Record eight Nittany Lions earn Olympic medals in Rio

August 22, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State student-athletes delivered a record-setting performance at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with eight Nittany Lions earning medals in five competitions to break the school mark set in 1924.

The last medal was captured on Sunday, Aug. 21, as Penn State men’s volleyball alumni Matt Anderson, Max Holt and Aaron Russell were instrumental in the U.S. National Team rallying from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Russia 3-2 to win the bronze medal.

The Nittany Lions’ record contingent at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad won one silver in men’s track and field (Joe Kovacs) and bronze medals in men’s fencing (Miles Chamley-Watson), women’s fencing (Monica Aksamit), women’s volleyball (Christa Harmotto Dietzen and Alisha Glass) and men’s volleyball (Matt Anderson, Max Holt and Aaron Russell).

Penn State was tied for No. 8 nationally in Rio Olympics student-athlete medalists according to data from the NCAA. The Nittany Lions and Indiana tied for the Big Ten Conference lead with eight medals and were tied for No. 8 among all U.S. colleges and universities. The Nittany Lions’ eight different student-athlete medal winners were the most in the Big Ten.

Penn State’s previous high for Olympic medalists was five in the 1924 and 2012 summer games. The eight medals in Rio lifted Penn State Athletics’ Olympics medals total to 37 all-time.

In the 1924 Olympics in Paris, five Penn State athletes won medals, led by Alan Helffrich, who won gold as a member of the 4 x 400 meter relay track and field team. William Cox and Schuyler Enck Jr. won bronze medals in track and field, as did Arthur Studenroth in cross country. Katsutoshi Naito won a bronze in wrestling for Japan.

In the 2012 London Olympics, Harmotto and Megan Hodge won silver medals with the U.S. women’s volleyball team and Erin McLeod and Carmelina Moscato earned bronze medals with the Canadian women’s soccer team. Also, Natalie Dell, a member of the club-level Penn State rowing squad as an undergraduate, competed in the women's quadruple sculls, where she and Team USA earned the bronze medal.

The Nittany Lions sent a school record contingent of 25 to Rio, which included 18 competitors (16 student-athletes), three coaches and four alternates, representing the United States, Mexico, Ireland, Japan and the U.S. Virgin Islands. With 12 first-time competitors in Rio, the Nittany Lions have had a total of 109 student-athlete Olympians all-time.

Penn State's 12 active competitors on Team USA led the Big Ten and were tied for No. 6 among all colleges and universities, according to the United States Olympic Committee. The Nittany Lions were tied with Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon and Princeton with 12 Team USA members for the Rio Olympics.

On Saturday, Aug. 20, former Penn State women’s volleyball All-Americans Christa (Hamotto) Dietzen and Alisha Glass helped Team USA to the bronze with a 3-1 win over the Netherlands. Glass earned her first Olympic medal and Dietzen earned her second consecutive, having previously earned silver in 2012.

Former fencing All-American Miles Chamley-Watson helped the United States men's foil team defeat Italy to win the bronze medal. Another fencing All-American, Monica Aksamit, helped the U.S. women's saber squad also beat Italy to win the bronze medal. Aksamit was the first member of the Penn State women’s fencing team to win an Olympic medal, while Chamley-Watson became the first member of the Penn State men’s fencing team to win an Olympic medal for the U.S.

Former All-American Joe Kovacs earned a silver medal in the men's shot put with a throw of 21.78m (71'-5.50"). He became Penn State’s first individual silver medalist in any sport since Mike Shine won a silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada.

Penn State narrowly missed out on winning a ninth Olympic medal when 2012 NCAA wrestling champion Frank Molinaro was edged in the bronze medal match in the men’s freestyle 65kg weight class. He fell 5-3 to world’s No. 1 at 65kg, Frank Chamizo of Italy.

Team USA topped the medal chart in every category for just the seventh time in Olympic history and the first since 1948, leading all nations with 121 medals, including 46 golds, 37 silvers and 38 bronzes. Team USA’s 121 medals are the most ever for a U.S. team in a non-boycotted Olympics, topping the previous high of 110 from Beijing in 2008.

Last Updated August 23, 2016