UT Alumni Share Olympic Experience

Sylvia Butanda

UT Olympians earned 14 medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, enough to tie with Kenya for 18th in the national medal count.

Some of UT’s former and current Olympians returned to campus to share their stories.

The Texas Program in Sports and Media hosted a panel discussion where Longhorn Olympians came together to share their journeys towards the world’s biggest athletic stage and the lessons they learned along the way. From 1936 to 2010, UT has had 139 Olympians who have won a total of 117 medals.

Five Longhorn Olympians representing various decades — swimmer Josh Davis, swimmer Tracey McFarlane, basketball player Andrea Lloyd, track and field athlete Johnny “Lam” Jones and swimmer Brendan Hansen — all discussed their Olympic experiences Friday.

Davis, a graduate of the College of Communication, competed in the Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 Olympics in swimming.

He discussed his one-year road — training and trying out for the Olympic team when he was living in a non-air conditioned apartment — to his three gold and two silver medals.

He said making a commitment to excellence, with the help of UT, will help someone achieve in whatever field they choose.

“The opportunities, faculty and resources here at UT coupled with commitment to excellence can take you anywhere, just like it took us to the Olympics and beyond,” Davis said.

Fellow swimmer McFarlane discussed her path to the Olympics and the issue of the East German swimmers using performance-enhancing drugs.

“Our relay team ranged from a height of 5’8 to 5’10, and once we stood next to those women from Germany, we looked like elementary school kids,” McFarlane said.

Steven Ungerleider, a visiting scholar with the Texas Program in Sports and Media, wrote a book titled “Faust’s Gold: Inside the East German Doping Machine,” in which he discussed the subject.

He said that the athletes featured in the panel, especially in McFarlane’s case, learned their values at the University.

“Sure, they came as gifted athletes and they had great coaches, but their value system was built upon the UT experience with faculty, coaches and mentors,” Ungerleider said.

Lloyd, a gold medalist in women’s basketball, discussed her experience with Title IX, a law enacted in 1972, which stated no one could be discriminated against under any educational program or activity based on gender.

The Title IX law allowed her to play basketball, traditionally a men’s sport, and later go on to compete at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Moderator for the discussion was Longhorn Olympian Donna de Varona, who competed in the 1960 and 1964 Olympics in swimming.

De Varona said all the Olympians had great lessons to share about achieving their goals as shown by their experiences.

“The Olympians’ experiences really are a metaphor of how to achieve in life,” De Varona said. “As they all basically said, the way you succeed is hard work, reaching out to a mentor, dedicating yourself and setting goals.” 

Printed on Monday, October 31, 2011 as: UT Olympic athletes share advice, discuss University influence