Penn and the Olympics have had a long and storied relationship. Since the start of the Olympics in 1900 in Paris, Penn seized every opportunity to send many of its star athletes to compete for their country, particularly in track and field. As records have shown, the men and women athletes associated with the University have competed in almost all of the summer games, bringing home honor, glory, and an array of medals.
Between 1948 and 1988, no less than 10 members of athletic teams and committees were Penn-affiliated at any Olympics event. Between these years, over 150 Penn athletes earned more than 70 medals in sports such as track and field, rowing, swimming, equestrian, field hockey, and even ice hockey.
Although known for their participation in the Summer Olympics, Penn decided to shake things up by sending only two athletes to the Winter Olympics: Larry Dean Bader in 1972 and Lincoln Clark DeWitt in 2002.
Born in the frigid colds of Minnetonka, Minn., Larry Dean Bader was an Olympic ice hockey player for the United States Men’s Ice Hockey Team. While attending Penn, Bader received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1971.
The following year, Bader competed in the 1972 Winter Olympics for Team USA in Sapporo, Japan. Bader was selected as the 20th and final member of the team. At the time, the Vietnam War was raging nearby.
"Stu Irving literally was flying combat missions in Vietnam when he came back home to play for the team,'' Bader remembered. "Another was in the Air Force. Half the people on the team were from the armed services."
Although labeled DNS or “did not start,” Bader, playing wing position, helped the men’s ice hockey team place second in the event and receive the silver medal. They fell to the Soviet Union with a score of 7-2. Overall, the team ended with a record of 4-2.Bader also competed in the Winter Universiade in Lake Placid in the same year and received a bronze medal.
After his Olympic representation, Bader went on to compete for the Suncoast Suns in the Eastern Hockey League (EHL). In his 39 game appearances throughout the '73 season, Bader registered 32 points on 11 goals and 21 assists.
30 years later in 2002, Bader's son, Aaron, was selected as a member of the USA's team in the Four Nations Under-17 Tournament. A. Bader led his team and the entire tournament in scoring.
Fast forward to the 2002, when Penn's Lincoln Clark DeWitt, the first member of the U.S. skeleton (bobsledding) team, competed in the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Born in Syracuse, N.Y., but growing up in Pownal, Vt., winter sports looked like DeWitt’s calling.
Only the second Penn athlete to compete in the Winter Olympics, DeWitt studied and received his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1990 prior to competing.
From 1997 to 2004, DeWitt participated at the highest international level of skeleton competition. He won the Skeleton’s World Cup overall title in 2001. He also placed third and received a bronze medal in the men’s skeleton event at the 2001 FIBT World Championships in Calgary. At the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Ut. DeWitt placed fifth in the men’s skeleton event.
Despite being the only Winter Olympic sports competitors, Bader and DeWitt were two of the many athletes who made Penn proud. Although Penn athletes are not as prevalent in the Olympics as they were in the past, Penn’s impact and accomplishments in the Olympics will always be felt and never be forgotten.
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