If Stanford was a sovereign nation, it would have finished 11th in the medal count at the 2008 Beijing Olympics — tied with Japan.
This summer, a new generation of Cardinal athletes is looking to stamp that big “S” all over the London Games.
In 2008, Stanford sent more affiliated athletes (48) to the Beijing Olympics than any other university in the country. It was the sixth straight Summer Games in which the school had sent no fewer than 34 affiliated athletes and coaches.
So far, 13 current and former Cardinal athletes have qualified for London, and that number will shoot up once qualifier trials in several sports are completed next month.
“There were so many Stanford athletes [in Beijing] — it was amazing,” triple jumper Erica McLain said Monday. “It felt like home.”
McLain, who is returning from a career-threatening ankle injury, is among the Cardinal-affiliated athletes with a good shot of qualifying this summer. Other favorites include gymnast Alex Buscaglia (2011 NCAA title in horizontal bars); runner Elliott Heath (2011 NCAA title in indoor track 3,000 meters); his brother Garrett Heath (2007 NCAA title in distance medley relay); distance runner Chris Derrick (three-time NCAA runner-up); hurdler Amaechi Morton (2011 NCAA runner-up 400-meter hurdles); Arantxa King (2010 NCAA runner-up long jump); and Katerina Stefanidi (2011 NCAA runner-up indoor pole vault).
Over the years, Stanford athletes have grabbed a total of 210 medals (105 gold) in 23 different Olympic events.
Moreover, the school has captured at least one medal in every Olympic competition dating back to the 1912 Stockholm games.
It isn’t just American athletes flocking to Stanford; seven countries were represented among the school’s affiliated athletes in 2008. Pole vaulter Katerina Stefanidi said she’d never heard of Stanford growing up in Greece, her native country, but she was sold on the school because of her coach’s reputation.
“My coach is Toby Stevenson and he won a silver medal [in 2004] — you can’t ask for too much more than that,” she said.
Long jumper Arantxa King said another reason why the Farm breeds so many Olympians is that super athletes are oftentimes superachievers in the classroom, too, and Stanford offers an unparalleled combination of elite academics and athletics.
“When you have people, in my opinion, who are willing to exceed in one area it transcends to other areas,” she said.