Faster, Higher, Stronger: 11 Columbians Compete in London Olympics

Seven Columbia alumni, two current students and two coaches will represent the United States, Croatia, Dominica and Egypt in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, which begin July 27. This international group of Lions is made up of five fencers and a coach, two runners, two rowers and a field hockey player—all seeking Olympic glory. American fencers Nzingha Prescod (CC’15), Nicole Ross (CC’12), James Williams (CC’07, GSAS’09) and Jeff Spear (CC’10) secured their places in the games during the Division I National Championships in Virginia Beach, Va. in April. Prescod, the only current Columbia student, was named the Ivy League’s first Women’s Fencing Rookie of the Year in 2011 and took home gold at the Junior Women’s Foil World Championships in Jordan the same year. She also was featured in \"Essence\" magazine’s “Wealth and Power List” last October. The sophomore took off the last academic year to train for the Olympics; she plans to major in economics when she returns to Columbia in September. Ross, who recently graduated with an art history degree, was the 2010 NCAA champion in women’s foil and made first team All-American three years in a row. The Manhattan native holds a collection of gold and bronze medals from the Pan American Games in 2011 and 2009, and was twice named Columbia’s student athlete of the month. On the men’s side, Williams is a member of the 2008 United States’ silver medal-winning team in Beijing, and has medalled in the Pan American Games, won the National Championships in 2012 and was ranked as high as 18th in the world. (He is now 32nd in the world and third in the U.S.) A two-time team captain while at Columbia, Williams was twice named to second team NCAA All-American, won the Ivy League Championships three times and was named to the Academic All-Ivy Team twice. He holds a bachelor’s in history and Russian studies and a master’s in Slavic cultures. With a name suited for swordplay, Spear is a three-time All-American fencer who was named first team All-Ivy League three times. The evolutionary biology major received the 2010 NCAA Elite 88 award for fencing, which is presented to the student athlete with the highest cumulative G.P.A.—in his case, 4.07. The 2008 NCAA champion was also the 2010 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American of the Year. Sherif Farrag (CC’09) won a spot on Egypt’s national fencing team and will compete in the men’s foil in London. A two-time team captain at Columbia, he was twice named first team All-Ivy League and competed twice at the NCAA Championships. Michael Aufrichtig, Columbia’s head fencing coach for the last year, will coach the fencing portion of the men’s modern pentathlon, which also includes horseback riding, swimming, rifle and running. Under Aufrichtig, who previously chaired the New York Athletic Club Fencing Program, the Lion men had their best finish at the Ivy League Championships in four years, and the women finished just one win away from taking home the league title. Lisa Stublic (CC’06), a music theory major and for four years a star distance runner on Columbia’s championship-winning cross-country team, is Croatia’s first female Olympic marathon runner. Stublic qualified for London by running Berlin’s marathon in 2:33.42, finishing ninth. Last year, she broke Croatia’s marathon record, running 2:30.46 in Linz, Austria. Stublic also holds records for Croatia in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, the 500-meter and the half marathon. A Connecticut native, Stublic has trained in Croatia, her father’s homeland, since 2007. Erison Hurtault (CC’07), a sprinter who ran qualifying heats in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but did not advance to the finals, will once again represent Dominica, his parents’ native country, in the men’s 400-meter. The economics major won the 400-meter in the Ivy League championship all four years he ran track at Columbia and repeatedly broke his own school record in the event. He ran his personal best—45.40—in Sacramento in 2007. The same year, Hurtault, an All-American and seven-time Ivy League Heptagonal Champion in the 400-meter, was honored with Connie S. Maniatty Outstanding Senior Athlete Award, the Athletics Department’s highest award for Columbia student-athletes. Nick LaCava (CC’09) will row the lightweight men’s four without coxswain for the United States in London. His boat finished first in the 2012 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland in May. LaCava, who majored in economics here and has since co-founded a chocolate company called Chocomize, won the lightweight pair at the 2012 National Selection Regatta #1. Caryn Davies (LAW’13), a veteran of the U.S. national rowing team that captured a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and a silver medal in Athens in 2004, will once again represent the United States in the women’s eight. Davies, who enrolled in Columbia Law School three years ago, postponed her studies to train and qualify for the London games. Earlier this year, she set a world record in the eight at the 2012 Samsung World Rowing Cup II. Caroline Nichols, a new assistant field hockey coach at Columbia, will compete as a member of the U.S. women’s field hockey team in London. As a defender on the U.S. National Team, Nichols was a member of the 2008 Beijing Olympics team and on the U.S. team that defeated top ranked Argentina to win gold at the 2011 Pan American Games. In 2006, she was named to the USA World Cup Training Squad and was a member of the Netherlands Tour team in 2007. In addition, alumnus David Barry (CC, '87) looks to help the U.S. win gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London as the the Greco-Roman Team Leader for USA Wrestling. Barry, who was recently named USA Wrestling’s Myron Roderick Man of the Year, has served as the Greco-Roman Team Leader since 2009. During his Columbia wrestling career, Barry was a first-team All-Ivy League selection as a sophomore, a two-time EIWA placewinner and a team captain as a senior. —by Meghan Berry
July 19, 2012