College Athletes Played Key Roles In Many Memorable Winter Olympic Moments

by Bob Reinert

When it came to the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, many U.S. athletes gave it the old college try.
That’s because a fair number of American Olympic athletes competed at or continue to compete at the collegiate level, though not all in the same sports in which they donned red, white and blue uniforms. 
Eighty-five U.S. athletes — More than 35 percent of the 225-person Olympic team — competed in college. They hail from 44 colleges and universities across all three NCAA divisions. 
Of those, 29 men and women continue to compete in college sports.
Collegiate athletes played a role in five Team USA medals during the Games. The one gold, two silver and two bronze medals made up 20 percent of the Team USA total of 25 medals. 
Nearly half of the 57 athletes leaving Beijing with medals have collegiate experience. Those 27 medalists came from 13 different schools, led by the University of Minnesota (eight), University of Wisconsin (five) and Boston College (three).
The highest number of U.S. athletes from any one school were the 30 men and women from the University of Utah. Five U.S. Olympic teams had at least 66.7 percent of their athletes with a history in college sports.
Here’s a look at some of the most notable Olympic performances in Beijing by American athletes with college ties.

Keely Cashman reacts following her run during the women's alpine combined downhill during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 17, 2022 in Yanqing, China.


Several former NCAA standouts also stood out for Team USA in Beijing. Tricia Mangan, a Dartmouth College graduate, placed 11th in the alpine combined in Beijing. Mangan was competing in her second Games. Current University of Utah skier Keely Cashman placed 17th in the downhill in her Olympic debut. Cashman had previously been part of the NCAA championship team at Utah. Meanwhile, former University of Vermont star Paula Moltzan was eighth in slalom and tied for 12th in giant slalom. All were the top U.S. finishes in those events.
On Sunday, Olympics rookie Moltzan also helped the U.S. finish fourth in the alpine team event.

Biathlon is the only U.S. sport in Beijing that had athletes from NCAA Division 1, 2 and 3 on its roster.
Deedra Irwin turned in the best-ever Olympic finish by an American biathlete when she placed seventh in the women’s 15-kilometer individual race. Irwin was a cross-country runner and skier at Michigan Tech, graduating in 2015.
Susan Dunklee (Dartmouth), Clare Egan (Wellesley/New Hampshire) and Paul Schommer (St. Scholastica) did their alma maters proud as members of the 4x6-kilometer mixed relay team. Along with Sean Doherty, they placed seventh for the top finish ever by an American team in that event.

Bronze medal winners Elana Meyers Taylor and Sylvia Hoffman pose for a photo with their medals following the 2-woman bobsled competition during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 19, 2022 in Yanqing, China.


Elana Meyers Taylor traded a diamond for a whole lot of silver and bronze. The former softball player at George Washington University won a silver medal in the Olympic debut of women’s monobob, then added a bronze medal in two-woman bobsled. The four-time Olympian’s five medals make her the most-decorated bobsled athlete in U.S. history, and also the most decorated Black Winter Olympian.
Sylvia Hoffman, who won a bronze medal in Meyers Taylor’s sled, played basketball at Louisiana State University Shreveport. Their U.S. teammate, Kaysha Love, was a track and field athlete at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The men’s four-man bobsled team of Frank Del Duca (Maine), Jimmy Reed (Maine), Carlos Valdes (UCLA) and Hakeem Abdul-Saboor (Virginia Wise), which placed 13th in Beijing, combined for 17 seasons of NCAA football and track and field. Reed and Del Duca were track and field teammates at Maine, both graduating in 2014.

University of Vermont graduate Scott Patterson gave the U.S. its best finish by a male cross-country skier in 46 years. The 30-year-old Patterson placed eighth in the 30-kilometer freestyle race, just 33.9 seconds behind the winning time.
A pair of current NCAA athletes, Ben Ogden of Vermont, and J.C. Schoonmaker of the University of Alaska Anchorage, combined to place ninth in the team sprint. 
The University of Utah can lay claim to nearly 30 percent of the U.S. cross-country team. Eleven of the 14 American skiers came from six colleges or universities.

The Team USA bench looks on during the men's ice hockey preliminary round match against Team Germany during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 13, 2022 in Beijing


The men’s hockey team was comprised entirely of players with college backgrounds for the first time since 1988. There were 15 current college players, the most since 1994, on this was a highly competitive team. 
After going 3-0 in Group A, including a 4-2 win over Canada, the U.S. dropped a 3-2 decision in the quarterfinals by penalty shootout to Slovakia.

Like the men, the U.S. women’s team was comprised entirely of players with college backgrounds. They also played outstanding hockey.
After winning the gold medal against their northern neighbor in 2018, the Americans once again met Canada in this year’s final. This time the Americans settled for silver, dropping a 3-2 decision. Their only other loss in the tournament was earlier in the tournament, also to Canada.
Every school represented on Team USA had a player record multiple points in Beijing. Four-time Olympia Hilary Knight, a University of Wisconsin grad, led Team USA with 10 points on six goals and four assists.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Brittany Bowe proved to be an excellent teammate. After Erin Jackson, the world’s top-ranked 500-meter skater, made a fluke mistake in the Olympic trials and fell short of Team USA, Bowe relinquished her spot to her fellow Ocala, Florida, native. It’s the kind of teamwork Bowe learned as a member of the Florida Atlantic University women’s basketball team. 
Jackson made the most of the opportunity presented by Bowe, becoming the first Black woman to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Games.
Karma was kind to Bowe as well. She ended up still getting a spot in the 500 after another country was unable to fill its spot, and in her signature event, the 1,000-meter, Bowe went on to win her first individual Olympic medal, a bronze.

Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc