Penn State Olympians

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As the Olympic Flame finishes its trip around the globe, a  school-record 19 Penn Staters are gearing up to represent their school  and countries at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Opening ceremonies at  the Olympics take place July 27.

Not including the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, where 65 countries did  not participate, Penn State has sent athletes to each Olympic Games  since 1948, a streak of 15-consecutive Games. Nittany Lion athletes also  competed at the 1908 and 1948 Games in London, now the only city to be  chosen to host the event three times. Walter Bahr, Penn State’s men’s  soccer coach from 1974-87, was one of nine competitors from the school  at the 1948 Games.

In all, Penn State competitors have won 23 medals, including five  gold-medal efforts, from 78 Olympians. Former men’s gymnastics  assistant coach Kevin Tan  is the most recent Penn Stater to medal in the Olympics, earning a team  bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Suzanne McConnell was the last  Penn Stater to capture a gold medal, earning the medal as a member of  the 1988 U.S. women’s basketball team. McConnell also took home bronze  at the 1992 Games.

The 2012 Nittany Lion contingent consists of competitors from  seven sports, including both male and female competitors in fencing,  track & field and volleyball. Natalie Dell will make history for the  school as the first Nittany Lion to compete in rowing at the Olympics.

Four competitors are current student-athletes at Penn State,  while an additional 14 alumni and one Nittany Lion coach will also  compete. Eight individuals will represent seven countries other than the  U.S., including Canada, Great Britain, Israel, Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto  Rico, and Suriname.

Penn State will be well represented in track & field with five athletes. Dominique Blake,  a 2008 graduate, earned a spot in the Jamaican relay pool on the heels  of a sixth-place finish in the women’s 400 final. The former NCAA  champion in 4×400-meter relay already has some international experience  under her belt, competing for Jamaica in the open 400 at the World  Indoors, where she finished as a semi-finalist.

Shana Cox  will represent Great Britain in the 400-meter event. Cox, another 2008  graduate, was an 11-time All-American and NCAA champion in the 400- and  4×400-meter relay as a Nittany Lion.

Kirsten Nieuwendam  (Paramibo, Suriname), who owns sophomore eligibility indoors and  freshman eligibility outdoors at Penn State, is set to compete in the  200-meters for her home country of Suriname. The trip will be the second  for Nieuwendam, who competed in the same event at the Beijing Games in  2008. Nieuwendam enjoyed outstanding success in 2012, finishing second  in both the 400-meters and 4×400-meter relay at the Big Ten Indoor  Championships, before adding another silver medal in the 4×400, as well  as a third-place effort in the 200 at the outdoor conference meet.

Bridget Franek, a 2010 graduate, and Ryan Whiting,  a volunteer head coach for the Nittany Lions, will compete for the  United States. Franek qualified for her first career Olympic berth,  placing second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic  Trials in Eugene, Ore. Franek, who was an NCAA champion in the event in  2010, matched her highest-ever US finish in the effort, thanks to a  finishing time of 9:35.62. A 10-time NCAA All-American while wearing the  Blue and White, Franek clinched a spot on her third U.S. squad, having  traveled to the IAAF World Championships in 2009, and 2011. Whiting –  the defending World Indoor Champion in the shot put – also earned his  first Olympic spot, via a second-place finish in his signature event.  One of the top throwers in the world as well as a volunteer coach on the  Nittany Lion track & field staff, Whiting recorded a toss of  71-0.75 (21.66) to finish second to only Reese Hoffa’s 72-2.25 (22.00).  Whiting is also no stranger to qualifying for U.S. teams, representing  his country at the 2011 IAAF World Outdoor Championships, and 2012 IAAF  World Indoor Championships. The Harrisburg, Pa., native was a six-time  NCAA Champion while competing at Arizona State.

Four women’s volleyball players will be a part of the U.S. squad, including two 2009 graduates, Nicole Fawcett and Christa Harmotto, and 2010 graduates Alisha Glass Megan Hodge.  Harmotto and Hodge were both selections to the 12-player U.S. squad,  while Fawcett and Glass serve as alternates for the group.

The four Nittany Lions were all a part of Penn State’s historic  run to four straight NCAA titles between 2007-10. Harmotto and Fawcett  helped Penn State capture two (2007, 2008), while Hodge and Glass were  part of three (2007, 2008, 2009). The 2009 AVCA National Player of the  Year and ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year,  Hodge was a four-time First Team AVCA All-American. Hodge closed out her  Penn State career ranked second all-time in the record books with 2,142  career kills and amassed a career record of 142-5 (97%). She also  helped lead Penn State to 102 of its record-breaking 109-match winning  streak. Harmotto is second in the Penn State career records in hitting  percentage at .433 and fourth all-time in total blocks at 682.

Matt Anderson  will help lead the U.S. men’s volleyball team. A two-time AVCA  All-American and the 2008 AVCA co-National Player of the Year, Anderson  led Penn State to the 2008 NCAA title where he was named the Most  Outstanding Player of the championship. After leaving early to pursue a  professional volleyball career, Anderson has become a fixture on the  U.S. Men’s National Team. Most recently, Anderson led the U.S. Men to a  gold medal in the NORCECA Men’s Continential Olympic Qualification  Tournament where he was also named “Best Spiker”. He is making is first  Olympic Games appearance.

