Syracuse University Magazine

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Myer Prinstein (Class of 1901) competes in the long jump at the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis. He won gold medals in the long jump and triple jump on the same day—an Olympic feat that hasn't been equaled.



Olympic Orange

From gold medal performances to heartbreaking experiences, SU student-athletes and alumni have played their part in the Olympic Games 

By Rick Burton

As the 2012 London Summer Olympics approach, it may astound Syracuse alumni to know that more than three dozen SU student-athletes and alumni have participated in the Olympics since 1900, with many achieving notable success. Some Orange Olympians have struck gold, while others ended up sidelined—due to circumstances beyond their control. Here is a sampling of Orange Olympiad experiences.  

First and Foremost

If medal count is the measure, the first and perhaps greatest Syracuse Olympian is Myer Prinstein (Class of 1901). A Polish-born student-athlete who grew up in Syracuse, Prinstein won four gold medals and a silver in track and field events during the first decade of the 20th century. The amazing thing is Prinstein would have likely won another gold, if officials from Methodist-affiliated universities (which included SU at that time) had not prohibited their athletes from competing on the Christian Sabbath in the 1900 Paris Games. Prinstein, who was Jewish, was leading the running broad jump (long jump) competition after qualifying rounds on Saturday, but complying with the wishes of University officials, he sat out the final round on Sunday. His best mark was beaten that day by a quarter of an inch, leaving the Syracuse star with the silver. Prinstein experienced further Olympic misfortune when the International Olympic Committee voted to not recognize medals won at the “unofficial” 1906 Athens Games, where he had captured gold in the long jump, but competed hurt in the hop, step, and jump (triple jump). Even so, he had already taken home a gold medal from Paris (triple jump) and scored two more from the 1904 St. Louis Games, where he won the long jump and triple jump competitions on the same day.

Denied in Berlin

At the 1936 Berlin Games in Nazi-ruled Germany, Marty Glickman ’39, an SU sophomore who lettered in track and football, was suddenly scratched from the 4 x 100-meter relay because Adolf Hitler, who was in attendance, had let it be known that he didn’t want Jewish athletes competing in his presence. Avery Brundage, head of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), had earlier used his influence to have Glickman reassigned from the 100-meter sprint, his best event, to the relay race. Despite a protest from the great Jesse Owens, the American coaches benched Glickman with Brundage’s approval. 

These injustices were not acknowledged until more than 60 years later, when the USOC presented Glickman with its first Douglas MacArthur Award in 1998 for service to the Olympic community. Noting evidence of USOC compliance in these anti-Semitic incidents, committee president William Hybl offered the award to Glickman and Sam Stoller, another Jewish member of the relay team, “in lieu of the gold medals they didn’t win.” 

Grappling with Moscow

Three Syracuse Olympians were prevented from competing in the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow for political reasons of another nature when President Jimmy Carter announced a U.S. boycott to protest Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan. When freestyle wrestler Gene Mills ’81, G’98 got the news, he had already won an NCAA title and a world championship at 52 kilograms (114.5 pounds) and was on his way to becoming the first SU student-athlete in any sport to be named a four-time All-American. 

Like Mills, Thomas Darling ’82 and William Purdy ’79, oarsmen in the U.S. four-man with coxswain race, were similarly disappointed. Of the three, only Darling would later have the opportunity to participate in the Games. He took home a silver medal from Los Angeles in 1984 (sitting in the five seat of the U.S. eight) and made the team again in 1988, finishing fifth in the fours with coxswain. Mills, who twice won the NCAA wrestling championship tournament at 118 pounds, was selected as a U.S. torch bearer for the 1992 Barcelona Games and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Notably, in 2007, all 461 members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team were awarded Congressional Gold Medals.

Row, Row, Row

While former Orange basketball star Carmelo Anthony was
winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, two Orange women were rowing to medals in the same Games. Three-time NCAA All-American Anna Goodale ’05 earned a gold medal for the U.S. team in the eight with coxswain, while Helen Tanger ’01 collected a silver medal for Netherlands in the same event, complementing the bronze she won with teammate Froukje Wegman ’01 in the 2004 Athens Games. 

