The University Record, June 25, 1996

New Web page examines U-M at the Olympics

Eddie Tolan's victories in the 100 and 200 meter sprints at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles brought the U-M a unique distinction. The sprinter from Detroit set two Olympic records in joining U-M gold medalists Archie Hahn and Ralph Craig as double winners in the sprints. No other university can match the record in Olympic competition. Tolan competed for Michigan in 1929-31.


By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

The Bentley Historical Library has mounted a WorldWide Web page giving a comprehensive history of U-M athletes and alumni who have participated in the Modern Olympics from 1900 to those who have qualified for the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

With text, images and statistics, Greg Kinney, an associate archivist of the Michigan Historical Collections at the Bentley, has organized a mountain of information and facts that can easily be accessed chronologically, by Olympic year or by the name of the individual athlete.

"The most interesting part of preparing the page was discovering the large number of U-M students and coaches who have participated in the games, particularly those who were not varsity athletes," Kinney says. "While the medal winners have received the most publicity over the years, I hope the page will bring a measure of recognition to all those who have competed. Simply to make the team and partake in the Olympics is a remarkable achievement."

"Michigan in the Olympics" is available through the Bentley's home page at URL: It provides information on more than 140 U-M athletes and alumni who have participated in the games representing the United States and 18 other countries, winning 78 medals of which 36 were gold, 19 silver and 23 bronze.

The U-M has produced medal winners every year but 1896 and gold medalists in all but four Olympiads. Another 14 U-M coaches and former athletes have served as coaches or managers of U.S. teams.

Kinney's research shows there was no organized U.S. team for the Paris Olympics in 1900, yet a number of universities were sponsoring squads. As Kinney's Web page says, "Michigan had just defeated Chicago for the Western track crown when it was learned that Chicago was sending athletes to Paris. For Professor Albert Pattengill and others, it became a point of pride that the champions of the West should also be represented at the Olympics."

Funds were sought from faculty, students and alumni as well as Ann Arbor businessmen. Four track men were sent to Paris along with coach Keene Fitzpatrick and two additional students. This U-M squad brought back three silver medals, but not without controversy that swirled around competing on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. Some U.S. teams agreed not to compete on Sunday, others broke the agreement and still others fell victim to rescheduling efforts. The controversy resulted in several special competitions to accommodate the Americans, competitions in which the U-M's pole vaulter won a silver medal.

From that beginning, Michigan athletes and coaches have built a strong Olympic tradition. Three track men won both the 100 and 200 meter races, the first African American to win an individual gold medal was a Michigan student, the first ever U.S. gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling and kayaking were won by Michigan alumni, and coach Dick Kimball has made Michigan a training ground for men and women diving medalists for 30 years.

The Bentley's Olympic Web page will be available through December.