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.
Michigan students perform in the highest arenas of college sports. They’re also no strangers to shouldering the dreams of their countries at the Olympics.
After Friday’s opening ceremony, 29 Michigan athletes will look to join Olympic heavyweights like Michael Phelps, Gustavo Borges and the duo of Meryl Davis and Charlie White in bringing Olympic glory to both their countries and their university.
Since 1900, 243 Michigan students, future students, and alumni have competed at the Olympics. The number of Wolverines at each Olympiad has grown over time, and 38% of them have medaled.
While the majority of those competitors hail from the United States and Canada, Michigan students have represented 32 nations at the Games. Wolverines from every continent but Antarctica have competed in an Olympiad.
Some Michigan Olympians hail from nations as far apart as Nigeria and Bangladesh, while many come from European nations like the United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria and Hungary. Seven athletes have represented Scandinavian countries including Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
This year, Wolverines from 12 different countries will carry their nations’ Olympic aspirations, including wrestlers Myles Amine (San Marino) and Stevan Micic (Serbia). Both are the first Michigan students to represent their respective countries at the Games, and both will be coached by Wolverines coach Sean Bormet at the Games.
Bormet will not be the only current Michigan coach in Tokyo, as swim coach Mike Bottom, diving coach Mike Hilde and men’s gymnastics coach Jordan Gaarenstroom will hope to guide their athletes to top performances. They will coach athletes from Yemen, the United States and Nigeria, respectively.
In total, Michigan athletes have won 73 gold medals — and Americans have earned most of them. The only non-American gold medal winner was Australian John Davies in the 1952 200-meter breaststroke. Davies set an Olympic record in the event, something Wolverine athletes have done 21 times.
Twelve of those broken records belonged to Phelps, who attended Michigan but did not compete in NCAA swimming. The most decorated Olympian in history still holds seven of those records, and he earned 23 gold medals in his illustrious career.
Former shot put record holder Ralph Rose earned the second most medals among the Michigan community, a more reachable six over three Games. Borges, swimmer Peter Vanderkaay, kayaker Greg Barton and track star Archie Hahn have each earned four Olympic medals. Borges represented Brazil, while the rest competed for Team USA.
While the athletes headed to Tokyo might not challenge for such acclaim just yet, some Wolverines headed to the games dominated in their sports while on campus, including Canadian soccer player Jayde Riviere, Canadian swimmer Maggie MacNeil, and German basketball player Moritz Wagner, the first Michigan Olympian from his country.
Swimming, diving and track and field have been the bread and butter of Michigan Olympians. Eighty Wolverines have competed in swimming, 20 have dived and 67 have performed in track and field events.Michigan’s first Olympians — John McLean, Howard Hayes, Charles Dvorak and Charlie Leiblee — all competed in track and field for the United States.
Some of these athletes come from South America. Five Peruvians competed in swimming and diving events, but none were able to medal. Guyanese sprinter Adam Harris competed in 2008’s Beijing Games, while two Brazlians have earned four medals in swimming.
From Asia, two of three Wolverine Olympians competed in swimming or diving. The other was Bangladeshi gymnast Syque Caesar. This year, Siobhan Haughey and Jamie Yeung will add Hong Kong to that list as they compete in swimming.
Outside of those popular events, Michigan athletes have participated in the more unique competitions across Olympic history. American decathlete Ken Doherty captured bronze in 1928, while Eeles Landstrom competed in the event for Finland in 1952.
Five-time All-American Steve Bastien will be the first Michigan athlete to compete in the decathlon in 69 years at this year’s games. He qualified for the event with one of the best athletic displays of his career, setting personal bests in seven of the 10 events. Now he shifts his focus to breaking those records again on a much more intense stage in Tokyo.
Some Wolverines will appear in their first Olympiad this month. Michigan’s record for most Olympics belongs to Turkish swimmer Derya Buyukuncu, who competed six times from 1992 to 2012 but was unable to earn a medal. He was the first Wolverine from Turkey to compete at the Olympics.
Despite the plethora of Michigan athletes in the Olympics, the Paralympics have only recently seen Wolverines compete. Jerome Singleton competed in 2008 and 2012, earning silver and gold track medals for the United States at his first Olympiad. Zach Burns won a silver medal in rowing at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Non-Americans from Michigan have not competed at the Paralympics yet.
Andy Potts, an Olympic triathlete who placed 22nd for Team USA in 2004, will compete as a guide for American paratriathlete Kyle Coon. After beating dominant paratriathlete Aaron Schneidies for the first time earlier this year, Coon and Potts could claim gold medals at the end of their event.
When the opening ceremonies conclude, Michigan will see its students, coaches and alumni pursue their Olympic dreams for nations scattered all across the Earth. They will join a long list of Wolverines to participate in the games, and some will likely add to the 160 medals they have accumulated.