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slides: A Look Back at Massachusetts’ Greatest Olympic Athletes

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


Spanning from the 18th Century to the 2012 London Games, athletes from Massachusetts have had a historically strong presence at the Olympics. From the row boat to the balance beam, Bay State natives have dominated their sports, taking their talents to the international level.

With the 2012 London Games fast approaching, we take a look back at some of the best Massachusetts athletes ever to compete for Team USA.

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Shalane Flanagan

Women's Athletics -- A native of Marblehead, Flanagan took the bronze in the women’s 10,000 meters at the 2008 Beijing Games, breaking her own U.S. record with a new time of 30:22:22 and becoming only the second U.S. woman to ever medal in the event.

After attending Marblehead High School, Flanagan competed for UNC Chapel Hill, winning national cross-country championships in 2002 and 2003.

Competing in just her second marathon ever, Flanagan set the U.S. trial record at 2:25:38 at the 2012 Olympic Team Trials to earn a trip to the London Games.

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Stuart McNay

Men's Sailing -- After competing in 470m the 2008 Games, skipper Stuart McNay will compete once again in London in the hopes of earning a medal, an accomplishment that eluded him in Beijing. He and crew Graham Biehl are currently ranked ninth in the world, their highest ranking to date.

Growing up in Newton, McNay then attended Roxbury Latin and went on to sail at Yale University, where he was a finalist for College Sailor of the Year in 2005. He was named an All-American in 2003 and 2005.

McNay currently serves as an assistant coach to the Yale Bulldog women’s sailing team. 

(Image courtesy Yale University's Department of Athletics)

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Henry Richardson

Men's Archery -- At just 15 years old, Richardson became one of the youngest American medalists as a member of the Boston Archery Club that took bronze at the 1904 St. Louis Games. Just four years later he won an individual bronze at the 1908 London Olympics.

Richardson graduated from Harvard in 1910 and Harvard Medical School in 1914 and began working at Cornell Medical School. At the age of 54, he returned to school at Columbia University where he studied psychiatry.

After practicing psychiatry and working at the medical schools at both Columbia and NYU, Richardson died in 1963 at the age of 74.

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Harold "Hal" Connolly

Men's Athletics -- A gold medal winner in the hammer throw at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Connolly was the first American to throw more than 200 feet.

Over the course of his career, Connolly broke the world record seven times. He competed in three subsequent Olympics after his gold medal performance, finishing 8th in 1960 and 6th in 1964 before failing to qualify for the final in 1968.

During the 1956 Olympics he met Olga Fikatova, who won gold that same year for Czechoslovakia in the discus throw. They were married the next year, although they later divorced. Connolly was remarried to Pat Winslow, a three-time Olympian herself. He died in 2010 at the age of 79.

(Image courtesy Boston College's Department of Athletics)

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Alicia Sacramone

Women's Gymnastics -- Sacramone was the captain of the silver medal winning 2008 Women’s Gymnastics team. The Winchester native is the most decorated women’s gymnast in U.S. history at the World Championships, winning ten total medals—four golds, four silvers, and two bronzes.

Following the 2008 Beijing Games, Sacramone retired from competition. Her retirement did not last long however, and she returned in 2009. In 2011 she competed in the U.S. National Championships, placing first on the vault and third on the beam. Later in the year she was awarded a gold medal as part of the U.S. team at the World Championships even though she did not compete due to a torn Achilles’ tendon.

Sacramone failed in her bid for a spot on the 2012 London team.

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Joe Levis

Men's Fencing -- A three-time Olympian in 1928, 1932, and 1936, Levis won two medals in 1932 in Los Angeles: the silver medal in Individual Foil and the bronze medal in Team Foil.

Heading into the 1936 Berlin games he was ranked number one in the world, becoming the first American to receive the highest rank. He was also a captain of the 1936 Olympic team.

After retiring in 1937, he decided to return to competition in 1949. In 1954, he won the national championship in the Individual Foil. Some consider Levis’ achievement the greatest comeback in fencing history, and in amateur sports of that era. He died in 2005 at the age of 99.

