Going for Wisconsin Gold: Stories of Our State Olympians

Going for Wisconsin Gold: Stories of Our State Olympians
Going for Wisconsin Gold: Stories of Our State Olympians
Paperback: $19.95
304 pages, 63 color and b&w photos, 6 x 9
ISBN: 9780870207655

Published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press

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By Jessie Garcia

U-S-A, U-S-A is a familiar refrain heard in every Olympics, but truly it could be Wis-con-sin, Wis-con-sin! Since pioneering hurdler Alvin Kraenzlein got his Olympic start in the Badger State in the 1890s, Wisconsin has nurtured, trained, or schooled more than 400 Olympic athletes in a vast array of sports—from weightlifter Oscar Osthoff to speed skater Dan Jansen and from gymnast Paul Hamm to runner Susie Favor Hamilton. Wisconsin’s varied landscape and climate accommodate serious athletes whether they compete on ice, water, or terra firma, and thriving university and youth sports cultures have produced many homegrown Olympians.

Author and sportscaster Jessie Garcia provides insights into lives of Wisconsinites who made an Olympic journey, sharing some of their most captivating tales, from legendary feats to unlikely brushes with glory. Featuring the athletes’ personal stories and pictures from private collections, Going for Wisconsin Gold satisfies 2016’s immediate Summer Olympics cravings, but more importantly the book provides a new and deeper understanding of the sacrifices, joy, pain, heartbreak, and complete dedication it takes to reach the Olympics.

Award-winning sportscaster Jessie Garcia has been covering Wisconsin athletes and Olympians since 1992, first at WISC-TV in Madison and then at WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee. Garcia was one of the first women in the country to host an NFL coach’s show and served as the Green Bay Packers’ sideline reporter. Garcia’s work has also appeared on Milwaukee Public Radio and in several newspapers and magazines. A Madison native, she teaches journalism at two universities in Milwaukee. Her memoir My Life with the Green and Gold: Tales from 20 Years of Sportscasting was published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

TEAM USA Medal Winners with Wisconsin Connections

This list was compiled using dozens of sources and is comprehensive through the 2014 Winter Games. A "Wisconsin connection" refers to people who were born, grew up, went to school, or trained extenively in the state of Wisconsin.

1900 Paris
Alvin Kraenzlein competed in athletics. Won 4 gold.

1904 St. Louis
Emil Breitkreut, athletics. Won bronze.
Archie Hahn, athletics. Won 3 gold.
Oscar Osthoff, weightlifting. Won gold, silver.
George Poage, athletics. Won 2 bronze.
Phillip Schuster, gymnastics. Won bronze.
Jerome Steever, water polo. Won silver.
Frank Waller, athletics. Won 2 silver.

1912 Stockholm 
Fred Hird, shooting. Won gold, 2 bronze.

1920 Antwerp 
Walter Maurer, wrestling. Won bronze.
Alden "Zeke" Sanborn, rowing. Won gold.
Arlie Schardt, athletics. Won gold.

1928 Amsterdam 
Charles McGinnis, athletics. Won in bronze.

1932 Lake Placid 
Edward Murphy, speedskating. Won silver.

1932 Los Angeles 
Helene Madison, swimming. Won 3 gold.
Ralph Metcalfe, athletics. Won silver, bronze.

1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Leo Freisinger, speedskating. Won bronze.

1936 Berlin
Ralph Metcalfe, athletics. Won gold, silver.

1948 London
Lloyd LaBeach, athletics. Won 2 bronze.
Stan Stanczyk, weightlifting. Won gold. Set Olympic Record.

1952 Helsinki
Ron Bontemps, basketball. Won gold.
Frank McCabe, basketball. Won gold.
Stan Stanczyk,weightlifting. Won silver.
KennethWiesner, athletics. Won silver.

1956 Melbourne
John Bennett, athletics. Won silver.
George Lambert, athletics. Won silver.

1960 Rome
Bob Boozer, basketball. Won gold.
George Lambert, athletics. Won bronze.
Oscar Robertson, basketball. Won gold.

