Olympic Dons

USF Athletes Who Have Become Olympians

The Olympic Games in Sochi have come to a close, and the best athletes from the United States will be returning home after finishing second in the medal count. This year, there were no Olympians from the University of San Francisco on the squad, but USF has previously been a starting point for a number of Olympic athletes, some of which have managed to bring home medals.

One of these medal-winning Olympians was Bill Russell, who is arguably the most famous athlete in USF history. After winning back to back NCAA championships for the Dons in 1955 and 1956, Russell became a member of the United States national basketball team. He competed in the 1956 Summer Olympics, and went on to win the gold that year after the USA beat the Soviet Union 89-55 in the final.

Russell wasn’t the only basketball player from USF to win Olympic gold. His teammate K.C. Jones, joined him on the podium in 1956. In addition, current USF Women’s Basketball Head Coach Jennifer Azzi won a gold medal at the 1996 games in Atlanta.

Another standout Olympic athlete who attended USF was Ollie Matson. Although he is now better known as a football player, Matson also excelled in track and field for which he attended the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. The future NFL hall-of-famer won bronze in the 400-meter race and silver in the 4×400-meter events.
Out of 22 Olympians that have come from USF, only figure skater Yvonne Gomez has competed in the Winter Games. The three-time Spanish national champion participated in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Gomez, a San Francisco native, did not earn a medal at the games, placing 18th.

Of all the Olympians with ties to USF, the majority have been soccer players. The United States, Nigeria, Mexico, and El Salvador have all featured former USF alums on their Olympic soccer teams. Dons soccer players that have been selected for the United States Olympic team include Alex Roboostoff and goalkeeper Mike Ivanow, members of the 1972 squad, as well as John Doyle of the 1988 squad and Troy Dayak of the 1992 squad.

More recently, Haley Nemra, who graduated from USF in 2012, represented the Marshall Islands as a track and field athlete at the 2012 London Olympics. Nemra was unable to advance to the semifinals, but she was honored as the flag bearer for her country.

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