Yale Bulletin and Calendar

August 27, 2004|Volume 33, Number 1















Sada Jacobson, during her time at Yale.

Yale fencer wins bronze
and makes history at Olympics

Yale senior Sada Jacobson made history Aug. 17 at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, by becoming the first women's saber competitor to win a medal in the international games and the first U.S. medalist in fencing in 20 years.

Jacobson, the top-ranked female saber competitor in the world -- and the first American woman and only the second U.S. fencer to ever hold this distinction -- won the Olympic bronze medal as a member of the U.S. women's fencing team. This is the first year that women's saber -- one of fencing's six disciplines -- was an Olympic event.

Her teammate Mariel Zagunis also made fencing history by winning the U.S.'s first gold medal in a century.

Jacobson, who hails from Dunwoody, Georgia, is a two-time NCAA saber champion at Yale and was a gold medalist in the 2003 Titan Games. She took a leave of absence from Yale to train full-time for the Olympics, and is returning to the campus this fall.

While Jacobson did not realize her quest to win the gold, she told reporters after her historic feat that she was still pleased with her bronze medal.

"As far as I'm concerned, I won an Olympic medal, and just to be competing at the Olympics is an honor," she was quoted in the Boston Globe.

Jacobson's bronze-medal bout took place before the final, making the Yale student the first individual from a U.S. women's team to win a medal in fencing. The last American to win a medal in fencing is Peter Westbrook, who earned a bronze in men's saber at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. With the wins by Jacobson and Zagunis, it was the first time since 1904 that members of the U.S. fencing team shared the medal podium for the same event.

Jacobson had lost to former world champion Tan Xue of China in the semifinals but bounced back to win the bronze after defeating Romania's Catalina Gheorghitoaia 15-7.

Joining Jacobson at the Olympics was her younger sister, Emily, ranked No. 10 in the world, who was knocked out of the competition in the qualifications rounds before she would have had to compete with her older sister. The girls' father, David Jacobson '74, fenced for Yale in the early 1970s, and a younger sister, Jackie, is also a fencer.

Saber is considered the fastest of fencing's three weapons. Competitors can target the entire body above the bend in the hips, including the head. Unlike in foil and epee, in which only the tip is used to score, saberists can score with the tip or the edge of the blade.

Jacobson has been a pupil of Arkady Burdan in Atlanta and trains while on campus with Yale's fencing coach Henry Harutunian. She was recently featured in a cover story in the Yale Alumni Magazine (see www.yalealumnimagazine.com).

Other Bulldogs in the Olympics

Jacobson is one of nine Yale affiliates to participate in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Fellow senior Eleni Benson, of Willington, Connecticut, played for the Greek National soccer team. The team fell to Brazil and did not advance to the quarterfinals. Benson is a sweeper on the Yale women's team but took a leave for the 2003-2004 academic year to train for the Olympics. She will return this fall.

Incoming Yale Law School student Patricia Miranda, who has won two world championship silver medals in wrestling and whose feats have been featured in Time magazine, was a finalist for a bronze medal in women's wrestling at press time (her final competition was scheduled for Aug. 23).

Six Yale alumni are also Olympians this year. Their names, and the results (or schedule) of their competitions, follow:

Celita Schutz '90 made her third Olympic appearance this summer as a member of the U.S. judo team. She lost the 70kg Round of 32 to the eventual gold-medalist Masae Ueno of Japan and lost the 70k Repechage to Rasa Sraka of Slovenia. She played varsity soccer and basketball at Yale.

Matthew Taylor '92 made his second Olympic bid as a member of the U.S. canoe and kayak team. He is on the National Slalom A C-2 Men's Canoe Team. Taylor and paddling partner Joe Jacobi made it to the semifinals in the whitewater portion of the Olympic race but missed the cut for the six-man final in double canoe, coming in in eighth place. Taylor, who was not a varsity athlete at Yale, is a veteran canoeist. As the oldest members of the U.S. Olympic kayak and canoe squad, Taylor and Jacobi earned the nickname "The Paddling Papas."

