BEIJING, China — A handful of Yale-bred athletes were among the elite in Beijing this summer.
Five Yale alumni and one current Bulldog participated in athletic competition at this summer’s 29th Olympiad in China.
Sada Jacobson ’06 won two fencing medals — silver and bronze — and Josh West ’98 rowed with the British eight to a silver-medal finish.
Thomas Barrows ’10, current captain of the sailing team, represented the U.S. Virgin Islands in his 21st-place finish in the Laser class.
Athletics Director Tom Beckett said the Bulldog representation in Beijing is a “source of great pride” for the University athletics community.
“It adds to the history of Yale representatives participating in the Olympic Games and continues the legacy of outstanding achievement,” he said.
“The goal for all of those individuals is to be a medalist, but at the same time, we’re proud knowing that we have had so many Olympians, whether they medal or not.”
Jacobson topped the list of Eli competitors in Beijing, twice ascending the podium.
On the first day of Olympic competition, Jacobson fenced her way to a silver medal as part of the American women’s sweep of the individual sabre. The 2006 graduate, who entered the competition as the top seed, advanced to the gold-medal match, but lost to fellow American Mariel Zagunis, 15-8.
Becca Ward rounded out the American medal trio.
The following week, Jacobson added to her individual silver with a bronze medal from the team sabre competition, which most considered a disappointment for the favorites.
The two Beijing medals came in addition to her bronze medal from Athens in 2004 and two World Cup Championship titles from 2002 and 2003, which propelled her to the No. 1 ranking in the world — the first time for a U.S. woman.
Current Yale fencing coach Henry Harutunian, who had Jacobson on his team during her time in New Haven, described Jacobson as an athlete with “unbelievable personality, performance and presentation.”
“Not only did she have ability and talent, but she had a discipline and drive that I have seen very rarely in all my years of coaching,” he said. “Yale academics, being the first at practice and last to leave, and going to New York every weekend to practice with the national team — she managed it all.”
Harutunian, who began working with the American national team in 1977 and served as a U.S. Olympic coach in 1984, added, “[Jacobson] is a role model for future people who are coming to Yale and one of the best examples in the entire fencing community.”
Josh West ’98 was the other Bulldog to carry home a medal from Beijing. West won a silver medal with Great Britain’s crew team, finishing with a time 5:25.11 in the men’s eight, 1.22 seconds behind the first-place Canadians and just 0.23 seconds ahead of the Americans.
“We’re a bit disappointed to be honest, because we were going for gold,” West said in an Aug. 18 report by Yale Sports Publicity. “To be on the podium is still very exciting though, and it’s great to be here. This goes a long way to making up for Athens; it’s a very different experience to be near the front rather than at the back.”
Barrows was the only current Bulldog to compete in the Olympics, sailing in Qingdao, the coastal city where races were held. In a field of 43 boats, Barrows sailed to 21st place, with a top finish of 10th place in race eight of nine.
In addition to Barrows, Olympic sailing also featured Stu McNay ’05, who sailed to a 13th-place finish in the Men’s 470 class with crew Graham Biehl.
Bulldog presence in Beijing was rounded out with women’s crew, which featured Ashley Brzozowicz ’04 and Rachel Jeffers ’07, who represented Canada and the U.S., respectively. Brzozowicz and the Canadian women’s eight finished in fourth, edged out by 0.82 seconds just behind the third-place Romanians. The U.S. team, of which Jeffers was an alternate, won the race 1.88 seconds ahead of the second-place Dutch.
With the addition of the six Bulldogs in Beijing this summer, Yale has sent a total of 141 athletes to the Olympic Games.