Led by two-time gold medalists Shannon Boxx (soccer) and Mariel Zagunis (fencing), nine athletes with ties to the University of Notre Dame will be competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics that will be held July 25-Aug. 12 in London, England.
This year's contingent continues a legacy of Notre Dame participation in the Olympics that goes back 100 years to the 1912 Summer Games in Stockholm, Sweden, and (counting this year's group) includes 37 Notre Dame student-athletes who have earned a total of 19 medals (nine gold, three silver, seven bronze) while competing in 17 of the past 22 Summer Olympics and 26 different events, as well as two events at the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Torino, Italy.
All nine of this year's competitors (five Americans, three Canadians, one Nigerian) are former, current or future Fighting Irish student-athletes, and eight of the nine are female, setting a new school record for the most women participating in one Olympic Games (Notre Dame sent six women each to the 2004 Athens Olympics and 2008 Beijing Olympics), while tying the mark for most overall participants (also set in both 2004 and 2008).
In addition to Boxx and Zagunis (who will compete in the individual sabre event), the other Fighting Irish athletes representing the United States will be 10-time track & field All-American Molly Huddle ('07) in the 5,000-meter run, current senior fencer Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren) in the individual and team epee competitions and incoming freshman fencer Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky./Dunbar) in the individual and team foil events. Representing Canada will be Notre Dame women's soccer alums Candace Chapman ('05) and Melissa Tancredi ('04), along with current Fighting Irish women's basketball junior forward Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary's Catholic). Rounding out the Notre Dame contingent is former 15-time all-BIG EAST and 2005 All-America hurdler Selim Nurudeen ('05), who will compete in the 110-meter high hurdles for Nigeria during the London Olympics.
Boxx and Zagunis -- who each struck gold in 2004 and 2008 -- will be suiting up for the United States in their third Olympic Games, tying the school record for most Olympic appearances held by Boxx's former soccer teammate Kate (Sobrero) Markgraf ('98) (played in 2000, 2004 and 2008), and modern pentathlete Mike Gostigian ('86) (former Notre Dame fencer who competed in 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics).
Boxx and Zagunis also have the opportunity to become the first three-time Olympic gold medalists in school history, a mark they currently share with Markgraf. What's more, Zagunis (who earned a bronze medal in the team sabre competition at the 2008 Beijing Games) can catch former Fighting Irish track & field All-American/head coach Alex Wilson ('32), who earned four medals on the track for his native Canada at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics (bronze in 4x400-meter relay) and 1932 Los Angeles Games (silver in 800 meters; bronze in both 400 meters and 4x400-meter relay).
Once again, the Fighting Irish women's soccer program is well-represented at the Olympics, with Boxx ('99), Chapman and Tancredi set to take part in the 12-team tournament that begins July 25 at various locations around Great Britain. Since women's soccer was added to the Olympic program at the 1996 Atlanta Games, a total of five Notre Dame alums have participated in all but that inaugural competition, with Monica Gonzalez ('01) leading her native Mexico to its first-ever Olympic appearance in 2004 (reached the quarterfinals before falling to Brazil, 5-0). The United States has won three of the first four Olympic women's soccer tournament, losing only in the 2000 gold medal match (3-2 in overtime) to Norway. Meanwhile, Canada made its Olympic debut in 2008 (with Chapman scoring her country's first Olympic goal in a 2-1 opening-round win over Argentina), reaching the quarterfinals before losing to the U.S., 2-1 in overtime.
Boxx and the American women's soccer team will kick off this year's Olympic competition at noon (ET) July 25, playing France in a group-stage match at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, followed by another group match against Colombia at noon (ET) July 28, also in Glasgow. The final United States match in group play will be at 12:15 p.m. (ET) July 31 against North Korea at legendary Old Trafford in Manchester, England. All three of the Americans' group-stage contests will be televised live on NBC Sports Network.
Canada has been place in a group with defending FIFA Women's World Cup champion Japan, as well as Sweden and South Africa. The Canadians will play Japan in their opener at noon (ET) July 25 at City of Coventry Stadium in Coventry, England, with the match to be televised on a tape-delayed basis in the United States at 6 p.m. (ET) on NBC Sports Network. Canada then faces South Africa at 9:45 a.m. (ET) on July 28, also in Coventry, before closing group play at 9:30 a.m. (ET) July 31 against Sweden at St. James' Park in Newcastle, England. The final two Canadian group play matches will be televised live on the special NBC Olympic Soccer Channel (check with cable/satellite provider for details), with possible additional coverage on other NBC networks (check nbcolympics.com for updated broadcast information).
The top two teams in each of the three Olympic women's soccer groups, as well as the two next-best qualifiers, will advance to the single-elimination quarterfinal round on Aug. 3. The semifinals are set for Aug. 6, with the gold/bronze medal matches scheduled for Aug. 9.
Achonwa will be making her Olympic debut in 2012, and becomes just the second Notre Dame women's basketball player to compete in the Games. Canada returns to Olympic women's basketball action for the first time since 2000, opening this year's competition at 6:15 a.m. (ET) July 28 with a pool play contest against Russia. The Canadians will play their remaining group-stage games against Great Britain (3 p.m. ET, July 30), France (4 a.m. ET, Aug. 1), Brazil (9:30 a.m. ET, Aug. 3) and Australia (9:30 a.m. ET, Aug. 5), with all games being contested at the Olympic Basketball Arena in London, and all to air live on the special NBC Olympic Basketball Channel (check with cable/satellite provider for details).
The top four teams in each of the two Olympic women's basketball groups will move on to the single-elimination quarterfinal round on Aug. 7, with the semifinals slated for Aug. 9, and the gold/bronze medal games to be played on Aug. 11.
The Olympic fencing competitions are one-day events for each weapon, beginning with preliminaries in the morning and continuing through the medal bouts in the afternoon. Kiefer takes the strip first for the Notre Dame contingent in the women's individual foil competition on July 28, with the medal bouts set to start yat 2:10 p.m. (ET) and tape-delayed coverage later in the afternoon on NBC Sports Network. A similar coverage pattern will follow for Courtney Hurley in the women's individual epee on July 30, before Zagunis competes in the women's individual sabre event on Aug. 1 (the sabre medal bouts will start at 2:40 p.m. ET and will be shown live on MSNBC). Kiefer returns to action in the women's team foil competition on Aug. 2 (finals start at 1 p.m. ET, coverage TBA), with Courtney Hurley's women's team epee event set for Aug. 4 (also at 1 p.m. ET and coverage TBA).
On the track, Huddle makes her Olympic debut in the 5,000-meter preliminaries at 5:55 a.m. (ET) on Aug. 7 (coverage TBA), less than an hour after Nurudeen takes the track for the preliminary heats in the 110-meter high hurdles (5:10 a.m. ET; delayed coverage on NBC at 10 a.m. ET). The semifinals and finals in the hurdles will take place on Aug. 8 (2:15 p.m. ET semis; 4:15 p.m. ET finals - taped coverage at 8 p.m. ET on NBC). Meanwhile, if Huddle qualifies for the 5,000-meter finals, that race would be run at 3:05 p.m. (ET) Aug. 10 (taped coverage on NBC Late Night at 12:35 a.m. ET on Aug. 11).
For more information on Notre Dame participants at the 2012 London Olympics, visit the special Notre Dame Olympics microsite (und.com/olympics), the official London Olympics web site (london2012.com) or the official NBC Olympics web site (nbcolympics.com).