More Wildcats Ever Headed to Olympic Games

Jeffrey Julmis

July 26, 2012

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When the Olympic Flame is lit inside Olympic Stadium on Friday night, thousands of athletes will begin their dream of representing their home nation on the biggest stage in sport as the start to the 2012 London Olympic Games is marked. Six of those athletes hoping to make the medal stand will be Kansas State Wildcats.

The K-State track and field team will have a combined total of six current or former athletes competing at the Olympics, the most ever in the program’s history. The total of six surpasses the previous high of five set in 1996 that also saw former Wildcat Kenny Harrison win gold in the triple jump while also setting an Olympic record in the event.

Two current Wildcats highlight the Olympians with junior Erik Kynard representing Team USA in the men’s high jump and senior Jeffrey Julmis running the 110 meter hurdles for Haiti. Julmis is only the second Haitian to run the event at the Olympics, and Kynard is the fourth Wildcat to compete in the high jump at the games.

A pair of Lithuanians represent K-State’s strength in the combined events as 2004 silver medalist Austra Skujyte looks to medal again as she also becomes the first woman to compete in the heptathlon in three Olympics. Darius Draudvila will compete in his first Olympics in the decathlon, qualifying at the Lithuanian Championship.

K-State’s distance program is well represented as well with two runners in the women’s 3,000 meter steeplechase. Puerto Rican national record holder Beverly Ramos is running in her first games after a successful career as a Wildcat recently. Jamaica’s Korene Hinds is making her second trip to the Olympics, qualifying at the age of 35 this time around.

This group of Wildcats will be hard pressed to surpass the record of three medals won in 1956 by Wildcats when Thane Baker took home a gold, silver and bronze. It still has the potential to be a great Olympic Games for K-State with Skujyte’s experience and previous medal-winning performance and the upcoming talent of Kynard, Julmis and Ramos. Kynard enters the Olympics ranked No. 6 in the world.

Opening Ceremonies are slated for Friday evening with festivities beginning on NBC at 6:30 p.m. Central. Competition is already underway with soccer having started on Wednesday to account for its long schedule. Track and field events begin on Friday, August 3 and run through the final day of the games on August 12.

Team Rovelto
K-State Head Coach Cliff Rovelto has established himself as one of the top coaches in not only the nation but the world when it comes to track and field. One event area where he is most respected among his peers and athletes is the high jump. That is more evident than ever this year as the Team USA men’s high jump crew is personally coached by Rovelto. Defending IAAF world champion Jesse Williams highlights the group along with back-to-back NCAA champion Erik Kynard and 2004 Olympian Jamie Nieto.

No other coach in America can claim to be personally coaching the entire Team USA contingency in any one event area other than Rovelto.

Rovelto has had a high jumper he coaches compete in the Olympics every year since 1996. He is yet to coach a high jumper to a gold medal, however, with his best finish coming in 2004 when Matt Hemmingway claimed silver.

Williams joined up with Rovelto a few years ago and has improved steadily since after winning four NCAA titles while at Southern Cal. Last year he jumped 2.37 meters (7-09.25) at the USA Championship and went on to win the 2011 IAAF World Championship.

Nieto has seen success under Rovelto’s tutelage as well. In addition to his fourth-place finish at the Olympics in 2004, he narrowly missed qualifying in 2008 and has seen a resurgence this year as he is the oldest American to represent Team USA in the men’s high jump at 35 years.

More Wildcat Coaches in London
K-State Assistant Coach Michael Smith will be in London with the Puerto Rican delegation. After graduating from K-State distance star Beverly Ramos remained in Manhattan for graduate school and continues to train with Smith and she will represent her native country in the 3,000 meter steeplechase.

Former K-State high jumper Gwen Wentland will also be in London wearing the Red, White and Blue. Wentland is an official member of the Team USA coaching staff as she will serve as an assistant women’s coach for jumps. She will over see the high jump, long jump and heptathlon athletes at the games.