1964 Tokyo
Peter Barrett, sailing. Won silver
Harry "Buddy" Melges, sailing. Won bronze.

1968 Grenoble
Dianne Holum, speedskating. Won silver, bronze.

1968 Mexico
Peter Barrett, sailing. Won gold.
Larry Hough, rowing. Won silver.

1972 Sapporo
Anne Henning, speedskating. Won gold, bronze.
Dianne Holum, speedskating. Won gold, silver. Set Olympic Record
Stu Irving, ice hockey. Won silver.

1972 Munich
Steve Furniss, swimming. Won bronze.
Harry "Buddy" Melges, sailing. Won gold.
Tim Mickelson, rowing. Won silver.
John Peterson, wrestling. Won silver.
Benjamin Peterson, wrestling. Won gold.

1976 Innsbruck
Dan Immerfall, speedskating. Won bronze.
Peter Mueller, speedskating. Won gold. 
Leah Poulos, speedskating. Won silver.
Sheila Young, speedskating. Won gold, silver, bronze.

1976 Montreal
Wendy Boglioli, swimming. Won gold, bronze. Set Olympic Record
Quinn Buckner, basketball. Won gold.
Adrian Dantley, basketball. Won gold.
Philip Ford, basketball. Won gold.
Carie Graves, rowing. Won bronze.
Ernest "Ernie" Grunfeld, basketball. Won gold.
RussHellickson, wrestling. Won silver.
Scott May, basketball. Won gold.
Peggy McCarthy, rowing. Won bronze.
Jim Montgomery, swimming. Won 3 gold, bronze.
John Peterson, wrestling. Won gold.
Benjamin Peterson, wrestling. Won silver.
Jackie Zoch, rowing. Won bronze.

1980 Lake Placid
Beth Heiden, speedskating. Won bronze.
Eric Heiden, speedskating. Won 5 gold.
Mark Johnson, ice hockey. Won gold.
Leah Poulos, speedskating. Won 2 silver.
William "Buzz" Schneider, ice hockey. Won gold.
Bob Suter, ice hockey. Won gold.

1984 Los Angeles
Judi Brown, athletics. Won silver.
Connie Carpenter Phinney, cycling. Won gold.
Barry Davis, wrestling. Won silver.
Brent Emery, cycling. Won silver.
Bob Espeseth, rowing. Won bronze.
Carie Graves, rowing. Won gold.
Andy Rein, wrestling. Won silver.
Alvin Robertson, basketball. Won gold.
Kris Thorsness, rowing. Won gold.

1988 Calgary
Bonnie Blair, speedskating. Won gold, bronze.
Eric Flaim, speedskating. Won silver.

1988 Seoul
Jeff Grayer, basketball. Won bronze.
Dave Krmpotich, rowing. Won silver.
Daniel "Danny" Manning, basketball. Won bronze.
Jay Mortenson, swimming. Won gold.
Andre Phillips, athletics. Won gold.
Herman "JR" Reid, basketball. Won bronze.
Lynn Roethke, judo (demo sport). Won silver.
Scott Servais, baseball (demo sport). Won gold.

1992 Albertville
Bonnie Blair, speedskating. Won 2 gold.
Darcie Dohnal, speedskating. Won silver.
Bob Nichols, curling (demo sport). Won bronze.
Raymond (Bud) Somerville, curling (demo sport). Won bronze.
Bill Strum, curling (demo sport). Won bronze.
Mike Strum curling (demo sport). Won bronze.
Tim Somerville, curling (demo sport). Won bronze.

1992 Barcelona
Cindy Eckert, rowing. Won silver.
Carol Feeney, rowing. Won silver.

1994 Lillehammer
Bonnie Blair, speedskating. Won 2 gold.
Eric Flaim, speedskating. Won silver.
Andy Gabel, speedskating. Won silver.
Dan Jansen, speedskating. Won gold.

1996 Atlanta
Kris Benson, baseball. Won bronze.
Kenny Harrison, athletics. Won gold.
Dennis Hall, wrestling. Won silver.
Eric Mueller, rowing. Won silver.
Gary Payton, basketball. Won gold.

1998 Nagano
Karyn Bye, ice hockey. Won gold.
Christine Witty, speedskating. Won silver, bronze.

2000 Sydney
Walter "Ray" Allen, basketball. Won gold.
Vincent "Vin" Baker, basketball. Won gold.
Sarah Garner, rowing. Won bronze.
Mari Holden, cycling. Won silver.
Garrett Lowney, wrestling. Won bronze.
Kate Sobrero-Markgraf, football. Won silver.
Gary Payton, basketball. Won gold.
Ben Sheets, baseball. Won gold.
Neil Walker, swimming. Won gold, silver.

