At a school known more for its Nobel Prize winners, it’s easy for athletes–even Olympians–to get overshadowed. But the Institute’s Olympic history dates back to the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896.
According to research compiled by the Alumni Association, at least 31 alumni representing nine countries have qualified for or participated in 11 sports and 31 events at 25 Summer and Winter Olympics, winning three gold, three silver, and four bronze medals. View the Alumni Association’s full list of alumni Olympians.
Thomas Curtis, Class of 1894 and MIT’s first Olympian, won the gold medal for the U.S. in the 110-meter hurdles at the Athens Games. Curtis recounted his Olympic experience in a July 1924 issue of Technology Review.
Six Institute alumnae have participated in the Olympics, including Michelle Guerrette MBA ’12, a U.S. rower who won silver in 2008; U.S. rowers Elizabeth Bradley ’83, SM ’86, PhD ’92 (1988) and Mary Louise Kellogg Lyman SM ’78 (1976); U.S. cyclist Nicole Freedman ’94 (2000); U.S. speed skater Janet Goldman ’89 (1984 and 1988); and Bermuda sailor Paula Lewin ’93 (1992, 1996, and 1994).
Additional alumni Olympic medalists include Alden “Zeke” Sanborn SM ’28, gold medalist for the U.S. in rowing in 1920; Sweden’s Johan Harmenberg ’81, gold medalist in fencing in 1980; U.S. sailors Ralph Evans ’48, silver medalist in 1948, and John Marvin ’49, bronze medalist in 1956; Australia sailor John Bertrand, bronze medalist in 1976; and U.S. cyclist Andrew Weaver MArch ’86, bronze medalist in 1984.
Since 1992, alumni Olympians have represented at least six different countries: Nate Ackerman PhD ’04 (Great Britain) in freestyle wrestling in 2004; Pat Antaki ’84 (Lebanon) in skeleton in 2006; Lewin; Chinedum Osuji PhD ’01 (Trinidad and Tobago) in taekwondo in 2004; Alexis Photiades ’91, SM ’92 (Cyprus) in skiing in 1988, 1992, and 1994; and Steve Tucker ’91 (U.S.) in rowing in 2000 and 2004.
MIT has not had an Olympian compete since Guerrette in 2008 and Antaki in 2006, but there is hope for the future. Wyatt Ubellacker ’13, the first MIT swimmer to compete at the U.S. Olympic trials, finished 0.1 seconds shy of advancing to the semi-finals of the 50-meter freestyle at the 2012 trials. Michael A. Nackoul ’13 finished third at the USA Weightlifting Senior Nationals in the 85-kilogram weight class and hopes to compete in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Update: This story was originally published in July 2012 and updated in August 2012 and February 2014.