Monumental Moments: The Marquette Summer Olympics Story
Aug. 8, 2008
By: Michael Wittliff, Marquette Athletics Media Relations
On the 100th anniversary of John Brennan's participation in the 1908 Olympic Games in London, former Golden Eagle Dwyane Wade is making the trip with the U.S. men's basketball team to Beijing for the XXIX Olympiad.
The past century has seen a good number of current and former Marquette student-athletes achieve greatness in the Olympic Games. Ten athletes have participated in the Summer Olympics while numerous others have been involved in the Winter Games.
John Brennan, a native of Ireland, was Marquette's first Olympic athlete when he traveled with the United States' delegation to London in 1908. This was a large feat for a man from Ireland who wanted badly to strike a blow to prestige of the British Empire.
That year the U.S. Olympic Trials were held in Chicago and Brennan impressed the U.S. Olympic Committee enough to be added to the roster for a trip across the Atlantic. At the trials, Brennan finished second in the broad jump (long jump) and won the hop, skip and jump (triple jump) by a fairly large margin.
Brennan's first event in London was the broad jump in which he placed fifth with a distance of 22-6 1/4. The U.S. champion in each event was considered among the favorites to bring home a medal and it was Brennan's hope to win a gold in the hop, skip and jump. But the results in the marathon, the premier event of the competition, threw an interesting twist to the rest of the games for him.
Brennan did not compete in the marathon but fellow Irish-American Johnny Hayes did. Hayes trailed Italian Dorando Pietri entering the stadium for the conclusion of the run but Pietri collapsed three times before being helped across the finish line by spectators. Upon a protest by the U.S.O.C., Hayes was awarded the gold medal and an evening of celebration by the U.S. delegation continued into the late hours of the morning.
Brennan was happy to see Hayes win the marathon and celebrated alongside throughout the night. Unfortunately for Brennan, however, was the fact that the hop, skip and jump was at 10 a.m. the next morning. The event ended up being one of only three track and field events in which the U.S. did not claim a medal (The U.S. competed in 22 track and field events overall).
Twenty years later in 1928 the Walter brothers, Jack and Pete, from Listowel, Ont., participated with the Canadian Olympic team in Amsterdam but it was not until 1932 that a Marquette student-athlete would bring home an Olympic medal.
The Olympic Games were held in Los Angeles in 1932 and Marquette sprinter Ralph Metcalfe looked to be the favorite in both the 100- and 200-meters after sweeping the events at the Olympic Trails. Metcalfe ended up finishing second in the 100, giving Marquette it's first Olympic medal following a heavily reviewed finish in which it appeared as though he broke the tape slightly ahead of fellow American Eddie Tolan. Metcalfe also brought home a bronze medal in the 200 after a wrongly staggered starting line put him a few yards behind the competition to start the race. Metcalfe took those disappointments in stride as he prepared for the next Olympic Games.
In 1936 at the Berlin Olympics, Metcalfe finally captured a gold medal, running a leg on the 4x100 relay team with fellow sprinter Jesse Owens. Metcalfe once again won silver in the 100, finishing second to Owens in one of the most highly publicized races in Olympic history.
A second gold medal for a Marquette athlete came in 1952 when former basketball player Frank McCabe helped the U.S. win the basketball tournament in Helsinki by defeating the Soviet Union in the championship game.
High jumper Ken Wiesner, a three-time NCAA champion in the event, also traveled to the Olympics in Helsinki, capturing a silver medal.
In 1956, John Bennett, who won two NCAA titles in the broad jump during his time at Marquette, brought home a silver medal from Melbourne with a jump of 25-2 1/4, the seventh total medal for a former Marquette athlete.
In those Melbourne Olympics and in the 1960 Games in Rome, Dale Lewis, who had played for the Marquette football team, competed in Greco-Roman wrestling but did not place either year. Lewis had left Marquette after one year to join the Marines and it was there that he learned to wrestle, making the 1956 Olympic squad only six months after taking up the sport. Upon his discharge from the military, Lewis enrolled at the University of Oklahoma and ended up winning two national titles on the mat before becoming a professional wrestler in the American Wrestling Association.
Failing to receiving an invitation from the U.S. Olympic basketball team for a try-out, Alfred "Butch" Lee participated in the 1976 Olympic Games as a member of the Puerto Rican National Team. The U.S. realized they had made a mistake by excluding Lee after he scored 35 points and almost single-handedly defeated the U.S. team before ultimately falling in the final seconds, 95-94.
This year Marquette will once again be represented in the Olympics by former men's basketball player Dwyane Wade, a bronze medalist at the 2004 Athens Games. Olympic basketball in the 2008 Beijing games will run from Aug. 9-24 and hopefully conclude with another gold medal for a former Golden Eagle.
Marquette Summer Olympians: 1908-2008
1932 Los Angeles
Those in Milwaukee who are interested in learning more about Brennan, Bennett and Metcalfe can view an exhibit dedicated to Marquette Olympians in the lobby of the Raynor Memorial Libraries on Marquette's campus.
In addition to photographs and information about each of the those three Olympians, the exhibit features a four minute video produced by the Instructional Media Center on Metcalfe. The exhibit will appear in the lobby until Monday, Aug. 25.