At a school known more for its Nobel Prize winners, it’s easy for athletes–even Olympians–to get overshadowed. But the Institute’s Olympic history dates back to Athens in 1896–the site of the first modern Olympics.
According to records compiled by the Alumni Association and DAPER, 25 alumni representing eight countries have competed in 11 sports at 29 Summer and Winter Olympics, winning two gold, two silver, and three bronze medals. (See DAPER’s list.)
Thomas Pelham Curtis, Class of 1894 and MIT’s first Olympian, won the gold medal for the U.S. in the 110-meter hurdles at the first Games in Athens. Curtis recounted his Olympic experience in a July 1924 issue of Technology Review.
Additional alumni Olympic medalists include: Johan Harmenberg ’81, who won gold for Sweden in fencing in 1980; Ralph Evans ’48, who won silver for the U.S. in sailing in 1948; John Marvin ’49, who won bronze for the U.S. in sailing in 1956; and Andrew Weaver MArch ’86 won bronze for the U.S. in cycling in 1984.
The 1980s saw Institute alumnae compete in the Olympics for the first time. Janet Goldman ’89 represented the U.S. in speed skating in 1984 and 1988, and Elizabeth Bradley ’83, SM ’86, PhD ’92 represented the U.S. in rowing in 1988.
In the past 20 years alone, the Institute had six Olympians from six different countries: Nate Ackerman PhD ’04 (Great Britain) in freestyle wrestling in 2004; Pat Antaki ’84 (Lebanon) in the skeleton in 2006; Paula Lewin ’93 (Bermuda) in sailing in 1992, 1996, and 2004; Chinedum Osuji PhD ’01 (Trinidad and Tobago) in taekwondo in 2004; Alexis Photiades ’91, SM ’92 (Cyprus) in skiing in 1988 and 1992; and Steve Tucker ’91 (U.S.) in rowing in 2000 and 2004.
Perhaps the most enduring MIT Olympian, name-wise, is Henry G. Steinbrenner ’27. The father of the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and the namesake behind MIT’s Steinbrenner Stadium, Henry Steinbrenner competed in the 220-yard hurdles in 1928.
MIT has not had an Olympian compete since Antaki in 2006, but there is hope for the future. Wyatt Ubellacker ’13, the first MIT swimmer to compete at the U.S. Olympic trials, finished 0.1 seconds shy of advancing to the semi-finals of the 50-meter freestyle event at the 2012 trials. Michael A. Nackoul ’13 finished third at the USA Weightlifting Senior Nationals in the 85-kilogram weight class and has his sights set on Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
MIT alumni Olympic records are inexact. Have we left anyone out? Is there someone we should keep an eye on in the future? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook.
Update: Thanks to the investigative work—and memory—of our alumni readers, this story and DAPER’s list have been updated to include even more MIT alumni Olympians.