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Celebrating the Ursinus Role in Olympics History

“Time stood still” said a faculty member who was the athletic trainer for the 1984 USA Women’s Field Hockey team, describing the team’s winning a Bronze Medal in the Los Angeles summer games.

As the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro get underway, several Ursinus alumni may be recalling their own claim to Olympic fame, especially those on the 1984 USA field hockey team that won the Bronze Medal in Los Angeles.

The first Olympic medal ever won by the United States women’s national field hockey team was earned on July 31, 1984, in Los Angeles. The team defeated Australia in a penalty shoot-out to win it.

On the dream team were Beth Anders ’73, retired coach at Old Dominion, and Regina (Gina) Buggy ’81, director of athletics at Episcopal Academy. Vonnie Gros ’57 coached the team, with assistant coaches Margery Watson ’55 and Marjorie Garinger ’57. Pamela Chlad, who is currently associate professor in Health, Exercise and Physiology and head athletic trainer, was the team athletic trainer.

“I spent about five years traveling and working with our Women’s National Field Hockey Team before going to the Olympics to help provide athletic training care for Men’s and Women’s Field Hockey for the Los Angeles Olympic committee,” said Chlad. “These were some of the most incredible experiences of my lifetime. Observing and helping to provide athletic training care to these elite athletes was an opportunity for me to interact and learn from some of the most talented and athletic individuals I had ever known. Our women’s national team was composed of some of the most innovative coaches and intelligent and athletically gifted players in field hockey. It was so unbelievable that coaches, several players and our manager graduated from Ursinus.”

Anders was sweeper and Buggy was midfielder. The team had six other players who were coached at the high school or college level by Ursinus graduates, according to the 1984 summer Ursinus Bulletin. Gros coached the 1980 team as well, which did not get to play because of a boycott of the Moscow Olympics.

‘Time actually stood still’

“When they won the Bronze Medal,” said Chlad, “time actually stood still and it was hard to capture all the emotions felt by the team, our coaches, managers and families. It had been such an incredible journey for such a special team. Winning the Bronze Medal was the only way to end such an incredible journey for such outstanding athletes and coaches. All of the friendships and experiences being a small part of this team have enhanced my life forever.”

Thirty years later, in 2014, USA Field Hockey inducted the team into its Hall of Fame, the first induction of an entire team. Four on the Olympic team—Gros, Anders, Watson and Garinger—were coached by Eleanor Frost Snell, a highly regarded coach among Ursinus athletic alumnae.

Other Ursinus Olympic connections

During that year, several other alumnae played in Los Angeles. Traci Davis ’82, Candi Russell Parry ’78 and Debbie Tweed ’81 were members of the touring lacrosse team which appeared in Los Angeles in the Olympic showcase. The Olympics has not yet recognized lacrosse as an Olympic sport.

Also in 1984, David B. Kennedy ’80 was an alternate for the Olympic soccer team, one of only 18. He did not get to play.

Several others have had brushes with the Olympics:

  • Dr. Robert Sing ’75, a trustee who has a family and sports medicine practice, reached the Olympic Trials in 1992. He is considered one of the top javelin coaches, and is the author of a textbook on javelin throwing.
  • Not an alumnus, but married to one (Lillian ’45), Horace Ashenfelter III won the Gold Medal in the 1952 steeplechase in Helsinki.
  • Former Ursinus track and field coach Miles Burrell qualified for the Olympic Trials in wrestling in 1976 and 1980.
  • Tim Murphy, current swim coach at Harvard, was selected to coach the U.S. open water swim team in 2012. He was head coach of men’s and women’s swimming at Ursinus from 1979 through 1980.
  • Current track and field coach Carl Blickle received a National Championships Mentorship Grant from USA Track & Field and was in Eugene, Ore. for the Trials earlier this summer. One of four coaches selected, he shadowed one of the USA Track & Field’s master coaches and got a firsthand look at strategies, meet preparation and leadership styles.
  • No doubt Dana Feigenbaum ’15 will be watching women’s gymnastics, cheering on her childhood friend Gabby Douglas. The two attended gymnastics clinics and competitions growing up, and Douglas would stay with the Feigenbaum family when traveling.

– By Wendy Greenberg