Sept. 9, 2004
By Pete LaFleur
The 2004 Olympic Games had a distinctive Notre Dame flair, as 10 individuals with connections to Notre Dame participated in Athens. Most notable were the “Golden Girls” – women’s sabre Mariel Zagunis, soccer players Kate Sobrero Markgraf and Shannon Boxx, and basketball player Ruth Riley – who experienced the thrill of standing on the top step of the Olympic medal stand.
The only previous Olympic gold medalists with Notre Dame ties had been basketball players Vince Boryla (1964, in Tokyo) and Adrian Dantley (1976, in Montreal) – but Boryla had transferred to the University of Denver prior to his Olympic participation. Seven others have combined to win nine silver or bronze medals (see chart data).
Dating back to the Antwerp Games in 1920, Notre Dame has been represented in 15 of the 20 Summer Olympics, including each of the last 10. The previous high for Olympians with Notre Dame ties was three, in both 1992 and ’96.
Here are short summaries of each 2004 Olympic competitor with Notre Dame ties (look for gold-medalist features in a future edition of the Notre Dame Football Program):
Mariel Zagunis (current freshman) – first U.S. fencer to win gold since 1904 (first U.S. medalist since ’84), defeating China’s Xue Tan in women’s sabre final (15-9) … defeated Japan’s Madoka Hisagae in round of 16 (15-13), Azerbaijan’s Elena Jemayeva in quarterfinals (15-11) and Romania’s Catalina Gheorghitoaia in semifinals (15-10) … delayed enrollment at Notre Dame but was not named to original Olympic squad, later gaining spot when a fencer from Nigeria withdrew … former world champion who is ranked fourth in the world … joins Sweden’s Bjorn Vaggo (silver in epee, at Los Angeles in ’84) as second fencer with Notre Dame ties to earn Olympic medal … a native of Beaverton, Ore., her parents Robert and Cathy Zagunis were on U.S. rowing team at 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal … her club coach at Oregon Fencing Alliance, Ed Korfanty, is former Notre Dame assistant coach while her former U.S. sabre teammate Nicole Mustilli was an epee All-American with the Irish in the mid-1990s.
Kate Sobrero Markgraf (’98) and Shannon Boxx (’99) – former teammates on Notre Dame’s 1995 NCAA championship team who key starters for 2004 U.S. women’s soccer team that won gold with 2-1 overtime win over Brazil … helped U.S. allow just four goals in six games, also versus Greece (3-0), Brazil (2-2), Australia (1-1), Japan and 2003 World Cup champion Germany (2-1, OT) … Sobrero Markgraf is six-year starter with Team USA (at outside and central back) and was member of 1999 World Cup championship team and the 2000 Olympic silver-medalist squad (the Bloomfield Hills, Mich., native was three-time All-American with the Irish) … Boxx – considered the top world’s top defensive midfielder- was surprise addition to 2003 World Cup roster, became first women’s soccer player ever to score in her first three games with the national team and earned spot on the World Cup all-tournament team … a native of Redondo Beach, Calif., she is engaged to Sean Takata … her sister Gillian Boxx played on U.S. softball 1996 gold-medal team.
Ruth Riley (’01) – celebrated 25th birthday by helping U.S. win gold in women’s basketball (73-63 vs. Australia) … the U.S. earlier beat New Zealand, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Spain, China, Greece and Russia (22-point average margin of victory) … one of five women’s basketball players ever to win NCAA, WNBA and Olympic championship … saw action in seven Olympic Games, as reserve center … earned roster spot as injury replacement for DeLisha Milton-Jones … native of Macy, Ind., who led Notre Dame to 2001 national title while receiving several top national awards.
Monica Gonzalez (’00) – founding member of Mexico’s national women’s soccer team (’98) … captained team to historic win over Canada in Olympic qualifying (2-1, with current Notre Dame captain Melissa Tancredi a starter for Canada) … reached Olympic quarterfinals (5-0 loss to Brazil) after tying China (1-1) and posting respectable 2-0 loss to 2003 World Cup champion Germany … played on Mexico’s 1999 World Cup team and has returned to Notre Dame for exhibitions versus the Irish … native of Richardson, Texas, who earned All-America and Academic All-America honors as a fifth-year player in 2001.
Christel Bouvron (’06) – first active Notre Dame student-athlete to compete in Olympics since August “Gus” Desch won 1924 bronze in 400-meter hurdles (Antwerp) … swam for Singapore while turning in 200-metter butterfly time of 2:26.21 in her 2004 Olympic heat … one of 12 competitors to compete in 200 butterfly at both 2000 and ’04 Olympics … also swam 400-meter freestyle at the 2000 Games in Sydney … former Notre Dame swimmer Jilen Siroky (’04) competed as 15-year old for U.S. at the 1996 Games in Athens (200-meter breaststroke).
Andrew MacKay (’08) – swam two events as first athlete from Cayman Islands ever to compete in the Olympics and Notre Dame men’s swimming program’s first-ever Olympian … broke his Cayman Islands records in his 400 (4:32.38) and 200-meter (2:07.65) individual medley heats at the Olympic Games … holds Cayman Islands national records in all backstroke, breaststroke, and IM events, as well as 100-meter butterfly … coached by former U.S. great Dave Kelsheimer.
Jan Viviani (’03) – former senior leader of 2003 national championship team who earned spot on U.S. Olympic fencing team as alternate in epee men’s team events … competed in epee team’s fifth-place Olympic bout vs. Ukraine, turning in three solid bouts with 2-0 win and pair of one-touch losses while splitting 12 total touches (his U.S. teammates combined to win 27 touches but lose 39) … native of Haworth, N.J., who trains at New York Athletic Club … first Notre Dame epeeist ever to be four-year All-American.
Jeff Smoke (’00) – although never a varsity athlete at Notre Dame, he followed lead of his parents Bill (’64) and Marcie (’64 bronze, ’68, ’72) by qualifying for Olympic Games in flatwater kayaking … he and teammate Andrew Bussey finished 13th in Athens for the 1,000-meter race (3:16.34) … won K-2 1,000 Continental Qualifier in Brazil … has competed in more than 30 triathlons, winning Triathlon National Championships title for his age-group in 1997 … native of Buchanan, Mich.
Peta Gaye Dowdie – world-class sprinter who has worked on volunteer basis with Notre Dame’s female sprinters during past two years… went to Athens as member of Jamaica’s 4×100 relay pool but did not compete (she also went to the 2000 Olympic games as a 100 and 4X100 qualifier) … two-time Jamaican national champion in 100, also winning NCAA 200-meter title in 1999 (with LSU).