Since the 2008 Games, there have been anaverage of fourteen University Olympians participating in the Games,an increasefrom the three to four Olympians participating a quadrennial within the past decade.
2008: Better Colored Hardware
Puerto Rican swimmer Douglas Lennox ’09 said that Beijing was a veryexcitingcity of really kindhearted and enthusiastic citizens.
“Their appreciation and admiration of the Olympic athletes, coaches and spectators was apparent in their hospitality, curiosity and support not just when we arrived but throughout the entire month of August when the Games were occurring,” Lennox said.
Lennox added that he met a lot of people from the University community while at the Games, in addition to the fifteen Olympians from the University competing at the Games.
“There was a Friends of Princeton dinner in Beijing where they gave us each a fancy Chinese stamp-making kit with our initials,” Lennox added.
American rower Lia Pernell ’03 said that one of her favorite parts of the Games was the Olympic Village, which she and her teammates arrived inafter their races ended.
“Everyone there [at the Village] had worked so hard on their sport and just got to the Olympic level. And it was great to be able to see people and talk to athletes from other countries. That was one of the best parts —it was a lot of fun,” Pernell said.
American rower Steve Coppola ’06 said that the rowers also did not attend the Opening Ceremonies, since their races were scheduledthe morning after.
“If we would have gone to the opening ceremony, we would have gotten back to our hotel until4 a.m.And that would not have been conducive to a good performance. So we were really insulated from a lot of what was going on until after our competition was over,” he said.
Canadian rower Andréanne Morin ’04 said that the Opening Ceremonies in Beijing were special to her because she walked into the Bird's Nest, or the Beijing Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremonies on her birthday night.
“The Beijing Olympic flame is still the largest birthday candle I ever have had,” Morin said.
She had attended her first junior world championships the summer of her 17th birthday.
“[I] thought it was such a privilege to row with a maple leaf in my blade and represent my country. From that point on, I set my sight on an even bigger dream [the Games],” Morin said.
The Canadian women’s eights boat that Morin rowed in placed fourth —“0.6 out of silver," according to Morin.
“Beijing was a gut-wrenching race… and even though we did execute our race well, I kept thinking things could gone differently on any other given day,” Morin said.
Pernell, who rowed in the quadruple sculls, said that though a lot of rowers on the National team were close, their relationship was a little more professional than her relationship with her college roommates.
“In some ways, at that point, it [rowing] is your job. You’re showing up and you’re working hard and you’re competing against your teammates. And everyone is aware of it,” she said.
Pernell said thatbefore the race, she was extremely nervous because she had been thinking about it for years.
“I remember sort of looking at teammates and thinking, okay, this is it. Like, this is our chance to show what we have,” she said.
Her boat finished in fifth place at the Games.
American rower Paul Teti ’01, who was competing in his third Olympics at the 2008 Games, said that he had matured as an athlete over the three Games.
“I knew that that  was going to be my last Olympics. I knew that that was those were the last strokes I was going to take on behalf of my country, so that carries with it certain kinds of emotions,” Teti said.
Teti said that during his race, he tried to tune these emotions out and make it more about the process. His coxless four boat finished in ninth place.
Teti, who now lives near the University, said that he has stayed in touch with the sport —he donates financial resources to support rowers, and sometimes even walks to the finish line at the University’s course to watch the teams compete on weekends.
“I owe the sport quite a lot,” Teti said.
Lennox said that during his races at the Games, he went through a checklist of things he planned to do in his ideal race, and focused in on the moment by thinking one moment at a time.
“[I was] remembering that I have prepared the best I can for this race and that now is the time to express my character through execution of my race strategy. Ultimately, whatever happens, you must remind yourself to push through any fatigue or adversity because any momentary self-doubt can really slow you down,” Lennox said.
Lennox placed 38thin his 100 and 200 meter butterfly events.
Coppola said that it was special to sit on the starting line and see his college roommate, Australian rower Sam Loch ’06, in another boat.
“I remember walking up to him before the race and saying, 'Hey Sam, good luck. I hope you get a medal. I hope mine’s a nicer color than yours, but I hope you come away with a medal.' And he looks at me and he says, 'Steve, same,'" Coppola said.
Coppola said that before his race, he tried to distract himself by reading. He added that during the race, it is hard to have the cognitive capacity to think about too much.
“If you try to worry about where the others crews are, you’re devoting too much time to them and not enough to yourself,” he added.
At the 500 meter mark during the race, Coppola’s eights boat was in last place.
Coppola said that his boat had started out too strong in the heats, which had “put in a deficit” going in to the last quarter. That is why his team had focused on a slightly more relaxed start in the finals, which may have ended up being too relaxed.
Coppola said that during the race, his crew decided to try to move through one crew at a time. Their coxswain told us where other crews are, and what their speed was. His crew went on to have a very strong second quarter, which ultimately earned them the bronze medal.
“Well, the main thought was don’t throw up. I was pretty tired from racing,” Coppola said of his thoughts as he collected his medal.
2012: This is crazy
American table tennis playerErica Wu '18 said that she was not able to process the fact that she’d made the Olympic team despite the three months she had to do so.
"The Olympics were so abstract in my head. Like it’s always something that I see on TV; it’s always something that I hear about from other people. And it’s hard to believe that I was[an]Olympian," she said.
She said she began to believe that she was an Olympian when she arrived in London and received her uniform with the USA flag and Olympic rings.
