There is a truth to sport that resonates within us all. It is the core reason that every four years, the countries of the world unite under the banner of athletic competition to celebrate the summer Olympic games. This spirit is captivating, from the grand opening spectacle, to the dedicated athletes, to the greatest of competition, as the eyes of the world focus on these games as a tribute to the hard working men and women that have dedicated their lives to this single event.
This year, our Pac-12 conference stands above the rest sending 239 athletes and coaches representing 43 different countries. Clearly, this key distinction shows how our newly formed league of universities represents the strongest and most competitive individuals from around the globe.
Washington State University stands among those offering our best to these world games. Some of them are competitors whose names may stand out in your recent memory, while there are others with whom you may not be familiar;
Perhaps the most celebrated WSU athlete to appear on the world stage, distance runner Bernard Lagat is making his fourth appearance in these Olympic games. A 2000 graduate from WSU with a degree in management information systems, Lagat at age 37 may truly be at his competitive best. The two-time Olympic medalist says he believes himself to be in the greatest condition of his life. He competes August 8th in his favorite event, the 5000 meters.
Certainly one of the most memorable athletes to play basketball at WSU, Aron Baynes played center for some of the great teams in recent history, in both the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons . While at WSU, Baynes was named to the Pac-10 all academic team twice and was an all Pac-10 honorable mention in 2008. After graduating in 2009, Baynes played professional basketball in Europe, for Vilnius, Lithuania where he helped his team to a championship in 2010. He will compete for the Australian National team where he has competed for the past 4 years.
Ebba Jungmark was sensational as a high jumper at WSU. During her time as a competitor here, Jungmark won the 2008 NCAA indoor high jump title. She went on to place third in the 2011 European indoor championship. This year, she is trying for her first Olympic medal competing for Sweden.
Adrienne Lyle is one of the youngest athletes ever to compete in Olympic Dressage. As a student in WSU’s Animal Science, Business Management program she served with distinction, making the President’s Honor roll twice. Lyle earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team after an impressive ride at the 2012 Festival of Championships in Gladstone, N.J. on June 16th. Lyle’s family is no stranger to international competition as her mother was a member of the U.S. women’s downhill ski team.
Beth Rodford spent one year as an exchange student at Washington State in 2002, and was a member of the WSU Varsity 8 boat that finished 13th at the NCAAs that year. This Sports Science major from Brunel University, in London will be competing in the 4-person Women’s Quadruple Sculls for Great Britain.
One Cougar of note is Pullman’s own John Chaplin who is the chairman of the US Men’s Track and Field Committee. During his time as the track and field coach at WSU, Chaplin led the Cougs to one NCAA title and four second place finishes on his way to four Pac-10 coach of the year titles. After leaving WSU, he joined the US Olympic team first as a coach, and eventually earning the title which he holds today.
Please join me in celebrating the great accomplishments of those who once walked among us, as they now fulfill their Olympic dreams of competing against the best the world has to offer.
To them we say, “Go Cougs.”