Alumni discuss past experiences as athletes
THE SANTA CLARA
February 27, 2014
Throughout the past century, Santa Clara has produced quite a few world-class athletes who have brought their talents to the Olympic Games. These former Olympians offer a window into a Santa Clara alumnus’ perspective on the games.
“I think, for any athlete, an Olympic experience is truly special,” said Cameron Rast ’92, head coach of the Santa Clara men’s soccer team and two-time Olympian. “It’s special in the sense that you’re able to represent your country, not just in the sport that you love and you play, but also on a grander scale with an Olympic team.”
Brandi Chastain ’91, currently a coach for the Santa Clara women’s soccer team, represented the U.S. through the women’s soccer team, winning two gold medals and a silver. After tearing both of her ACLs during her college years and being cut from the U.S. women’s national team despite scoring the winning goal in 1996, the Olympics were especially powerful for her.
“Something quite memorable was the literal and figurative weight of the medals,” said Chastain. “When they placed the ribbon around my head and it fell down, I just couldn’t believe how heavy it was. So just thinking that, literally, your whole life is spent towards that goal, the weight of it being represented by the medals is pretty spectacular.”
Many of the athletes mentioned the honor and grandiosity associated with walking with Team USA in the opening ceremonies. Former synchronized swimmer Janet Redwine ’04, who participated in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, remembers the experience vividly.
“All of the athletes funneled through the stadium entrance, and as we got closer to the entrance, the chanting ‘USA’ became stronger, faster and louder until it erupted into the cheers of thousands inside the Bird’s Nest,” said Redwine. “I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard 90,000 people cheer — it’s like an incredible, exhilarating storm.”
Matt Madigan ’93, who coached the 2008 and 2012 women’s Olympic crew teams, offered his account on the Olympics from a coach’s perspective. He described the large amount of focus required to get team athletes ready for the race.
“There’s a much higher intensity that comes with being on site and seeing all the fans and seeing the TV trucks doing test runs,” said Madigan. “You get a sense that it’s a lot more intense than a normal World Cup or World Championship event.”
A large part of what makes the Olympics gratifying for so many athletes is the time and energy they dedicate to preparation for the world’s most elite athletic competition.
Like many Olympians, Rast trained extensively in college to prepare for tougher competition.
“The program we have here (at Santa Clara), I think, was ideal for me in preparation to be on an Olympic team,” he said. “We trained hard, competitively, on a daily basis and it gave me a great chance to study and to play at a high level and balance those.”
Although she did not train for the Olympics until after graduating from Santa Clara, Redwine remembers her workout schedule in great detail. She competed and trained sometimes eight hours a day or more, six days a week.
“I did my best to schedule my classes around training,” said Redwine, “and there were days when I’d wake up for one to two hour morning practice at 5:30 (a.m.), go to morning classes and then go back to the pool for six hours or more in the afternoon.”
In the time following their Olympic careers, many Santa Clara alumni like Madigan, Redwine, Chastain and Rast, have continued to offer themselves to their respective sports as coaches and mentors.
Contact Collin Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org .