Josh West '98 rowed for Great Britain's men's eight-crew team, which finished ninth. West was a novice rower when he came to Yale, but he eventually earned a spot on the varsity boat. Rowing with the British national program, he has won world silver medals in coxless four-man boats (2002 and 2003) and was fifth in the eight-man (2001). He also earned a World Cup bronze medal in Milan and a silver medal in Munich last year. He moved into the men's eight in 2004 after the Great Britain National Team trials and competed in the men's eight at the season-opening World Cup in Poland.

George Gleason '01, who also swam in the Sydney Olympics in 2001, finished in sixth place in heat four of the men's freestyle representing the U.S. Virgin Islands. Gleason holds the Yale records in the 200 freestyle and 200 backstroke and was twice named second-team All-Ivy, among other honors.

Isabelle Kinsolving '02, a member of the U.S. Sailing Team, was a crew member for skipper Katie McDowell in the double-handed dingy women's 470 race. The duo finished in fifth place after competing in a total of 11 races. Kinsolving was team captain of Yale's sailing team in her senior year and helped the team qualify that year for both the women's nationals and co-ed nationals. She also played for the women's varsity ice hockey team.

Kate O'Neill '03 will participate in the 10K on Aug. 27 as a member of the U.S. Track Team in Athens. She and her twin sister, Laura O'Neill, have had the most decorated careers in the history of Yale cross country and track, earning a combined 11 All-America honors. In May, they became the first Yale athletes to share the Nellie Pratt Elliot Award, the top award for senior female athletes. Kate O'Neill won eight Heptagonal track championships and a pair of ECAC titles, and holds the Yale records in the indoor 3,000 and 5,000 and the outdoor 5,000 and 10,000. She also ran the last leg for Yale's NCAA qualifying distance medley relay team that broke a school record in 2003. O'Neill is joined in Athens by her former Yale coach and current personal coach Mark Young '68. Kate and Laura both work in the University's Office of Development.

Bulldog bids for gold

Since the second Olympic competition in 1900, nearly 140 Yale students or alumni have vied for the Olympic gold medal, ranging from the famed pediatrician and activist Dr. Benjamin Spock (a competitor in rowing in the 1924 Paris Summer Games) to current Yale student Sarah Hughes, the 2002 Olympic gold medalist in figure skating.

Some Elis -- 21, in fact -- have made repeated Olympic bids.

William Steinkraus '48 holds the record for the Yale affiliate with the most Olympic appearances; he competed in six games as a member of the U.S. equestrian team (1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968 and 1972). He was part of a jumping team that won the bronze medal in 1952 and the silver medal in both 1960 and 1962, and he won an individual gold medal in jumping in 1968, when he became the first American rider to win an individual gold medal.

The Eli with the most medals to his credit is Don Schollander '68, a swimmer who won four gold medals at the 1964 Tokyo Games, and three gold medals and a silver medal at the 1968 Mexico City Games. He was the first swimmer in Olympic history to win four medals in the same games, and he broke a number of Olympic and world records.

Another Yale alumnus, Eddie Egan '21S, holds the distinction of being the only person ever to win gold medals in both winter and summer games. He earned gold medals in boxing in 1920 and 1924, and then became a member of the bobsled team that won a gold medal in the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Games.

Yale's earliest Olympians were brothers Lewis Pendleton Sheldon 1896 and Richard Sheldon 1898S, who each won two medals in track-and-field events in the 1900 games in Paris.

The first woman from Yale to win an Olympic medal was Anne Warner '77, who earned a bronze medal in rowing in 1976.

'Postcards from Athens'

Both Kate O'Neill and Matthew Taylor have offered online reflections of their experience in Athens in a "Postcards from Athens" special feature on the Yale Athletics Department website at http://yalebulldogs.collegesports.com. For further details on Olympic results, visit www.athens2004.com. More information on Yale's history in the Olympic games, including a list of all Yale participants, is available at www.iviesinathens.com.

-- By Susan Gonzalez


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Campus Notes

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