BU Today


BU’s Winning Olympians

Three alums medal at 2012 London Games

Old habits die hard. After nearly a decade of rising each morning at dawn to row, Natalie Dell tweeted last Thursday, “Day 1 of post-racing bliss: awake at 5:25 a.m. like clockwork.” This despite the fact that less than 24 hours earlier, Dell, a member of the U.S. women’s Olympic rowing team, had captured a bronze medal in the quadruple sculls. Even with the competition behind her, she found it impossible to sleep in.

The 27-year-old grew up fishing with her father on Chesapeake Bay, but acknowledged in an interview with USA Today that rowing didn’t come naturally when she first picked up oars as an undergraduate at Penn State. After earning a master’s in public health at BU, Dell (SPH’09) won a spot on the U.S. women’s rowing team and spent months practicing in both sweep and sculling boats to earn a berth on the U.S. Olympic team. While she trained, she continued her work with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the Bedford VA Medical Center.

Competing at the Eton Dorney Rowing Centre at Dorney Lake on August 1, Dell and fellow crew members Adrienne Martelli, Megan Kalmoe, and Kara Kohler beat the Australian team by just 1.4 seconds to secure third place. Ukraine won gold and Germany silver. A visibly emotional Dell held back tears as she stood on the dais to receive her medal.

London Summer Olympics 2012, Florian Mennigen, Germany men's rowing eight gold medal

Florian Mennigen (CAS’06) of Germany wears his gold medal for winning the men’s rowing eight August 1 in Eton Dorney, England, at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Germany beat Canada to win the competition. AP Photo/Armando Franca

Dell is one of three alums who medaled at this year’s Olympic Games. Rowing for Germany, BU men’s crew alum Florian Mennigen (CAS’06) found himself cheered on by England’s Prince William and 25,000 other fans gathered at Dorney Lake on August 1 to watch Mennigen’s team beat Canada by just 1.23 seconds to take first place in the Men’s Eight Final A rowing competition. Mennigen is the third Terrier to win a gold medal in rowing. As an undergraduate, he helped guide BU to the Grand Final at the 2005 IRA Regatta and Eastern Sprints. A cocaptain during his senior year, Mennigen shared the E. Ray Speare Award as the University’s top male scholar-athlete for 2006.

“We’re very excited for Florian,” says BU men’s crew head coach Thomas Bohrer, who twice won Olympic silver, in 1988 and 1992. “First of all, he epitomizes a great athlete and a great person. When he was at BU, he had an excellent work ethic at the boathouse and in the classroom. It does not surprise me that he’s in this position.”

Rounding out the BU medalists is Kamal Bahamdan (ENG’94), who this past Monday won a bronze medal in equestrian team jumping for his native Saudi Arabia. Competing before a crowd of 23,000 n Greenwich Park, the Saudi equestrian team earned its first-ever team jumping medal. Bahamdan is a five-time equestrian Olympian, having previously competed in the 1996 Atlanta games, the 2000 Sydney games, the 2004 Athens games, and the 2008 Beijing  games. He placed fourth in the individual jumping competition on August 8, narrowly missing a chance at a second medal.

London Summer Olympics 2012, Saudi Arabia equestrian show jumping team bronze medal, Prince Abdullah Al Saud, Kamal Bahamdan, Ramzy Al Duhami, Abdullah Waleed Sharbatly

Saudi equestrian team members Prince Abdullah Al Saud (from left), Kamal Bahamdan (ENG’94), Ramzy Al Duhami, and Abdullah Waleed Sharbatly celebrate their bronze medal win in the equestrian show jumping team competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics August 6 in London. AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

Just hours after winning bronze, he tweeted, “I’m really moved by the supporting comments I got. It feels as good as the medal. Thank you!”

Born in Riyadh in 1971, Bahamdan began riding when he was seven. While at BU, where he majored in manufacturing engineering, he competed in the East Coast Circuit. He took a sabbatical from his job as CEO of the Bahamdan Group, a privately owned investment firm founded by his family, to train for the 2012 Olympic Games.

London Summer Olympics 2012, Ella Gunson, New Zealand women's floor hockey team bronze medal

New Zealand’s Ella Gunson (SAR’14) (front) and Germany’s Celine Wild in their preliminary round women’s field hockey match at the 2012 Summer Olympics August 6 in London. AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena

Also competing at the London games was Ella Gunson (SAR’14), a field hockey player from New Zealand. A seven-year veteran of her country’s national field hockey program, Gunson took up the sport at age nine. Her team’s hopes for winning a bronze medal were dashed earlier today when Great Britain defeated New Zealand 3-1. A junior who recently transferred to BU from Massey University in Auckland, Gunson is the first athlete from BU to compete in an Olympic field hockey event.

Other BU alums in the 2012 London Olympic Games included Rachael Vanderwal (SED’06), a member of Great Britain’s first Olympic women’s basketball team; Jozef Klaassen (SMG’09) and Meindert Klem (CGS’07, CAS’10), both of whom rowed for the Netherlands men’s crew team; and Australian men’s Olympic basketball team coach Brett Brown (MET’83), who is an assistant coach with the National Basketball Association’s San Antonio Spurs. Will Daly (CGS’04, SMG’06) was an alternate for the U.S. men’s rowing team.

As for Dell, while she may find it impossible to sleep in, one aspect of her wake-up routine has changed: the day after winning, she tweeted: “Wearing the medal to breakfast.”

John O'Rourke, Editor of BU Today at Boston University
John O’Rourke

John O’Rourke can be reached at orourkej@bu.edu.

3 Comments on BU’s Winning Olympians

  • Almond Butterscotch on 08.16.2012 at 9:34 am

    BU Today conveniently left out the BU Quidditch Captain, Kedzie Teller (’12) who took Gold with the USA Quidditch team. Again.

    • BU Today on 08.16.2012 at 10:23 am

      Thanks for pointing out the accomplishment of Kedzie and the USA Quidditch team, Almond. Unfortunately though, Quidditch is not an official Olympic sport (yet!), and this article was about those who won medals in the official London 2012 Olympic Games.

      But we at BU Today love us some Quidditch! And when we found out that Kedzie would be heading to London as a member of USA’s Quidditch team to compete in the Quidditch Summer Games in Oxford, England (a few weeks before, but not part of the Olympics), we made sure to tell the story.

      You can read our story here:

  • Justin on 08.20.2012 at 10:12 am

    This makes even more proud to call myself a fellow Terrier. Thank you for acknowledging our own BU Olympians. It really inspires a new generation. My friends and I made a video reenacting the London 2012 games as a tribute to the Fierce Five (Gabby, Kyla, McKayla, Jordyn, and Aly). If you would like to watch to support our countries performance in London, the video is at this link: http://goo.gl/GLgT6

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