(Image courtesy of the Museum of American Fencing)

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Henry Marsh

Men's Athletics -- Marsh competed in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase in three Olympics: 1976, 1984, and 1988. He also made the team for the boycotted 1980 games.

Despite being ranked No. 1 in the world for three years and heading into the 1984 Olympics with a No. 2 world ranking, Marsh never took home an Olympic medal. He broke the American record four times in his career, with his most recent mark lasting until 2006.

Now living in Utah, he is the Founder and Vice Chairman of MonaVie, a health juice company.

(Image courtesy of Brigham Young University)

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John Thomas

Men's Athletics -- Thomas competed in the high jump in two consecutive Olympics, earning the bronze medal at the 1960 Rome Games and the silver medal at the 1964 Tokyo Games.

While a freshman at Boston University, Thomas became the first person to ever clear a seven-foot jump indoors. He also broke the outdoor world record three times. A favorite to win gold in both Olympics, he was upset most notably in 1964 when he and the gold medal winner both cleared the same top height, although Thomas had more misses at lower heights.

He later became a track coach before working as a businessman.

(Image courtesy Boston Univeristy's Department of Athletics)

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Jarrod Shoemaker

Men's Triathalon -- Originally from Sudbury, Shoemaker was a member of the U.S. triathlon team at the 2008 Beijing Games, finishing in 18th place.

He attended Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, where he participated in cross-country, track, and swimming. He went on to run track and cross-country at Dartmouth before making the transition to triathlons.

After beating out some of the country’s top runners in the 2008 Olympic Qualifications to make the U.S. team, he was featured on the Wheaties Box. He won the 2009 International Triathlon Union’s World Championship in the duathalon (a run-bike-run format race), and most recently teamed up with Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference for the 2012 Marlborough Triathlon.

(Image courtesy Jason Mrachina, flickr)

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Karen Stives

Equestrian -- Stives was the anchor of the U.S. eventing team that won gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. That year, she also became the first female U.S. equestrian to win an individual medal, taking the silver on Ben Arthur.

After retiring from competition, Stives remained active within the eventing community, becoming a judge and serving as Chief of the U.S. Equestrian Team Selection Committee for ten years.

Stives was inducted into the U.S. Eventing Association Hall of Fame in 2006 and currently resides in Dover, where she also owns a barn. 

(Image courtest Karen Stives)

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David "Skippy" Browning

Men's Diving -- Skippy Browning won a gold medal in springboard diving at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. He never scored less than seven points on any of his dives in his championship performance. After his medal win, he climbed up a flagpole to steal an Olympic flag and was arrested.

Browning attended the University of Texas, where he won four NCAA titles between 1949 and 1956. He also won six AAU indoor and two outdoor championships.

Just two weeks before his training for the 1956 Olympics was set to begin, Browning, who was a Lieutenant in the Navy, crashed his jet in Kansas and was killed. He was 24. 

(Image courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin)

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Dina Rizzo

Women's Hockey -- Rizzo was a member of the women’s field hockey team that finished 8th overall at the 2008 Beijing Games.

She was a standout player for Walpole High School, becoming the first player from Massachusetts to score more than 100 points. She then played for the Maryland Terrapins, helping the team win the national title in 1999 and finish second in 2001, when she was named an All-American.

Rizzo returned to Maryland in 2010 as an assistant coach. On the national level, Rizzo has played alongside two former Terps named to the 2012 London roster—Keli Smith Puzo and Katie O’Donnell—and even coached O’Donnell during her senior year at Maryland.

(Image courtesy Maryland Athletics)

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Bruce Hunter

Men's Swimming -- Hunter took fourth in the 100-meter freestyle at the 1960 Rome Games, missing the bronze medal by just 0.2 seconds. He nearly missed qualifying for the Olympic Games, as he placed seventh in the 100-meter semi-finals, but came back to place second in the finals to go on to compete in Rome.

