Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Auburn at the Olympics


There are 27 former, future, or current Auburn athletes competing in this year's Olympics.

Yeah, we're badasses.

Here is the text from a recent Birmingham News article by Charles Goldberg:

Auburn's large Olympic contingent on world map
Aug. 8, 2008

Auburn fans may have to pull themselves away from football practice long enough to note the Olympics are beginning. Fans should watch because the Tigers have a vested interest in the international event.

Did you know that if Auburn was a nation, it would have the 65th largest contingent at the Games? It's true. Auburn has more athletes in Beijing than Georgia, the university, and almost as many as Georgia, the country. Auburn is in the upper percentile as the 65th largest "country" of the 205 nations participating.

Here's a story that I wrote in Friday's Birmingham News about all of that and the Tigers to watch, starring Huntsville's Margaret Hoelzer:

Swimmer Margaret Hoelzer doesn't know if she'll win Olympic gold in Beijing, but she knows what to expect.

An impromptu Auburn University alumni meeting is sure to break out.

Twenty-seven current, former or future Tigers will compete - a contingent so large that Auburn could be a nation unto itself, considering it would have the 65th-largest delegation among 205 countries.
Throw in a current coach, a former coach and two television commentators, and Auburn's influence is even greater.

Auburn athletes have won 14 gold medals since 1984. Hoelzer knows all about the tradition. She swam for the United States - and Auburn - in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and she gives Auburn one of its best chances to bring home gold this time after setting a world record in the 200-meter backstroke in June. She graduated from Auburn in 2005, but she's still a member of the club.

"It's really exciting to see so many friends," said Hoelzer, who comes from Huntsville. "One thing I think that is unique to Auburn is that we're such a family. It doesn't matter where we come from or what country or what state or wherever. That proves true in an international setting. We're all representing different countries and different teams, but, at the same time, we can all sit down and laugh and joke."

The 27 Auburn athletes represent 10 countries. Fifteen are swimmers. Twelve compete in track and field.

Besides Hoelzer, Auburn's best medal chances may come from Mark Gangloff, who won a gold medal in 2004 in the 400 swimming medley. He's in that event and the 100 breaststroke this time.

In track, look for Maurice Smith, who was the silver medalist in the decathlon in the 2007 World Championships for Jamaica; Kerron Stewart, who is ranked second in the world in the 100 and 200 meters while running for Jamaica; and Donald Thomas, who won the high jump at the 2007 World Championships for the Bahamas.

Auburn's Cesar Cielo will compete in four swimming events. He'll swim for Brazil and is a world-class sprinter.

Fred Bousquet will swim in three events for France, and Jeremy Knowles will swim in three events for the Bahamas.

Kirsty Coventry won a swimming silver and bronze for Zimbabwe in 2004. She is a former teammate of Hoelzer's at Auburn. Coventry will swim in four events, including against Hoelzer in a 100 backstroke prelim.

Hoelzer's specialty was supposed to be the 100. But she surprised herself in the 200 in a world-record time of 2:06.09.

"Maybe some people can predict things like that, but for me, I certainly wouldn't say I was anticipating a world record.

"I knew the capability was there, and the possibility, but it's definitely something you can't take for granted."

Hoelzer arrived early in Beijing and will stay throughout the event.

"This is something I've looked forward to," she said. "I'm staying."

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