Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The NCAA Title/Olympic Gold Double

Trivia question - who are the only two Princeton athletes who have ever won an NCAA championship and an Olympic gold medal?

That's a good one, right? Before TB gives you the answer, a little background on how he came to ask the question. 

TigerBlog mentioned yesterday that he would put Kathleen Sharkey into the conversation of the greatest women athletes Princeton has ever produced.

He should have actually defined what he means by that.

First, he's only considering athletes who have completed their Princeton undergraduate careers. Second, there's an element to it of how you did, either professionally or internationally or both, that he's counting as part of the overall resume.

Actually, it's a bit different than the standard he has on the men's side. There, he would consider Hobey Baker, Dick Kazmaier and Bill Bradley the three greatest male athletes, and yet only one those three - Bradley - competed beyond Princeton in any meaningful way.

Who is the most accomplished Princeton men's athlete outside of Princeton?

It's without question Bradley. He was the 1964 Sullivan Award winner as the nation's top amateur athlete, after being the captain of the U.S. Olympic Team that won the gold medal.

He then went on to a long NBA career that included a pair of championships with the New York Knicks, in 1970 and 1973, which just happen to be the two most recent titles the franchise has won. Bradley was an obvious selection to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

But he didn't win an NCAA title. And that got TB thinking back to the question he started with today.

Who are the only two Princeton athletes ever to pull off the NCAA title/Olympic gold double? 

Princeton has had 13 alums who have won Olympic gold medals. Of that group, only two also won NCAA championships as undergrads.

Those two?

Caroline Lind, who was in the first Varsity 8 boat in 2006 that won the NCAA title and then won Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012.

The other was Jed Graef, the 1964 NCAA champion in the 200 backstroke who then won a gold medal in the same event in Tokyo, the same Olympic Games where Bradley won gold in basketball.

That's a pretty exclusive list. And you can see why. An NCAA title and an Olympic gold medal. That's quite a trophy case.

On the other hand, there are others who had no real chance to pull off that double but who are still well up among Princeton's most accomplished athletes. For instance, Chris Ahrens won a national championship in men's heavyweight rowing in 1998, but that is not technically an NCAA sport. Ahrens then added a gold medal in 2004 in Athens.

Or several lacrosse players. Well, not several. But three - David Morrow, Ryan Boyle and Tom Schreiber, all of whom won World Championships and the latter two of whom won professional championships in Major League Lacrosse, a league that the first one on the list helped make a reality.

It won't be long, TB believes, until you can add the name Bella Alarie to the list on the women's side. She's already put her name into the Princeton women's basketball record books and done something that no other player other than Bradley has done at Princeton, and that's score at least 40 points in a game (something she did twice last year).

Alarie already has international experience, and she'll be having more of it next week, when she plays for the United States team at the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru.

In fact, the U.S. women begin playing a week from today, when pool play begins. The Americans are in Pool B, along with Argentina, Colombia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The other pool features Brazil, Canada and Puerto Rico.

TB confesses that he knows little about who the main contenders are, but his sense is that the U.S. has a chance to do well. You can see the whole schedule HERE.

There are 12 players on the U.S. team. It's made up of Alarie and 11 Power Five Conference players. The roster is HERE.

Anyway, once again the answer to the question is Jed Graef in swimming and Caroline Lind in rowing.

Alarie doesn't have a realistic chance at an NCAA title, so she's unlikely to join that list. Come back in a few years, though, and TB senses that between her international and soon-to-be professional careers, she'll have made quite a compelling case of her own.


Mike Knorr said...

Mr. Price,

Since you seem to like this kind of stuff, here's one for you. Who was the third Princetonian honored for winning gold at the '64 Olympics besides Jeff Graef and Bill Bradley?

Hint: It's sort of a trick question.

Mike Knorr said...

Oops. Meant Jed not Jeff. Sorry about that.