2002 Salt Lake City
Karyn Bye, ice hockey. Won silver.
Kip Carpenter, speedskating. Won bronze.
Joey Cheek, speedskating. Won bronze.
Chris Chelios, ice hockey. Won silver.
Casey FitzRandolph, speedskating. Won gold.
Derek Parra, speedskating. Won gold, silver.
Brian Rafalski, ice hockey. Won silver.
Jennifer Rodriguez, speedskating. Won 2 bronze.
Gary Suter, ice hockey. Won silver.
Christine Witty, speedskating. Won gold.

2004 Athens
Dede Barry, cycling. Won silver.
Rebecca Giddens, canoe-slalom. Won silver.
Morgan Hamm, gymnastics. Won silver (team).
Paul  Hamm, gymnastics. Won gold, silver, silver (team).
Beau Hoopman, rowing. Won gold. Set World Record.
Richard Jeffeson, basketball. Won bronze.
Beezie Madden, horse jumping. Won gold (team).
Kate Sobrero-Markgraf, football. Won gold.
Carly Piper, swimming. Won gold. Set World Record.
Andrew Rock, athletics. Won gold.
Lindsay Tarpley, football. Won gold.
Dwyane Wade, basketball. Won bronze (reserve).
Neil Walker, swimming. Won gold, bronze.

2006 Turin
Joey Cheek, speedskating. Won gold, silver.
Shani Davis, speedskating. Won gold, silver.
Molly Engstrom, ice hockey. Won bronze.
Chanda Gunn, ice hockey. Won bronze.

2008 Beijing
Micah Boyd, rowing. Won bronze.
Beau Hoopman, rowing. Won bronze.
Laua Kraut, horse jumping. Won gold (team).
Beezie Madden, horse jumping. Won gold (team), bronze (individual)
Kate Sobrero-Markgraf, football. Won gold.
Chellsie Memmel, gymnastics. Won silver (team).
Michael Redd, basketball. Won gold.
Linsday Tarpley, football. Won gold.
Dwyane Wade, basketball. Won gold.
Garrett Weber-Gale, swimming. Won 2 gold.

2010 Vancouver
Shani Davis, speedskating. Won gold, silver.
Alyson Dudek, speedskating. Won bronze.
Meghan Duggan, ice hockey. Won silver.
Molly Engstrom, ice hockey. Won silver.
Brian Hansen, speedskating. Won silver.
Phil Kessel, ice hockey. Won silver.
Hilary Knight, ice hockey. Won silver.
Jonathan Kuck, speedskating. Won silver.
Erika Lawler, ice hockey. Won silver.
Trevor Marsicano, speedskating. Won silver.
Joe Pavelski, ice hockey. Won silver.
Brian Rafalski, ice hockey. Won silver.
Ryan Suter, ice hockey. Won silver.
Jessie Vetter, ice hockey. Won silver.
Kerry Weiland, ice hockey. Won silver.
Jinelle Zaugg-Siergiej, ice hockey. Won silver.

2012 London
Megan Kamoe, rowing. Won bronze.

2014  Sochi
Matt Antoine, skeleton. Won bronze.
Brianna Decker, ice hockey. Won silver.
Meghan Duggan, ice hockey. Won silver.
Amanda Kessel, ice hockey. Won silver.
Hilary Knight, ice hockey. Won silver.
Jessie Vetter, ice hockey. Won silver.

Interview with Jessie Garcia

Wisconsin Historical Society Press: Why did you decide to write "Going for Wisconsin Gold?"

I have covered Wisconsin Olympians for over 20 years at two television stations in the state and I knew they had amazing stories to tell. I always thought a book would be fascinating. Kate Thompson of the WHS Press had the same idea and approached me around the time of the 2014 Winter Games asking if I would be interested in taking on the project. I could not imagine anything I would have enjoyed doing more. It was a ton of research but was a perfect fit for all of my skill sets and interests -- I love history, sports (especially the Olympics!) and storytelling and the more I got into the book, the more incredible it became. I learned so much about our state's Olympic history and couldn't wait to share it with readers.

WHS Press: Which athlete's story did you find most surprising or inspiring?

