Westminster College held a celebration on campus Friday for the 23 students who recently competed in Sochi. The liberal arts school had more student-athletes in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games than any other college or university in the country.
Leading the parade was the Westminster Griffin, followed by a stream of Olympic athletes. Halfpipe skier Maddie Bowman came in with a gold medal around her neck, and stepped up to the podium with the help of some crutches.
“You’ll have to bear with me. I don’t have speech until the fall,” Bowman joked. She recalled the incredible day when she won the first-ever Olympic gold medal in women’s halfpipe skiing.
“The night I won was the craziest night of life. I felt every moment at once. I was in tears of confusion,” Bowman said. “I have those memories to look back on, but I need to look forward also to my future, because as you can see by the crutches, your body doesn’t last forever. I’m so happy that we have Westminster here who understands that, because they’ve really helped us think forward and think about our future. So thank you very much, and I’m proud to be a Griffin.”
In fact, 10 percent of the US Team in Sochi were Griffins, and four Westminster students reached the medals podium, bringing home gold, silver and bronze. Westminster President Brian Levin-Stankevich says these athletes raise the profile of the college.
“Certainly there is a reputational benefit that we gain from affiliation with the Olympics in general, with world class athletes like the skiers, Levin-Stankevich says. “It’s just a great combination that works for everybody. It works particularly well when you have 23 of your students make the Olympic team.”
Westminster and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association recently renewed their partnership, which has provided a tuition grant to national team athletes. Currently, more than 100 USSA athletes attend Westminster.