Bruins Bound for Beijing


By Kristine Breese

Published Jul 1, 2008 8:00 AM

The road to Olympic gold often runs through UCLA. Since 1920, the year after the university was founded, Bruins have participated in every Summer Olympiad save one (1924). Even in 1980, during the U.S.-led boycott of the Games, foreign athletes who studied at UCLA competed for their home countries in Moscow. That lofty lineage continues to this day, connecting our first Olympians — long jumper Edward Butler and water polo player Clyde Swendsen — to athletes such as Ato Boldon, Rafer Johnson ’59, Dwight Stones, C.K. Yang ’64, Evelyn Ashford, Gail Devers ’89, Florence Griffith Joyner, Walt Hazzard ’78, Ann Meyers Drysdale ’79, Peter Vidmar ’83, Kerri Strug, Lisa Fernandez ’95, Dot Richardson ’84, Shirley Babashoff, Donna de Varona ’86, Karch Kiraly ’83, Holly McPeak, Jackie Joyner-Kersee ’86 and Joy Fawcett, among many others.

It will be no different in Beijing, with stars such as Jeanette Bolden ’85, track coach for the U.S. Olympic women’s track and field team and UCLA’s squad, and four of the 15 women on the U.S. women’s softball team who will compete for a fourth straight gold (Stacey Nuveman ’02, Natasha Watley ’05, Tairia Mims Flowers ’05 and Andrea Duran ’07) representing Westwood.

At press time, 34 current and former Bruins had either earned the right to compete in Beijing or were in hot pursuit of a spot, including swimmer Kim Vandenberg ’07; pole vaulter Yoo Kim ’04; hammer thrower Jessica Cosby ’05; soccer star Lauren Cheney; and hurdler Jonathan Williams ’05.

“UCLA is a great place to train,” says John Powers, sportswriter for the Boston Globe. “If you take into consideration the facilities, the climate, the caliber of the coaching and the competition, you can see why they do so well,” he says. “UCLA is almost a country unto itself in terms of the athletes it fields and the medals it wins.” During the 2004 Games in Athens, current or former Bruins captured 19 medals, which would have placed it 14th in the per-country medal count.