Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fort Wayne and the Olympics

by Carmen Doyle

The Olympics are here and Fort Wayne has an athlete in the games- Nick Goepper. So special mention should be made of Nick Goepper, currently competing in Sochi. Nick is 19, from Lawrenceburg, and competing in his first Olympics. He just won a bronze medal in ski slopestyle, helping to complete a sweep (the U.S. won gold, silver, and bronze) of the men’s slopestyle, one of the freestyle skiing events making an official Olympic debut this year.

According to the Olympics website, freestyle skiing events "include mogul skiing, aerials, ski cross, ski halfpipe, and ski slopestyle. Ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle were added to the Olympics in 2011. Both men and women participate in each type of event. A total of ten sets of medals are awarded for freestyle.”

Fort Wayne Olympic athletes in the past have mostly competed in the Summer Olympics.
One such athlete was DeDee Nathan. She attended South Side High School in the 1980s and with her help South Side won championships in 1985 and 1986. Nathan set records in the 300 meter hurdles as well as the 1,600 meter relay.

In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Nathan, at age 31, became the first female athlete from Indiana to compete. She represented the USA in the heptathlon. For an Olympic athlete, 31 is also an older age than most of your competitors.

The heptathlon is a “women’s ultimate all-round test, a seven-event contest covering the whole range of athletics disciplines and spread over two days. Competitors earn points for their performance in each discipline and the overall winner is the athlete who accrues the most points” according to the International Association of Athletics Federation. The competition consists of 100 meter hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200 meters on the first day, and long jump, javelin and 800 meters on the second day.

Although Nathan did not medal in the 2000 Olympics, finishing 9th,  her legacy is apparent. You can see more about DeDee Nathan at the History Center in the display on African-Americans. 

Another Olympian was Robert L. Juday, who competed in the 1924 Paris Olympics at the age of 23. He competed in the high jump, where he used the roll style of jumping instead of the usual scissors style. He achieved a career best of 6’5”, but didn’t medal.

Matt Vogel was another Olympian from Fort Wayne, competing in the 1976 Montreal Olympics at age 19. He won gold medals in the 100 meter butterfly and the 4x400 medley relay. He also set a world record in the 4x400 medley relay before returning and taking over the Fort Wayne Aquatics program. Matt has been head coach there since 2006.

The wide range of achievements in multiple events over multiple years show that anyone from Indiana, willing to work for it, can compete in the Olympics- and win.

Oh, and Nick is apparently looking for a Valentine, so next time you’re on Facebook looking at the History Center’s page, check out Nick’s page, and see if you could be his Valentine. A better chance might be to start practicing for the next Winter Olympics- Nick will likely be there.

Fort Wayne has produced some stellar athletes. Why not add yourself to the list?

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