Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympic dreams

As the Summer Olympics gear up in Beijing, here is a look back at the 1948 Summer Olympics held in London, England. That year five University of Kentucky basketball players (that’s Basketball with a capital “B” around here) were members of the U.S. team and U.K. coach Adolph Rupp was the assistant coach. The U.K. players on the Olympic team were the starting five in their “day jobs” as college players: Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones, Ralph Beard, Alex Groza, Cliff Barker, and Kenny Rollins.

The above photograph originated with the Cincinnati Enquirer from 1948. The caption reads: “Two points for Kentucky – Speedy Ralph Beard, Kentucky’s All-American guard, easily outdistanced Kenny Reeves (13), University of Louisville guard, went up and dumped in a layup shot in the UK-UL Olympic trial game at Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats poured it on their Bluegrass contemporary to triumph, 91-57, and moved into the semifinals.”

This photograph is from the Russell Rice collection and shows the entire 1948 U.S. Olympic basketball team. U.K. players are marked by their autographs and Adolph Rupp is kneeling on the far right. So how did the team fare? They received a gold medal after defeating France 65-21.

This year, U.K. is sending the most Wildcats to the Olympics since 1948. The five athletes and one coach participating in the 2008 Olympics are: Tayshaun Prince, basketball, U.S.; Jose Avecedo, 200 meter dash, Venezuela; David Freeman, 1500 meter run, Puerto Rico; Mikel Thomas, 110 meter high hurdles, Trinidad and Tobago; Elvis Burrows, 50 meter freestyle, Bahamas; Erin Tucker, guest coach for sprints, Venezuela.

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