For 16 days in August the world will turn its attention to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, and the Garnet and Gold of Florida State will be prominent. A total of 13 student-athletes and coaches from three sports will represent the Seminoles and eight different countries at the Games.
The largest group of competitors comes from the Seminoles’ track and field program. A team-record 11 student-athletes and coaches will participate this year.
"There is no greater honor as an athlete than to represent your country in the Olympics," FSU head track and field coach Bob Braman said. "The Olympics are the pinnacle of our sport and we are so proud to have this many athletes representing Florida State. I hope that everyone soaks up the moment and really takes everything in, because for some it will be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that most athletes will never get to experience."
The athlete with the best chance to bring home a medal is sprinter Walter Dix (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.). He won the 200m dash at the US Olympic Trials and was second in the 100m dash. Dix’s winning time of 19.68 is the second fastest in the world this year. He will also run as part of the United States’ 4x100m relay. Joining Dix on Team USA is former triple jump national champion Rafeeq Curry.
In winning the long jump at the NCAA Championships, freshman Ngoni Makusha (Mandedza, Zimbabwe) leaped to an Olympic "A" standard of 8.30m, which is the seventh-longest in the world in 2008. Makusha’s countryman Brian Dzingai will run the 200m dash for the second time in the Olympics. He advanced to the second round of the 200m at the 2004 Games in Athens.
"This is a great opportunity that I think most athletes wish they could experience so being a part of it is a great honor," Makusha said. "It’s going to be fun, especially jumping against world-class athletes and just being in the same meet as some like Walter Dix or Asafa Powell or Usain Bolt. Knowing that it is going to be shown world wide is just awesome."
The NCAA Indoor National Champion in the heptathlon and third in the decathlon during the outdoor meet, Gonzalo Barroilhet (Santiago, Chile), starts his 10-event competition on August 21. Jamaica has produced a pair of first-time Seminole Olympians: Dorian Scott in the shot put and Ricardo Chambers in the 400m dash.
Great Britain has produced the most Olympians this year, as a total of three will race for the Union Jack. Barbara Parker and Andrew Lemoncello will take part in the 3000m steeplechase. Tom Lancashire will line up in the 1500m run. Also in the field for the 1500m will be volunteer assistant Kevin Sullivan, who is running in his third Olympics.
On the softball diamond, former Seminole Yuruby Alicart is a member of the Venezuelan national team. FSU assistant soccer coach Paul Rogers will help coach the Canadian contingent.
The 2008 Games in Beijing will have the largest contingent of Seminoles ever. The previous high was the 2000 Games, which saw 10 athletes compete, while the 1984 Games in Los Angeles had nine. FSU has had at least one Olympian in every Summer Olympics since 1972. Keeping the streak alive when the United States boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow was diver Wendy Fuller as a member of the Canadian Olympic Team.
Florida State has had six athletes bring home Olympic medals. The first was diver Phil Boggs in 1976 as he captured the gold on the one-meter board in Montreal. Sprinters Walter McCoy (gold) and Marita Payne (silver) earned medals on the 4x400m relay in 1984.
FSU went eight years without a medal until 1992, when Michelle Finn received one as part of the 4x100m relay. That started a run of four-straight Olympics with at least one Seminole medalist. Kim Batten took the silver in the 400m hurdles at the 1996 games in Atlanta. Doug Mientkiewicz was a member of the gold medal Team USA baseball squad and Stephen Parry took the bronze in the 200m butterfly at the 2004 games in Athens.