I was really stunned to learn that the "father of modern hurdling" Alvin Kraenzlein was from Milwaukee. He essentially brought forth the hurdling technique of putting one lead-leg forward and won four gold medals in 1900. Equally surprising and inspiring was George Poage, the first African-American medalist from La Crosse, as well as Ralph Metcalfe, of Marquette University, who ran in a famous relay with Jesse Owens in the 1936 Hitler Games, denying Hitler the Aryan dominance he was seeking. Kraenzlein and Metcalfe had a lot of interesting controversy surrounding their races too which are detailed in the book. But there are so many other great stories: a curler who was competing while his kidneys were failing, necessitating a transplant when he returned; a speedskater who overcame sexual abuse as a child, and  Dan Jansen, who famously had to skate immediately after learning of the death of his sister. We tried to tell each story with details, emotion, and depth you won't find elsewhere.

WHS Press: How can this book serve as a guide to Wisconsin history, sports history?

We decided to write this book chronologically and thus, you will get a history of the modern Olympics intertwined with Wisconsin lore. The reader will find all sorts of Olympic information -- how the modern games were formed, the early stumbles and lessons they endured, when the first medal/village/team uniforms etc. were invented and how and why the Games were placed in the cities they went to. Blended with that is the Wisconsin part of the story. Wisconsin has been a huge part of Olympic history and it's definitely time many of our athletes got recognition for their amazing accomplishments -- medal or no medal. This is not a book all about medalists. Many people profiled proudly competed, but did not medal, and we detail why -- what they felt went wrong and how they feel about their time in the spotlight. The reader will walk away armed with mountains of knowledge on both the Olympics and the athletes you know, and don't know, from our state's past. I think it's an excellent guidebook to both.

WHS Press: Was there one image in particular that speaks to you?

Tough question because so many of the athletes opened up their personal photo albums to share pictures. Thus, we have childhood photos of athletes never seen before, as well as competition photos. I personally like some of the historic photos (i.e. athletes practicing tug of war on the deck of the rickety ship taking them across the Atlantic); the childhood photos (i.e. Bonnie Blair as a toddler in a snowsuit, Matt Antoine sledding -- he went on to become a bronze medalist in skeleton -- or Dan Jansen with his sister) and the competition (famous photos from the Miracle on Ice as well as a 2008 swimming race that featured Michael Phelps and Wisconsin native Garrett Weber-Gale and was widely considered one of the best Olympic races ever). We wanted this to be a very visual book and it's absolutely packed with pictures you have never seen before.

WHS Press: What were some of the most surprising or interesting things learned? The huge mark Wisconsinites have made on the Olympics. My husband and I joke that "there is a Wisconsin connection to everything," and it really rang true in this book. Every time I looked, there was another great story intertwined with history. I never knew half of the things I uncovered in my research and that was after being a sportscaster in the state for two decades. It was so exciting and fun to tell those new stories as well as more familiar stories told in greater personal detail. We tracked down many Olympians and/or their families or descendants to share with us the inside story of their rise to the Olympics.

WHS Press: What are the ways this is a uniquely Wisconsin story?

We really tried to focus on the "Why Wisconsin" aspect. What was it about the state thet helped the athletes achieve their dreams -- whether it be our ever-changing weather, our universities or our practice facilities, such as an outdoor (and later indoor) skating rink in Milwaukee, Wis. Many athletes also settled here for good after retirement, why? Because they love the state and the people. Finally, it did not go without notice that our athletes, from Eric Heiden to Casey FitzRandolph and many more, are widely considered just plain nice people. Heiden, for example, is the poster child for how to put sports success into perspective. This is all detailed in the book. A real Midwestern work ethic and attitude shine through the pages, I believe, of each story.

WHS Press: How was writing this book a personal experience?

My first memory of watching a sporting event was the Olympics when I was 10. I still remember watching luge in our living room, making up a joke and testing it out on my family: "Did you know my son is an Olympian!" "Oh, is he a winner or a loser?" "He's a luger." Bad jokes aside, the Olympics always spoke to me and to be able to write about them feels like my life's work. I am passionate about writing sports and telling the stories of what makes people tick behind what you see on TV.  I felt this was the perfect project for me at the perfect time and I still feel incredibly humbled that I was given the chance to write it and to contribute to Wisconsin and sports history in some small way.