Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bound For Rio

TigerBlog got an email yesterday that said "you are becoming nostalgic."

He won't say who it was from. He'll give you a slight hint, though, and see if you can figure it out for yourself.

Ready? Here it is: He was the Ford Family Director of Athletics before the current one.

When TigerBlog went back to the last two days, he did notice that he had been stuck in the 1980s a bit so far this week. Ah, the 1980s. Those were the days.

Anyway, he's going back a little bit today, though not quite as far. He's actually not sure just how far back he's talking about, though it wasn't anymore than seven or eight years ago.

The place was Triumph, the restaurant/brewery on Nassau Street. TigerBlog was having lunch with Princeton's ESPN contact, a young woman named Meghan O'Leary.

Princeton's ESPN contract is unique. TigerBlog isn't sure of too many other schools that have their own deal with the Worldwide Leader.

It's been 11 years since the deal began, and the current deal extends through 2019. It brings Princeton seven events per year on an ESPN television platform. This year's seventh event is Saturday's men's lacrosse game against Cornell.

Through the years, TigerBlog has dealt with maybe 15 or so different contacts at ESPN, with whom he's worked to figure out which events will be televised, with a lot of give-and-take between both sides. It's a great relationship, and it has worked out well for Princeton, especially with ESPN's willingness to broadcast sports beyond football and basketball.

Anyway, Meghan was one of the first of those contacts.

As Meghan sat at Triumph, she told TB about her longer term goals, beyond ESPN. She had been a volleyball and softball player at Virginia as an undergraduate, but since graduating she had taken up a new sport.


Her goal was to reach the 2016 Olympics, she told TB that day. As they ate, a man walked up to their table, noticed the "Princeton Athletics" shirt TB was wearing and said he had never been in town before but he loved Princeton. Then he asked TB what he did, and TB explained it. And when he asked Meghan if she worked for Princeton Athletics, TigerBlog said "no, but she's going to be in the Olympics in 2016."

Guess what? She is.

Meghan, who has gone on to have a strong career in international rowing, qualified for the Rio games this past weekend in Florida, when she and her rowing partner, Ellen Tomek, won the double sculls at the Olympic Trials.

Meghan said that was her goal all those years ago, and she made it happen. That's extraordinary.

Next up is the push to win a medal. The doubles event isn't easy, but hey, she's there and ready to compete.

Princeton will have its share of Olympians, again.

If you remember, the 2012 Summer Olympics were great for Princeton, who sent 15 athletes and two alternates to London and saw them win seven medals. Of U.S. colleges, Princeton ranked ninth. Had Princeton been a country, it would have finished 31st of 204.

Princeton has had at least one representative at every Summer Olympics since 1896, except for the 1960 Games in Rome.

The Tigers will definitely be represented by at least eight Olympians in Rio.

So far, those who have earned a spot in the Olympics are:

* Ashleigh Johnson in women's water polo. The U.S. is overwhelming favored to win a medal and is the favorite for gold.

* Katie Reinprecht, Julie Reinprecht and Kat Sharkey in field hockey. The two Reinprechts were starters in the Games four years ago.

* Kat Holmes in fencing.

* Gevvie Stone and Kate Bertko also qualified Sunday in Florida in rowing.

* Diana Matheson in soccer for Canada. Matheson scored the goal four years ago that gave France the bronze medal.

There are still others who will be trying to get there, especially in rowing.

Princeton also has 17 track and field athletes, if he is correct, who will be at the Olympic Trials this coming July 1-10 in Eugene, Ore. Among that group will be Donn Cabral, who reached the steeplechase finals in 2012.

And there are swimmers too.

In the end, Princeton may approach the 15 who were there four years ago.

The 2016 Rio Olympics begin Aug. 5 and run through Aug. 21.

TigerBlog will be rooting for Princeton. And for Princeton's former ESPN contact.

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