By Jerome James Jr., 1996
Exactly 96 years before Michael Johnson and Dot Richardson put their athletics skills to the ultimate test on the world stage at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, a group of University of Pennsylvania athletes set a standard that has yet to be matched. Penn sent 12 men (women did not compete in the Olympics until 1920) to the second modern Olympic Games in Paris in 1900. They walked away with an unprecedented and unequaled 23 medals. No school has ever had that level of success. Most schools do not have that many medals in their history.
The legendary ALVIN KRAENZLEIN, 1898, D'00 led Penn with four gold medals. His triumphs in the 60-,eter dash, 110-meter hurdles, 200-meter hurdles and broad jump make him the only track and field performer to win gold ,medals in four individual events at one Olympiad. He also is credited with inventing the straight leg hurdling technique used today.
To say the least, Penn's initial appearance in the Olympics was a success. Beginning with 1900, Penn has sent 141 athletes and 12 coaches to the Games, the most of any Ivy League school. Harvard is a close second with 147. Penn had been represented at every modern Olympic Games.
Quakers have competed in 10 different Olympic sports. Although track and field has produced the most athletes, Penn athletes have also excelled in yachting, equestrian, and rowing.
This years Olympics were no different from the past. Although lightweight rower and doctoral candidate JEFF PFAENDTER (SEAS '90) was the lone athlete, Red and Blue alum FRED SAMARA, W '73 was an assistant on the track and field team. He began his affiliation with the Olympics in 1976 when he competed against Brice Jenner in the decathlon.
In addition, law school alumna ANITA DE FRANTZ, L '77 is a member of the International Olympic Committee and heads the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles. Like Samara, DeFrantz participated in the 1976 Olympics in rowing.
Those individuals follow in the footsteps of several coaches throughout Penn's history. A total of 12 individuals who were either alumni/ae or coaches have coached at the Olympics. Included among them is the legendary Lawson Robertson, who made Penn a track powerhouse during the early part of the 20th Century. Robertson coached in 1904 and 1908 and then from 1920 to 1936. LARRY LAUCHLE , who coached the Penn wrestling team in the 1970s and 1980s, participated in the 1960 games. Currently, he is the University of Pennsylvania Athletic Department's Associate Director for Facilities.
Aside from those with a direct relation to the 1996 games, on alumnus has combined his education and past participation in the Olympics to create a device to help future Olympians in their development. Emeritus Professor of Biophysics BRITTON CHANCE, CH'35, GR'40, HON'85 has developed a device that monitors chemical changes in athletes' muscles, which will help them reach their peak performance.
Chance won gold in yachting in the 1952 Olympics. Interestingly, Chance received inspiration from classmate and fraternity brother BILL CARR, W'33, who won two gold medals at the 1932 Olympics in the 400-meter dash and 4x400-meter relay. He still owns the school record in the 400-meters, which he set at those Games.
While we live in an age where we celebrate the diversity of athletes competing for the country, it is nothing new for Penn. Penn alumni JOHN BAXTER TAYLOR, V'08 became the first African-American to win a gold medal in the Olympics when he participated in the 1,600-meter sprint medley relay at the 1908 games.
The most successful woman Olympian in Penn history was probably Penn Hall of Fame swimmer ELLIE DANIEL. A 1974 graduate, Daniel won three medals before she even entered Penn. She broke the world record at the 400-meter medley relay team the broke the world record at the 1968 competition. Daniel also earned a silver (200-meter butterfly) and bronze (100-meter butterfly) that year. While a Penn student in 1972, she added a bronze medal.
The storied Penn Relays, older than the modern Olympics themselves, has served as a proving ground for a number of Olympic athletes. A total of 170 Penn Relays participants from 12 countries have won 251 gold medals at the modern Olympics.
Two past directors of the Relays, GEORGE ORTON, C1894, GR1896 and KEN DOHERTY won medals at the games. Orton was part of the 1900 Penn contingent and earned a gold in the 2,500-meter steeplechase and a bronze in the 400-meter hurdles. Doherty won a bronze medal in the decathlon in the 1924 games.
The Penn fencing team has had remarkable success placing athletes on Olympic teams in recent years, sending two competitors to both the 1988 and 1992 Games. Penn Hall of Fame members MARY JANE O'NEILL C'86 and PAUL FRIEDBERG W'81, CHE'81 competed in the 1988 games, while O'Neill and CHRIS O'LOUGHLIN C'89 both competed at the 1992 games.