Olympic Cornellians

24 02 2014


If I was a little better at timing things, I might have managed to get this entry out before the closing ceremonies in Sochi. But, better to get this out now than to wait for Rio in 2016.

In keeping with current events and the Cornell mouthpieces providing updates on Cornellians participating in the winter games, I decided to compile a few pieces of information regarding Big Red staff, alumni or current students participating in any Olympic games since their modern inception in 1896.

Originally, I was going to use a combo of a pdf that Cornell Athletics put out during the Vancouver games, a London 2012 update, and a current piece regarding CU representation in Sochi. But, whether it’s something new or something I missed the first time through, Cornell put out an updated sheet with a little bit of HTML.

Starting with 3 Cornellians in the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, Cornell has had a combined 98 Cornellians participate in the Olympic games (81 summer, 17 winter— the first winter game representative was Richard “Dick” Parke 1916, at the 1928 games in St. Moritz). Another 9 were alternates, 2 more were injured and could not participate, and 1 lost out due to the 1980 boycott. One of the injured ones, Helen Mund White ’57, had another chance four years later (Melbourne 1956), but gave up her spot on the Chilean diving team to her sister. Almost all of these Olympians were Cornell undergrads, but at least two were J.D.s, and one just has “graduate studies” for his year of graduation.

Of the 98 Cornell Olympians, 80 represented the United States; the others have represented 9 other countries (Canada, Chile, Greece, Guyana, Hungary, Mexico, Sweden, Trinidad & Tobago, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which is permitted to have its own team). The 1964 games in Tokyo had 9 Cornellians representing, making it the deepest field the Big Red has ever served up to the Olympics, while Sochi has the strongest winter Olympics showing with 5. Given that most Olympians are on the young side, it probably comes as no surprise that many of these 98 were students while participating in the Olympics; I imagine that balancing the course-load was a challenge, to say the least.

If we count all the medals won by Cornellians, then the Big Red has earned 7 bronze, 16 silver, and 20 gold medals in the summer Olympics, and 1 bronze, 3 silver and 8 gold in the winter Olympics (included the 4 gold and the bronze earned this year at Sochi). In numbers of medals overall (55), that would put us between North Korea (49) and Kazakhstan (59), while 28 golds puts Cornell between Kenya (25) and Greece (30). In theory, Cornell is better stacked than about three-quarters of the participating nations.

The next time someone pokes fun at Ivy League sports teams due to their lack of strength in traditional “American” sports, feel free to cite this post as ammunition.

News Tidbits 9/30/2011: A Big Red Bandhouse

30 09 2011

At my time at Cornell, I was fortunate enough to have friends in the Big Red Band, and I could listen to all their stories/drunk antics when I was at work (I left with the impression that the Big Red Band was basically like an extra-large fraternity with talent). I never really cared to pay much attention to the Bandies because it was never where my interest lied; I didn’t follow CU Athletics, and a big school at Cornell could afford to let people diverge into their separate interests, and for me it lay elsewhere. But, I can imagine a few certain alumni that I know must be celebrating right now.

According to the monthly alumni newsletter, the Big Red Band is about to get a facility of their own. Thanks to some large finacial contributions from band alumni David and Sarah Fischell (Fischell Hall? I think so!), the initial funding/planning is underway for a multi-million dollar band facility that will be located behind the Schoellkopf Crescent.

If I had to venture a guess on the exact siting, I would say somewhere on the parking lot, or close to the substation.  The upcoming expansion of Wilson Lab will prevent any other new structure from being built west of that facility.

As for the architecture firm, the name is familiar to Cornell – Baird Sampson Neuert, out of Toronto. They previously designed the Nevin Welcome Center in the the Plantations, and I’m sure whatever they design for the Bandhouse will only further the firm’s commitment to modern/ultramodern, geometric structures. The structure, though still in the design stage, it expected to have 6,400 sq ft and be at least three stories tall. The height is necessary due to sound pressures created by hundreds of musical instruments created at once, so a large volume is needed to spread out the force. Groundbreaking is expected to occur next year, with completion in Spring 2013, and dedication at the 2013 Homecoming, where the Big Red Band alumni group hopes to gather 500 muscially-inclined alumni for the event.

A Blind Eye to Sports

8 11 2009

As anyone who doesn’t live under an Ithacan rock knows, Cornell had its much-publicized and anticipated match against Harvard on the ice of Lynah Rink last night. Much to Cornell’s delight, the Big Red skated to an impressive victory over the Crimson, with a final score of 6-3.

I feel like I’m one of a handful of undergrads on this campus who really doesn’t give a damn.

Not that I don’t have respect for athletes at Cornell. I give them by full respect. It’s just that I have never followed sports, with the slight exception of cross country and track back in junior high and high school because I was on the team (and let’s be honest, they’re just not the same when it comes to skill or competitive spirit). I’m content to sit back and watch everyone else get excited, because I’m just disinterested in Cornell sports. I’m never sat all the way through a Cornell game in any sport.

So, unsurprisingly I never mention sports on this blog, unless there’s historical worth to mentioning it. Which I can briefly do now.

Back in the day of the university founding years, the big sport for students to follow was crew, aka rowing. A.D. White was a member of a rowing club during his own collegiate years at Yale (Bishop 33). The first boating clubs formed in 1871, and a regatta was held the following spring (if you could call it that). The first big victory came at Saratoga in 1875, much to the joy of the school and the town (story goes that A.D. White broke into McGraw Hall Tower and rang the chimes himself). Baseball and football were vague diversions, not even intercollegiate until 1874 (Bishop 134). Cornell actually had its own rules of football that no one cared about, so the university didn’t take a substantial interest in football until about 1886. The Cornell Atheltic Association formed in 1889 (296). The first athletic area, built in the same year, was off campus on what is now the site of Ithaca High School, and was called Percy Field after the donor’s son, who was at the time a student athlete at Cornell. Hockey was recognized in 1900, basketball a year later. Lacrosse started up in 1885, but was  like clothing fashions among students, coming back into and going out of style every few years.

Hockey was originally played on Beebe Lake. The idea of bringing it to Cornell came from a professor of engineering named Johnny Parson. Hecne, the establishment of the Johnny Parson Club. When the lake began to melt, the team would use the Ithaca city ice rink. The team won what might be its first intercollegiate championship in 1911 (417).

So, Bishop’s history of Cornell only mentions hockey twice, and was published in 1962, suggesting the sport was still on the periphery of athletics at that time. That was also the same year that underdog Cornell outplayed perennial powerhouse Harvard. Things started to get more interesting when the Harvard/Cornell hockey rivalry started to heat up in 1973 with Harvard’s tossing off a chicken at Cornell goalie Dave Elenbaas, as a knock against the Ag School (of course, nowadays we can depend on our alumni to knock the ag school). So Cornell students responded later that month by throwing fish onto the rink. As the decade wore on and Harvard’s program weakened, the Big Red wasn’t content to let things slide, so the rivalry has been intensified since the incident.

So that’s why Cornell-Harvard tickets can be so expensive, and why this one game is as close as Cornell gets to the storied rivalries of Big Ten schools. Some of us are more into it than others though.