Wu, who competed in the Games after sophomore year of high school, said she decided to not pursue the 2016 Games, instead planning to expand her horizons at the University and start building a career. Coming to the University meant that she would be unable to go to Rio, since she had to leave her table tennis club and coaches behind in California, she noted.
Wu is now president of the University’s table tennis club, where she sometimes plays matches against teammates such as former Olympian Ariel Hsing ’17.
American rower Gevvie Stone ’07 said that the moment she and her father, who is also her coach, stepped off the plane at Heathrow, they were greeted by two very friendly older gentlemen in very pink polo shirts.
“They pulled us out of the lines and speed walked us through the airport to our waiting bus. It was an amazing start to the experience —I felt like a celebrity! [It also] demonstrated how enthusiastic and good at their jobs the volunteers were in London! There was too much energy around to think about jet lag,” Stone said.
American file hockey midfielder Katie Reinprecht ’13 said one could sense that London was excited to host the Games immediately upon arrival in the city.
“The people were incredibly friendly and excited to welcome us into their city.When we arrived at the Village, it was a surreal experience. Walking in is like entering a mini-world of the United Nations, with athletes from all over the world donning their country’s colors,” Reinprecht said.
She added that the dining hall in the Village was an amazing experience, where each part of the world was represented by some sort of local cuisine. In addition, there was a McDonald's restaurant, which most athletes save for after competition.
Reinprecht, who competed alongside her sister Julia Reinprecht ’14, said that it is nice to know that she will always have her sister and best friend, who is her go-to person, on the field.
“I think I can speak for the team in saying we feel super lucky to have her on the field with us… Having a sister on the team means we get to share so many incredible experiences together and make memories that we can look back on for the rest of our lives,” Reinprecht said.
Stone and the Reinprecht sisters will both be competing at the Games in Rio de Janiero this year.
American fencer Soren Thompson ’05, who had competed in the 2004 and 2012 Games, had been unable to compete in the 2008 Gamesdue to an injury.
“[The injury keeping mefrom Beijing] was very devastating in the moment, when I felt my leg kind of get torn apart. I didn’t know what was happening exactly. I didn’t know the basis of what had physiologically transpired in my hamstring,” Thompson said.
He added that he came to the 2012 Games with London with “injury issues” where he had to mentally prepare himself to execute his bout plans and do what he wanted.
Thompson finished 19thin the individual men’s epee event.
American fencer Maya Lawrence ’02 also worked throughtwo serious ACL injuries that kept her from qualifying for the 2008 Games.
“Working through my injuries gave me a will to come back to the competition circuit as a better fencer with a stronger mental game,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence competed on the women’s epee team along with Susannah Scanlan ’14. Their team lost 45-36 to South Korea in the semi-finals, which left them with four hours before they had toface Russia for the bronze medal.
The final bout left USA and Russia tied at 30-30, which resulted in some extra time. In the overtime period, Lawrence’s teammate Courtney Hurley scored, taking her team to a bronze medal finish.
Lawrence said that for about five hours after the last bout, all she and her teammates could say was "this is crazy."
“[The final bout] was super tense! But it also kind of felt like any other competition, but with a much bigger crowd. I guess it did not really sink in until after the final touch, at which point it felt like the entire room went ballistic,” Scanlan said.
Scanlan added that she was “pretty shocked” that her team beat Russia, since they were considered one of the favorites going into London.
“I remember feeling so honored to be among a select few athletes to receive such recognition. Our team had gone though a lot in theyearsleading up to the Games, and I was happy that we were able to put our differences aside and bring all our individual talents together at just the right moment,” Lawrence said.
Canadian soccer player Diana Matheson ’08 too led her team to a bronze medal when she scored a rebound goal in the 92ndminute of the match, after a 4-3 semifinal loss to the United States. The bronze was Canada’sfirst medal in a traditional team sport since 1936.
American rower Glenn Ochal ’08 was a part of the coxless four that won a bronze medal at the 2012 Games.
“Before the final, we thought, let’s go out there and race and do our best. We just wanted to go as fast as possible and have our best race,” he said.
Ochal said that winning a bronze medal was very special to him, as was being able to represent the United States.
“I like competing, and more specifically competing in the highest level, which is the Olympics. And I,as most competitors do, want to be successful and win. So it was a great feeling [to win themedal],” Ochal said.
Matheson and Ochal will also be participating in the 2016 Games.
Canadian rower Andreanne Morin ’06 said that after a “gut wrenching” fourth place finish at the 2008 Games, she momentarily retired from the sport and went to law school in Montreal. In May 2010, however, she took a leave of absence from her studies to train for the 2012 Games.
“Those last twoyears[2010-2012] ended up being the bestyearsof my entire rowing career. The core athletes training for 2012 were exceptionally talented and we developed a trusting relationship with our coach. Team cohesion was there and was an important part of our success in London,” Morin said.
Morin said that before the race, her team wanted to execute the race plan and perform to the best of their abilities. Their coach told them to “go out there and put your hand in the fire".
The Canadian women’s eight boat that Morin and Lauren Wilkinson ’11 rowed in finished second, right behind the American women’s eight boat that Caroline Lind ’06 rowed in.
“We had a great race and I was thrilled to share that moment on the podium with my teammates as we waved to our parents in the stands…Savour this moment,” Morin said of her thoughts as she was awarded her medal.