

Then, enter Chris Bosh, part of the hyped “Redeem Team” coached by Coach K with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and others that completely decimated the field, winning by an average 32.2 points per game.

Women’s Basketball

For those that follow Tech WBB, you know that Nell Fortner’s resume came with Olympic success. She was the head coach of the U.S. National Team from 1997-2000, leading the U.S. to gold medal wins at the 1998 World Champoinship and Olympic gold at the 2000 Sydney games.

Nell Fortner’s gold medal winning team in Sydney
Sports Illustrated via Getty Ima

That team, which also had UConn legend Geno Auriemma on the bench as an assistant coach, went undefeated en route to gold, which when looking at the roster, makes a ton of sense. That team had current South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, the aforementioned Geno, WNBA legend Lisa Leslie, and Cairo, Georgia native Teresa Edwards, who won four gold medals with the U.S. National Team from 1984-2000.

No Georgia Tech WBB player has yet to participate with an Olympic team, but that could change if Finland, Spain, or Italy qualify for Paris as alumni Lotta-Maj Lahtinen, Nerea Hermosa, Francesca Pan, and Lorela Cubaj all have been involved with their national teams.

Golf

The reintroduction of golf to the Olympic program in 2016 immediately paid off for Matt Kuchar, winning bronze at the 2016 Rio Games after shooting a tournament low 63 (-8) to vault from T7 to 3rd in the final round.

(L-R) Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, and Matt Kuchar after winning the first medals awarded in golf since 1904.
AP/Chris Carlson

With only three Americans able to qualify per country in Olympic golf, it’s one of the more remarkable medals a Georgia Tech athlete has won. Keep a lookout for Christo Lamprecht to potentially qualify for the South African team, as he represented the country in 2022 and 2023 at the World Amateur Team Championship.

Softball

Two Jackets have made it to the games, Jen Yee and Caitlin Lever, who both played for Canada in the 2008 Beijing games, the last time softball was played in the Olympics before being reintroduced in 2021. Canada finished fourth, losing to Australia 5-3 in the semifinals.

Jen scored the only run in their group game against China, a solo home run in the 6th inning, at the time making them 3-1 in the pool play portion of the tournament.

Baseball

Technically, three baseball Jackets have physically played in the Olympics, but only two have played for teams that were actually competing for a medal. Ty Griffin played second base at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but baseball was a demonstration sport then and played only exhibition games.

At the 1992 Barcelona games however, the first time baseball was included as a medal sport, Tech legends Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra played for Team USA. The Americans finished fourth in the inaugural tournament, falling to Cuba in the semifinals and then to Japan in the bronze medal game.

Garciaparra and Varitek’s Team USA baseball cards
section-36.blogspot.com

Plenty of other notable names from the team have at least worn the Team USA jersey, but mostly for the Pan American Games or exhibition tournaments.

Swim & Dive

Before 2020, seven Jackets made the Olympics, all internationals. Despite the Olympic swimming literally occurring on west campus in 1996, no Jackets qualified for that meet.

Tech’s first Olympic swimmer was Vesna Stojanovska, swimming for Macedonia at the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens games. She swam the 200 Freestyle (29th in Sydney, 34th in Athens) and 400 Freestyle (31st in Sydney, 27th in Athens).

Jorge Oliver (Puerto Rico), Leo Salinas (Mexico), and Omur Uras (Turkey) were the first Jacket men to qualify in swimming at the 2004 games. Oliver, swam the 200 IM (T45), Salinas swam the 400 Freestyle (29th) and 4x200 Freestyle relay (15th), and Uras swam the 100 Butterfly (49th).

Uras also qualified for the 2008 Beijing games, finishing 58th in the 100 Butterfly.

Gal Nevo, likely the most famous of Tech’s Olympic swimmers, swam for Israel in three Olympics (2008, 2012, 2016), who I also profiled while I was writing for The Technique.

To quote myself from that piece, “Despite never medaling in the Olympics, he does hold the Israeli records for the 200 Individual Medley, 400 Individual Medley, and 200 Butterfly, all of which are some of the most physically taxing events on the body.’”

“At the London Games nine years ago Nevo was quite close to making the final in the [400 IM] over legends Michael Phelps and Hungarian László Cseh. ‘[Phelps] swam super slow and basically swam [the same time as] László Cseh,’ said Nevo, ‘[Phelps] was the last one into the finals.’”

In Beijing, Gal finished 13th in the 200 IM and 11th in 400 IM. In his other London races, he finished 32nd in the 200 Butterfly and 10th in the 200 IM. In Rio, he gained six spots, finishing 26th in the 200 Butterfly, slid to 17th in the 200 IM, and also to 19th in the 400 IM.

Iris Wang (China) and Andrew Chetcuti (Malta) also swam in the London games. Wang swam with the 4x100 Freestyle Relay team that finished fourth but set a Chinese record at the time. Chectui finished 39th in 100 Freestyle, and then in 2016 finished 51st. He did also qualify for the 2021 Tokyo games, but did not end up swimming his race.

Karen Siebner (Israel) was the lone Jacket female swimmer to qualify for Rio in 2016, swimming with Israel’s 4x100 Freestyle Relay that finished 16th.

Track & Field

T&F is easily the sport Tech has found the most Olympic success in, winning six golds and a bronze. It was also the one sport Tech fielded athletes in during the 1996 Games in. Plus, every athlete Tech has sent in T&F has been American.

Derrick Adkins won gold in the 400-meter hurdles in 47.54 seconds, easily clear of Samuel Matete (Zambia) and Calvin Davis (USA) who rounded out the rest of the podium. Derek Mills also ran for the U.S. in 1996, winning gold with the 4 x 400-meter relay team.

Derrick Adkins after winning the 400-meter hurdles in Atlanta
AJC Staff Photo/Rich Addicks

Derrick was not the first Tech Olympian though. At the 1928 Amsterdam games, Ed Hamm became Tech’s first Olympian and gold medalist by winning the long jump and breaking the Olympic record at the time, jumping 25’4 3/4,’ becoming “the South’s first world champion in any sport” according to the Atlanta Journal. He later was the track coach and donated his trophies to the Institute in 1970.

Antonio McKay was Tech’s lone participant in 1984 (Los Angeles) and 1988 (Seoul), winning the 4 x 400-meter relay in both, along with winning bronze in the 400-meters. McKay had multiple NCAA championships as well in 1984.

Angelo Taylor is the most recent Tech track athlete, winning the 400-meter hurdles in Sydney (47.500) and Beijing (47.250).

Volleyball

I at least want to shout out the fact that Tech has had 14 athletes or coaches be part of a U.S. National Team, along with Julia Bergmann (Brazil), Bianca Bertolino (Argentina), Tali Marmen (Israel) participate with their national teams. Somehow, between all of them, no Jacket has made an Olympic team. Julia is likely the odds on favorite to break that trend in Paris this year.


Jack Purdy is a non-revenue sports writer and co-host of Scions of the Southland for From the Rumble Seat. He previously served as The Technique’s assistant sports editor before graduating Georgia Tech in 2022. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackNicolaus

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Sources:

Georgia Tech Media Guides (volleyball, swim & dive, softball, golf, women’s basketball, men’s basketball, baseball)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Hamm

olympics.com

https://nique.net/sports/2020/09/28/interview-gal-nevo-tech-hall-of-fame-20/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_McKay

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Georgia_Institute_of_Technology_athletes

https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/media/eddie-hamm-7416/