In high school, Hunter was a one-man swim team for Cambridge High and Latin, and was named an All-American in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle his sophomore year. He went on to swim for Harvard, where he set NCAA records in the 50 and 100-free within his first two years.

Amazingly, for all his accomplishments in the pool, Hunter is nearly blind and had to either wear his glasses or be led to the starting block. 

(Image courtesy Harvard Athletics)

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Dorothy "Dottie" Morkis

Equestrian -- The anchor of the bronze medal winning U.S. Equestrian team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics riding Monaco, Morkis also achieved the highest individual ranking of any U.S. rider up until that time, finishing in fifth place.

After her Olympic appearance, Morkis continued to compete nationally and internationally. She still rides with horse Mr. Big.

Currently located in Dover, Morkis now offers private lessons and training locally in Massachusetts. She also offers clinics and coaching at all levels of competition.

(Image courtesy Dottie Morkis Dressage)

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Elliot Hovey

Men's Rowing -- After finishing 12th in the 2008 Beijing double sculls event, Hovey (pictured far left) will take to the water again in London to compete in the men’s quadruple sculls.

Hailing from Manchester-By-The-Sea, he attended Salisbury School in Connecticut and went on to row for the California Golden Bears at the University of California, Berkeley. He now lives in Chula Vista, California.

According to his bio on the U.S. Rowing website, Hovey is “considering pursuing an MBA, helping a start-up brewing company in Alameda, Calif., being a fishing guide or running for President” after the 2012 Olympics are over.

(Image courtesy Michael Pimentel, GoldenBearSports.com)

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Caitlin Bilodeaux

Women's Fencing -- A two-time Olympian in 1988 and 1992, Bilodeaux originally hailed from Concord, Massachusetts and attended Columbia University.

She won the United States Foil Association Women’s Championship four times and the Pan-American Individual and Team championship; she is also a two-time NCAA women’s foil champion and four-time all American.

She is married to former the fencing Olympian from Canada, Jean-Marie Banos.

(Image courtesy of the Museum of American Fencing)

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Frank Scully

Men's Sailing -- Scully was a crew member of the boat Bingo, which won the bronze medal in the 5.5 mixed metres event at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

He attended Harvard University, where he won the intercollegiate Dinghy championship in 1948.

Scully spent most of his life in Marblehead and died in 1998 at the age of 73.

(Image courtesy Anne Scully)

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Karen O'Connor

Equestrian -- O’Connor, who grew up in Bolton, has represented Team U.S.A. in five Olympic Games between 1988 and 2008. At the 1996 Atlanta Games she received the team silver medal riding Biko, and at the 2000 Sydney Games she took team bronze riding Prince Panache.

She has been named U.S. Female Equestrian of the Year ten times and was ranked number one in the world in 1993. She is married to David O’Connor, a decorated equestrian himself, who among other accomplishments, won individual gold in Sydney riding Custom Made with the highest Olympic score ever.

O’Connor has been short-listed for the 2012 Olympic Team and is currently competing at trials in England. The final list will be announced July 2nd.

(Image courtesy flickr)

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Anne Warner

Women's Rowing -- Warner was a member of the United States eight boat that won the bronze medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

She made the Olympic team for the boycotted 1980 games, and was also on the national team that finished second in the 1975 World Championships.

She attended Yale University for her undergraduate degree and then went on to Harvard Law School. She now practices law in New York.

(Image courtesy Yale University's Department of Athletics)

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Stephen Brooks

Men's Rowing -- Brooks (pictured second from left in the stroke position) was a member of the Harvard eight crew that represented the United States at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

He was on the team in the three-spot, but the high altitude in Mexico proved to be a game changer and the line-up had to be shuffled, putting Brooks in the stroke position. The team finished second in the qualifying race, despite being in last place at the half-way mark. They couldn’t achieve their dream of Olympic gold, however, and placed sixth in the finals.

Brooks now serves as the Chair of Friends of Harvard and Radcliffe Rowing.

(Image courtesy Harvard Athletics)


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