The opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics was held at the Bird’s Nest. On August 8, 2008, athletes and coaches from all corners of the globe flocked to this venue to represent their country and walk in the parade of nations.
Amongst the athletes at the event representing the United States, more than a dozen had ties to NMU’s United States Olympic Education Center – two of whom picked up bronze medals.
“I think this was a very successful Olympics for us,” USOEC Director Jeff Kleinschmidt said.
2006 NMU graduate Adam Wheeler received a bronze in the 96 kg weight class of greco-roman wrestling. Wheeler’s degree is in criminal justice, with a minor in psychology.
Freestyle wrestler Randi Miller was awarded a bronze in the 63 kg weight class. Miller had a two-year stint at NMU majoring in outdoor recreation before going on to train at the USOC training facility in Colorado Springs.
In the Olympics, there are three styles of wrestling: men’s Greco-roman, men’s freestyle and women’s freestyle. The only two medals earned by the U.S. in greco-roman and women’s freestyle came from athletes associated with Northern’s USOEC.
Junior Spenser Mango also competed on the Olympic greco-roman mat, finishing with a 1-1 record.
“Spenser, for being a young guy, did really well and the coaches were very proud of him,” Kleinschmidt said.
Greco-roman was the only sport to send a competing athlete and current NMU student to Beijing. Kleinschmidt said Mango’s accomplishment should help the program because most wrestlers reach their prime in their mid 20s or late 30s, and the USOEC is sending athletes to the Olympics who are in their early 20s.
Current greco-roman head coach Ivan Ivanov served as an assistant coach with the U.S. team and former USOEC athletes Willie Madison and R.C. Johnson contributed as training partners for the U.S. team at the Olympics.
“It really is a tribute to the athletes and the program but also the coaches,” Kleinschmidt said. “We have some of the finest coaches in the world training the athletes here, and they are the ones who make the difference, and they’re the ones who help the athletes make the Olympic team.”
Other USOEC athletes involved in the Beijing Games:
– Amy Borgnini was also a former resident and training partner with the women’s free-style team in Beijing.
– Two boxers, senior Greg Carter and David Clark a graduate in criminal justice were alternates with the U.S. team and made the trip.
– Larry Nicholson a former assistant boxing coach with NMU’s USOEC and Ma Jianping a past weightlifting coach attended the games.