Dominating Track Stars

If Syracuse has been strong in rowing, the Orange has shined even more brightly in athletics. Syracuse Olympians have run, jumped, or thrown to win more medals in track and field events than any other sport. Prinstein started the medal count with five in the long and triple jumps between 1900 and 1906. But during the next 30 years, Orange Olympians added steadily to Prinstein’s cache: London 1908: Marquis Frank “Bill” Horr ’08, Greek-style discus, silver; freestyle discus, bronze; Stockholm 1912: Charlie Reidpath ’12, 400-meter dash, gold; 1600-meter relay, gold; Antwerp 1920: Al Woodring ’23, 200-meter dash, gold; Paris 1924: Chet Bowman ’24, 100-meter dash, fourth; Amsterdam 1928: Ray Barbuti ’28, 400-meter dash, gold; 1,600-meter relay, gold; Berlin 1936: Ed O’Brien ’37, 1,600-meter relay, silver.

It’s also worth noting that while discus thrower Anthony Washington ’90 did not medal, he made three U.S. Olympic track and field teams (1992, 1996, 2000), a remarkable feat in itself. This Olympian’s best finish came in the 1996 Atlanta Games, where he placed fourth, coming up 15 inches shy of a bronze medal. 

Great Coaching 

At the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, Orange head basketball coach Jim Boeheim ’66, G’73 served as an assistant to Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski, which reunited Boeheim with Carmelo Anthony. And while most Syracuse sports fans know Boeheim is in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, fewer know the stories of two other Olympic coaches with Syracuse backgrounds. 

Tom Coulter ’56 steered the 1988 U.S. men’s boxing team to eight medals (three of them gold) in Seoul. Coulter, who lettered in boxing, track, and cross country during the 1950s, made his greatest mark as a coach of American boxers during the intense rivalry of the Cold War’s final decade. He continues his involvement in international boxing today. 

While Coulter guided U.S. athletes in the ring, Orange oarsman Drew Harrison ’68, G’92 led Olympians on the water. Harrison, whose Orange crews won three consecutive International Rowing Association championships (1976-78), coached the Olympic rowing teams of Canada in 1984 and 1988 and then Japan in 1992 and 1996.   

Judo Journey

Orange All-America wrestler Jason Morris ’89 competed in judo in four straight Olympics, starting in 1988, and was head coach of the USA team at the 2008 Beijing Games. He earned a silver medal in the 78-kilogram (172-pound) class at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. 

Just for Kicks

Siegbert Wirth ’54 played for the U.S. soccer team in the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics. Unfortunately, the American squad was toppled by eventual silver medalist Yugoslavia, 9-1, in its opening game. A soccer letterman at SU, where he played forward, Wirth was a native of Germany who served in the U.S. Army, and went on to a career as a chemical engineer. 

 International Flavor

With an increasingly international student body, SU has also served as alma mater to a growing number of Olympians who compete for the national teams of their home countries. Here’s a sampling: Canada: Adrian Woodley ’01 (track and field, 2000); Croatia: Miroslav Vucetic ’98 (swimming, 1996); Ghana: Sam Okantey ’00 (track and field, 2000); Hungary: Boldizsar Kiss ’10 (swimming, 2004); Puerto Rico: Jose Betancourt ’86 (wrestling, 1984, 1992, 1996); Jose Gonzalez ’99 (swimming, 1996); Orlando Rosa ’91 (wrestling, 1996); Switzerland: Stefanie Marty ’11 (ice hockey, 2010); Former Yugoslavia: Djordje Filipovic ’02 (swimming, 2000).

Rick Burton ’80 is the David B. Falk Professor of Sport Management at SU and was the chief marketing officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.



Prinstein-team.jpgMyer Prinstein (right), pictured with SU teammates, was an acclaimed athlete on the Hill who went on to win four Olympic gold medals.

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Orange star Ray Barbuti ’28 (far left) poses with members of the gold medal-winning 1,600-meter relay team at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. Barbuti, who ran the anchor leg in the relay, also brought home gold for the United States in the 400-meter dash. 



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Anna Goodale ’05 collected a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics competing for the U.S. team in the eight with coxswain.



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Discus thrower Anthony Washington ’90 appeared in four Olympic Games, placing fourth at the 1996 Atlanta Games.



horr_1907.jpgMarquis Frank  “Bill” Horr won two medals throwing the discus at the 1908 London Games.