Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, The Michigan Daily takes a look at Michigan’s olympic athletes and their performances at the Games, both past and present. The data takes a deep dive into what countries Wolverines hail from, what sports they perform best in and how they stack up against their Big Ten rivals.
With the pandemic-delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaching, 29 athletes affiliated with Michigan will represent 14 nations on the world stage. The Wolverine delegation spans 14 different sporting events, securing a Michigan presence throughout the two-week spectacle.
Although national pride remains at the forefront of the athletes’ Olympic endeavors, loyalty to one’s university usually doesn’t fade in the process. As 29 Wolverines look to win medals for their home countries, they also seek to build on Michigan athletes’ historical success in Olympic competition.
In an in-depth comparison of the Wolverines’ Olympic resumes with their two arch-rivals — Ohio State and Michigan State — conducted by The Daily’s data team, Michigan reigns supreme.
The Wolverines boast a robust total medal count of 160, well above Ohio State’s 113 all-time medals and Michigan State’s — who only had data as of the 2006 Turin Winter Games — 30. 243 Michigan-associated athletes have competed in the Olympics, and 92 of them have graced the medal podium.
Michigan has earned medals in 17 different Olympic events spanning the summer and winter games, but the Wolverines’ strong Olympic rapport is buoyed by tremendous success in the key summer event of swimming.
Michigan athletes have earned a whopping 71 medals in the event, headlined by Olympic legend Michael Phelps. Phelps first qualified for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, at just 15 years of age, and later enrolled in classes while training with a Michigan swimming coach in Ann Arbor. Although failing to earn a medal in those games, they served as a key launch-point for his storied career. He went on to win 28 medals over the course of the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 summer games in representation of the United States.
Through his massive success in those four games, Phelps now holds the record for the most medals won by any athlete, thus making him the most decorated Olympian in Michigan history as well.
Track and field serves as the second pillar of the Wolverines’ Olympic resume. Michigan-affiliated athletes have totaled 30 medals in the event, with Ralph Rose leading the way. Rose possesses the second-highest total medal count among Wolverines with six, as he was a force in shot put and discus throw. Rose medaled in the 1904, 1908 and 1912 summer Olympics, and was the flag-bearer for the United States at the 1908 opening ceremony in London.
Michigan’s second most successful track and field athlete, tied for third in the Wolverines’ total medal count at four, is sprinter Archie Hahn. Hahn was lightning at the 1904 St. Louis games, striking gold in the 60 meter, 100 meter and 200 meter sprints. Hahn’s speed was trailblazing, for at the time of competition, no man had ever won both the 100 and 200 meter sprints.
In contrast to Michigan’s 71 swimming and 30 track and field medals, Ohio State has secured 22 medals in each of the sports. Meanwhile, Michigan State has won 10 medals in swimming and six in track and field as of 2006, ensuring that the Wolverines have a comfortable leg-up on their biggest rivals regarding competition on the Olympic stage.
Michigan’s athletes earned 12 medals in diving, and 10 in ice dancing — its most successful winter event. Its remaining 37 medals to date are spread out across 13 separate events, illustrating the impact that success in swimming and track and field has had on the Wolverines’ Olympic pedigree. Of those 13 events, hockey is the only winter event, meaning only two of Michigan’s 17 medaled events are winter sports.
Figure skating partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White tie as the most decorated Michigan-affiliated winter Olympians with three medals each, earning them as they captivated audiences with their routines in the 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi Olympics.
There are plenty of Wolverines to watch as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics draw near, and they will seek to add to Michigan’s hearty medal count as they don their national flags with pride.
Current and former Michigan women’s soccer players Jayde Riviere and Shelina Zadorsky will represent Canada, while wrestlers Stevan Micic and Myles Amine will compete for Serbia and San Marino, respectively.
As softball returns to the Olympics for the first time since 2008, former Wolverine second-team All-American Amanda Chidester will be in the red, white and blue as Michigan legend Sierra Romero serves as an alternate for Mexico. Moritz Wagner, a key member of the Michigan men’s basketball 2018 national runner-up team, will play for Germany in the games.
Michigan will be heavily represented as it seeks to add to its historical success in swimming and track and field. 12 swimmers and six track and field athletes with ties to Michigan will make the trip to Tokyo.
Despite vast historical success, the verdict is still out on how Wolverines will fare in this year’s iteration of the Olympic games.
As for now: let the games begin.