BY ALLIE WHITE
Deputy Magazine Editor
Published February 8, 2010
Since the Paris games of 1900 through the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the University has seen 205 of its students and coaches participate in the international sporting event. If the University were its own country, the total medals won by its representatives — 65 gold, 30 silver and 38 bronze — would make the ‘U’ the 24th most successful country in the history of the games. What follows are some of the most intriguing and timeless stories of ‘U’ athletes and leaders to compete in the Olympics.
When Henry Jamison "Jam" Handy arrived at the University of Michigan, he had hopes of playing football for former coach Fielding Yost. But at 4-foot-1 and 86 pounds, he was offered a position as team mascot. Despite his initial setback, Handy went on to become the first Wolverine to ever medal in swimming at the Olympics, winning a bronze in the 440-yard breaststroke at the 1904 summer games in St. Louis.
Archie Hahn was the University's only Olympic representative in the 1906 games. The Athens games marked the first time the United States ever had an official team chosen by an Olympic Committee. After being selected by the Committee, Hahn won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash.
At the 1924 summer games in Paris, William DeHart Hubbard became the first African-American athlete to win an individual gold medal. Reaching 24 feet 5 inches in the running long jump, Hubbard easily earned the first place title. He then went on to set a world record in the event one year later with a jump of 25 feet 10 3/4 inches.
Though he didn't take up rowing until he was an MBA grad student, John Welchli was a member of the four-person team that won the silver medal at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. Nominated by the Detroit Free Press in 1996 as a "Michiganian of the Year," Welchli has been called "the most respected man on the Detroit River."
Maxine "Micki" King
Although varsity sports for women didn't exist at the University until the 1970s, Maxine "Micki" King trained with the men's head diving coach every day in preparation for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. After her first eight dives, King was in first place, but on her ninth, she hit the board and broke her left forearm. Despite not being able to lift her arm over her head, King completed her final dive and placed fourth overall. At the 1972 games in Munich, King came back and won gold.
In a sport dominated by athletes from the former Soviet bloc nations, University alum Steve Fraser brought home the first-ever gold medal for the United States in Greco-Roman wrestling. At the 1984 games in Los Angeles, Fraser defeated the three-time world champion from Sweden to place first.
During the Seoul games of 1988, one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott led the United States baseball team to a first-place finish. Born without a right hand, Abbott learned to play despite his apparent disadvantage by quickly slipping his left hand into his glove to field after releasing the ball for a pitch.
Perhaps the most well-known University athlete in the entire world, Michael Phelps has won the most gold medals of any Olympian — six from the 2004 Athens games and eight from Beijing in 2008. His performance in Beijing also set the record for the most gold medals won in a single Olympics.