July 28, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Nine participants in the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympic Games, which will be held in Beijing, China from Aug. 8-24, have ties to the University of Notre Dame. All nine competitors are former, current or future Fighting Irish student-athletes. Six of the athletes are female, which matches an all-time high for Notre Dame from the 2004 Olympics.
The Notre Dame women's soccer program boasts four athletes that will be competing in the 12-team Olympic tournament. Kate (Sobrero) Markgraf ('98) and Shannon Boxx ('99) will suit up for the United States, while Melissa Tancredi ('05) and Candace Chapman ('06) will play for Canada.
Markgraf and Boxx are no strangers to the Olympic Games as they were starters on the United States squad that captured the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece. In addition, Markgraf, who has been a starting defender for Team USA for the better part of the past decade and is a captain of this year's squad, helped the U.S. claim bronze at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.
Team USA enters the Olympic tournament with a 21-0-1 record this year (and is riding a streak of seven consecutive shutouts). The Americans will kick off the competition Aug. 6 versus Norway in Qinhuangdao. The U.S. will then face Japan on Aug. 9 also in Qinhuangdao before finishing Group C play against New Zealand on Aug. 12 in Shenyang.
During their collegiate career, Markgraf and Boxx, a midfielder, were key cogs in Notre Dame's run to the 1995 NCAA title. They also helped lead the United States to a third-place finish at the 2007 FIFA World Cup. Markgraf was part of the winning U.S. team at the 1999 World Cup.
Tancredi, a defender, and Chapman, a forward, were starters on Notre Dame's 2004 NCAA championship squad. Recently, they helped Canada to a runner-up finish at the Peace Queen Cup (June 14-21) in Suwon. In the final, Team Canada fell, 1-0, to a United States squad that featured Markgraf and Boxx. This will be the first Olympic experience for both Tancredi and Chapman.
Canada is 8-5-5 this year as it heads to China, with the Maple Leafs' opening match (their first Olympic contest since the sport was added to the Games' lineup in 1996) is scheduled for Aug. 6 against Argentina in Tianjin. Canada will then face host China on Aug. 9 also in Tianjin before wrapping up Group A play against Sweden on Aug. 12 in Beijing. The top two teams in each of the three round-robin groups, plus the two best third-place teams, advance to the quarterfinals.
Rising junior fencer Kelley Hurley is the only current Notre Dame student-athlete that will compete in China. Hurley, a two-time All-American, won the 2008 NCAA title in the women's epee and collected a gold medal in both the individual and team competition at the 2008 Junior World Championships, which were held in April in Acireale, Italy. She will be participating as an individual for the United States at the Olympics since there is no team competition in the women's epee. This will be her first action in the Olympics.
Mariel Zagunis will be looking to defend her gold medal in the sabre from the 2004 Summer Games. After winning the gold in Athens for the United States, Zagunis began her Notre Dame career and helped lead the Irish to the 2005 NCAA title. She competed with the Fighting Irish for two seasons and compiled an impressive resume that included being the 2006 NCAA champion in the sabre and the 2005 national runner-up. Zagunis registered a 75-3 regular-season record with the Irish. She will be part of the U.S. women's sabre team and individual competition in Beijing.
The third Olympic fencer with a Notre Dame connection is incoming freshman Gerek Meinhardt. Meinhardt will be competing as an individual for the U.S. in the foil since there is no team event in that weapon. The San Francisco native won gold with the USA men's foil squad at the 2008 Junior World Championships. This will be Meinhardt's first Olympic competition.
The fencing portion of the 2008 Summer Olympics will take place Aug. 9-17 at the Olympic Green Convention Centre.
Former Notre Dame track and field All-American Thomas Chamney ('07) will be running in the 800 meters for his native Ireland. Chamney was a three-time All-American in the 800 meters, garnering both indoor and outdoor honors in 2006 and a second indoor citation in 2007.
Chamney was the 2006 NCAA Mideast Regional Champion in the 800 meters and has four BIG EAST titles, including back-to-back 800-meter indoor championships in 2006 and 2007. He was also a member of the indoor 4x800-meter relay team that took top honors in 2006 and 2007. Chamney racked up 11 All-BIG EAST honors (five indoor, six outdoor) on the way to becoming one of Notre Dame's most decorated track athletes.
Chamney, who will be competing in his first Olympics, is one of 16 track and field athletes representing Ireland at this year's games. The heats for the men's 800 meters will take place on Aug. 20 with the semifinals to be held the following day. The finals in the 800 meters are set for Aug. 23. All of the races will take place at the Beijing National Stadium.
Rounding out the Fighting Irish contingent at the '08 Summer Games is former track & field All-American Selim Nurudeen ('05). Nurudeen will be competing in the 110-meter high hurdles for Nigeria. Nurudeen, who is making his Olympic debut, is the lone entrant in that event for Nigeria.
During his distinguished Notre Dame career, Nurudeen was a seven-time BIG EAST champion. That ranks as the second-most conference titles in program history for individual and relay events. He was a four-time champ (2002-05) in the 110-meter high hurdles along with capturing the 60-meter hurdles crown in 2004 and 2005. Nurudeen also won the 200-meters title in '05. In all, he received 15 all-BIG EAST honors, which is the most combined indoor and outdoor citations for a Notre Dame track and field student-athlete.
In 2005, he garnered two All-America honors by placing sixth in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships and seventh in the 110-meter high hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. That same season he served as team captain for the Irish and was named team MVP for the second straight season.
The heats for the 110-meter high hurdles will take place on Monday, Aug. 18 with the quarterfinals to occur on Aug. 19. The semifinals and finals are slated for Aug. 20 and 21, respectively, at the Beijing National Stadium.
2008 Summer Olympians with ties to the University Notre Dame
Kelley Hurley (`10) U.S.A. - competing as individual in the epee
Gerek Meinhardt (`12) U.S.A. - competing as individual in the foil
Mariel Zagunis ('08) U.S.A. - competing as individual and on sabre team
Track & Field
Thomas Chamney (`07) Ireland - competing in the 800 meters
Selim Nurudeen ('05) Nigeria - competing in the 110-meter high hurdles
Shannon Boxx (`99) U.S.A.
Kate Sobrero Markgraf (`98) U.S.A.
Candace Chapman (`06) Canada
Melissa Tancredi (`05) Canada