Pacific enjoys rich history in Olympic games

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After this past summer’s Olympic games, one must not forget Pacific’s own history.

Five Boxers have been involved with the Olympic games.

Alfred Carlton “AC” Gilbert started working out with the Pacific University track and field team from when he was only 16 years old, while he attended Tualatin Academy in 1900.

By the time he started college, Gilbert was already a star track athlete, as well as boxer, wrestler, gymnast and quarterback.

In 1904, Gilbert transferred to Yale to pursue a medical degree. In 1906, he became the fourth athlete to letter in two sports for Yale.

A native of Lewiston, Idaho, Gilbert was unable to find pole-vaulting equipment.

His first pole was a split rail that he stole from a farmer’s fence.

In the time, the poles had a spike at the end to dig into the ground. Because there was no spike at the end of the pole Gilbert used, he had to dig a hole to put the pole into the ground.

In the 1908 Olympic Trials, Gilbert set the World Record for pole vault with a jump of 12 feet, 7 inches.

At the Olympic games, Gilbert ended up tying fellow American Edward Cook and the two men shared the gold medal.

1956 Pacific grad, Varina French, started teaching physical education at Pacific in 1961.

She started judging women’s gymnastics in the mid 1960’s when the sport started gaining national popularity.

In the seven levels of judging, French made it to level six; allowing her to judge anywhere in the U.S. and international competition in the U.S. She also started training programs to train judges for gymnastics competitions.

The Boxers fielded a women’s gymnastics team in the 1970’s and French was the obvious choice for a coach.

In 1974, she was elected vice president of the U.S. Gymnastics Federation Women’s Committee.

In 1976 and 1980, French worked as the delegate representative for gymnastics in the International Olympic Committee.

In the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, French worked as a spotter for the television coverage. She was working on the floor when Mary Lou Retton received a perfect score on the vault that year.

A native of Colombia, Romelio Salas came to Pacific University after meeting legendary coach Mike Clock in a training trip the Boxers took to Colombia.

In 1977, Salas jumped on a bus in Miami to join the Pacific wrestling team and wrestle for Clock.

In 1980, Salas was an NAIA All-American for the Boxers.

Salas made the Colombian Olympic team in time for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

After going two and out in the freestyle competition, Salas won his first match over Egypt’s Mohamed Hamad.

In his second match, against legendary American Dave Schultz, Salas blew out his ACL, effectively ending his involvement in the LA Games.

Salas was able to recover and return for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. In ’92, Salas lost his first two matches by technical fall.

After the Games, Salas returned to Oregon and coached at Tigard High School until 2002.

The 2004 Athens Olympics were the first to have women’s wrestling on the card, and Pacific University’s Tela O’Donnell was not going to let anything stop her from making the team.

The Olympic Trials for the first ever women’s wrestling competition at the Olympic level brought 44 wrestlers, including seven Boxers.

O’Donnel and fellow competitors Sally Roberts, Kaci Lyle and Katie Kunimoto along with O’Donnell were the members of Pacific University’s first-ever varsity women’s wrestling team.

The Alaskan native went 1-2 in the Games, beating Russia’s Olga Smirnova, finishing seventh overall in the 55-kilogram weight class.

Longtime Pacific softball coach Judy Sherman served as a part of Team USA’s recruiting committee from the birth of Olympic softball in 1996 to the exclusion of the sport after 2008.

As a part of Amateur Softball Association for decades, Sherman was heavily involved in forming the United States’ international competing teams. She was also involved in coaching the teams to be competition ready.

With Sherman helping to form the teams, the United States took the gold medal in 1996, 2000 and 2004, while taking the silver medal in 2008.


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