- The Ohio State University at the Olympics: A Biographical Dictionary of Athletes, Alternates, Administrators, Coaches, and Trainers
People—Tradition—Excellence—these watchwords emblematic of and emboldening to athletes at The Ohio State University (OSU) and their fans are, fittingly, major themes lending significance to Rusty Wilson's biographical dictionary of Olympians associated with OSU. Wilson, information specialist at OSU and Olympic historian, blends abundant statistics with photographs, quotations, and vibrant vignettes to create a detailed, useful reference work on the breadth and depth of contributions to Olympic competition between 1904 and 2008 made by one of the nation's most comprehensive collegiate athletic programs. Chronicling heroic performances of athletes who "dedicated themselves to a goal that many seek but few attain" (p. 3) alongside varying degrees and types of human success and failure these young men and women knew in the challenges of life before, during, and after sport, Wilson transforms a lengthy ledger of institutional and individual achievement into intriguing and inspiring tributes.
The main body of the work balances treatment of preparation, Olympic experiences, and life experiences of 148 Olympians, seven Olympic alternates, twelve Olympic administrators, twenty-four Olympic coaches, eighteen OSU coaches, four Olympic trainers, and one OSU administrator. Each section presents participants alphabetically, a convention conveniently underscoring the author's key point: beyond legends (Jesse Owens is the one hundredth entry) there are hundreds whose stories must be told to justly describe "accomplishment" and appreciate the rich, diverse fabric of Ohio State's Olympic legacy. The lead entry features Charles Adkins, a boxer whose 1952 bout with a Russian was "hyped" as U.S.A. versus Soviet Union, illustrating how often political pressure complicates intense athletic competition. Wilson cites Olympic leaders like Tom Gompf, called the "father of synchronized diving" for competing, coaching, supervising competition, judging, writing rules for the sport, and lobbying for its inclusion in the Olympics and Lynn St. John, "father of OSU athletics" and athletics director at OSU for thirty-two years who was instrumental to the Olympic Basketball Committee introducing its sport. He credits innovators in Olympic sport like Aldis Berzins (developer of software for volleyball scouting), Dick Cleveland (earliest proponent of weight training for swimmers), Mike Peppe (using interval training for swimmers and photography to train divers), and Mary Jo Ruggieri (using mind/body techniques and alternative medicine for athletic training). He also celebrates people of unique character—personal, local, national, and global community servants and role models such as Theresa Andrews (loving sister), Jack Keller (ethical sportsman), Michael Redd (community philanthropist), Miller Anderson (war hero), and Mal Whitfield (ambassador of sport to third world countries). Accompanying details of their competitions are the intrigues of an alleged spy (Sam Hall), an Israeli anti-terrorist activist (Ron Kehrmann), and a Cuban revolutionary (Nicasio Silverio-Ferrer). Wilson is fair and accurate in presenting how people thought about sport and approached sports [End Page 495] and life by examining not only excellence but controversy (Paul Hamm, Susen Tiedtke, Dave Pichler), agony of defeat (Juan Botella), rejection of academic opportunities (Jesse Owens), misconduct (Mike Finneran, Mary Jo Ruggieri), and infamous criminality (James Snook, OSU's first gold medalist). Many portraits offer participants' own comments on issues in Olympic competition such as nationalism, boycotts, gender and sexual identity, violence, protests, judging problems, and drug testing along with memories of the exhilaration and honor of competing.
The statistics Wilson presents in the vignettes and six appendices reflect OSU tradition and excellence (producing champions, academic integrity/graduation, equity, and prestige) in Olympic competition: 372 participants represented twenty-six of thirty-six sports offered at OSU across thirty-two Olympic games. Wilson notes that of the 149 Olympians, 106 were men and forty-three (29 percent) were women. Competitors were of multiple religions, ethnicities, and social classes. Wilson cites 111 U.S. athletes and thirty-nine athletes from twenty-three other countries. Numerous participants qualified as collegiate, national, or international Hall of Famers. Participants earned degrees in at...