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Former Eagles in the Olympics

July 30, 2012

I’m not a big fan of the Olympics, and I find the Summer Games to be especially uninteresting. Just about the only thing likely to get me watching is having a local rooting interest.

Fortunately, EMU has been represented at every summer Olympics since 1960, and the streak won’t be broken this summer.

Later this week, Eric Alejandro will compete for Puerto Rico in the men’s 400-meter hurdles. Yes, Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States (though not for too many more years, I think), but they somehow compete separately. I don’t know how that works. Heats for this event begin on Friday, August 3, with semifinals on August 4 and the finals on Monday, August 6. Alejandro holds the EMU indoor record for the 200-meter high hurdles, which he set as a freshman in 2005. From what I can figure, he’ll be a long shot to medal, but he’s there, which is impressive in and of itself.

Video is better than not video.

Nieto high jumping in 2011

Jamie Nieto (pronounced “nee-ET-toe”) will make his second Olympic appearance. The 1999 EMU graduate finished fourth in the high jump in the 2004 Games and has consistently been one of the top ten high jumpers in the world for more than a decade. In 1999 he won a MAC Championship for EMU. In 2003 he was the USA outdoor champion and won a silver medal at the Pan-American Games. In 2004 he won the US Olympic trials and was the USA indoor champion. In 2008 he finished second at the US Olympic trials, but didn’t clear the Olympic qualifying standard in time. Last month he won the US Olympic trials. Nieto is also trying to put together an acting career, but so far there’s not much to talk about. High jump qualifying rounds begin August 5, and the final will be Tuesday, August 7.

Here’s the whole list of EMU’s track and field Olympians, which as far as I can find are all of EMU’s Olympians.

1960 – Hayes Jones
1964 – Hayes Jones
1968 – Dave Ellis
1972 – Hasely Crawford, Tony Nelson
1976 – Hasely Crawford, Deby Lansky LaPlante
1980 – Hasely Crawford
1984 – Earl Jones, Hasely Crawford
1988 – Tommy Asinga
1992 – Tommy Asinga
1996 – Paul McMullen, Tommy Asinga, Greg Rhymer, Sevatheda Fynes, Clement Chukwu
2000 – Clement Chukwu, Nduka Awazie, Fabian Rollins, Sevatheda Fynes
2004 – Jamie Nieto
2008 – Sasha Springer-Jones
2012 – Jamie Nieto, Eric Alejandro

While we’re on the topic, Hasely Crawford is worth an extra mention as one of the best, in any sport, ever to wear the green and white. In 1975 he was a two-time NCAA Division I national champion for the Hurons — three of his schools records from that year still stand — and in 1976, Crawford won the Olympic gold medal in the men’s 100 meters, becoming the first Olympic champion from Trinidad and Tobago.

Trinidad and Tobago’s national stadium is named “Hasely Crawford Stadium”. Crawford was also on postage stamps and was awarded his country’s highest honor, the Trinity Cross.

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