A trio of fencers also compete at the London Games with Miles Chamley-Watson (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Doris Willette representing the U.S. and Daniel Gomez-Tanamachi (Mexico City, Mexico) donning Mexico’s colors.

Chamley-Watson took the 2012 collegiate season off to pursue a  spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. It paid off as he qualified for the third  spot on the foil squad. This follows his junior season at Penn State in  2010-11 that saw him fence his way to All-America honors for the third  straight time with a runner-up finish. As a sophomore, Chamley-Watson  tied for third at NCAAs, duplicating his performance as a freshman in  2009. Willette, a four-time All-American and two-time national champion,  competed for Penn State from 2006-2011 and is making her second  straight appearance in the Olympic games. Willette left Penn State with a  117-14 dual record and won the NCAA title in the women’s foil in 2007  and 2009 and was an All-American in 2010 and 2011.

Gomez-Tanamachi will be making his first appearance at the  Olympics for his home country of Mexico.  He enjoyed a stellar junior  campaign in 2012, going 24-8 and placing first at the Mid-Atlantic/South  Regional to qualify for the National Championships. He defeated 13  opponents to claim 10th in the nation and was an Honorable Mention  All-American.  After the season, Gomez-Tanamachi claimed a spot on the  Mexico Men’s Foil Team for the 2012 Olympics in London and will return  to Penn State as a senior this fall.

Soccer alumnae Erin McLeod and Carmelina Moscato¸ both 2006  graduates, will take to the pitch for Canada this summer. McLeod left  Penn State as one of the most accomplished goalkeepers, earning NSCAA  All-America First Team honors after leading the Nittany Lions to a No. 1  ranking during the 2005 season and a Women’s College Cup berth. McLeod  was a two-time All-Big Ten First Team honoree, posting a 0.64 goals  against average and a record of 39-2-3. McLeod was also a semifinalist  for the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy, a rare feat for a  goalkeeper. Her counterpart, Moscato, was a defensive stalwart on the  2005 College Cup team. Moscato helped lead the Nittany Lions to four Big  Ten championships and the 2001 Big Ten Tournament championship. During  the 2005 season, Moscato and McLeod teamed up to lead PSU to its best  season ever at 23-0-2 with a 19-game winning streak. Along with McLeod,  Moscato has been a mainstay in the Canadian National Team defense,  earning trips to the 2003 and 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments.  Moscato is making her first Olympic appearance while McLeod is making  her second after competing at the Beijing Games.

A pair of Nittany Lions will also be active in men’s gymnastics competition. Alumnus Tommy Ramos and junior Felix Aronovich  (Kiryat Bialik, Israel) will represent Puerto Rico and Israel,  respectively. The duo gives Penn State two Olympic gymnasts at the same  Games for the first time since 1992 when Terry Bartlett and Ian Shelley  represented Great Britain in Barcelona. A six-time All-American under  the tutelage of Penn State head coach Randy Jepson,  Ramos played a prominent role in helping the Nittany Lions to the  program’s NCAA-record 12th national championship in 2007 and a Big Ten  title in 2008. A two-time Big Ten still rings champion, he held the Penn  State record in the event (16.000), set at the 2008 National Collegiate  Championships, until Scott Rosenthal broke it in the 2012 season opener against Army, scoring a 16.300.

Interestingly, Aronovich qualified twice for the Olympics, first  meeting the Olympic committee requirements at a test event in London in  January and then meeting the Israeli Olympic committee conditions by  placing 11th in the all-around at the European Championships in May. In  2012, Aronovich was a key member of a Penn State squad that finished  third at the National Collegiate Championships. He earned his first two  career All-America honors, placing seventh in the all-around during the  team finals and placing fifth in the parallel bars at the individual  finals. At the 2012 Big Ten Championships, Aronovich placed fourth in  the all-around, earning First Team All-Big Ten honors. The former Big  Ten Co-Freshman of the Year had his best collegiate season in 2012,  setting career highs in five of six events and the all-around. The  five-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Week has recorded 55 top three  finishes, including 29 title wins, during his collegiate career.

Dell, a 2007 graduate, is a third-year member of the U.S. Rowing  team after competing for the club-level Penn State squad, where she went  undefeated in 2006. Competing in women’s quadruple sculls, the 2012  Games mark the first Olympic trip for Dell. She offers strong  international experience, winning bronze in the quadruple sculls at the  2012 Samsung World Rowing Cup II and silver in the same event at the  2011 World Rowing Championships.

Cyclist Bobby Lea, a 2006 graduate, will travel to his second  Olympics this summer after competing in Beijing in 2008. The endurance  cyclist will look to improve upon his 16th-place showing in the Madison  event in 2008, this time competing in the Omnium. Lea won 30 collegiate  national titles as a part of the Penn State Cycling Team before turning  pro after graduation. Since the Beijing Games, Lea has collected four  national championships, including gold in the Individual Pursuit and the  Omnium at the 2011 USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships

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