Michigan in the Olympics


1948 - London

Bob Sohl
        Bob Sohl

Michigan had only one medal winner in London and even that was controversial. Judges awarded swimmer Bob Sohl the bronze medal in the 200 meter breaststroke even though his official time was slower than the 4th place finisher's, giving the U.S. a medals sweep. That 4th place swimmer was John Davies of Australia who would soon enroll at Michigan. Another future U of M swimmer was Jack Wardrop who competed for Great Britain in the 1500 meter freestyle.

Wolverine trackman Herb Barten, 1947 Big Ten 800 yard champion, won both of his heats in the 800 meters and finished fourth in the finals. Erkki Koutonen competed in the triple jump but did not make the qualifying distance for the finals.

Bruce Harlan of Ohio State, later UM diving coach, placed first in 3 meter and second in platform diving.

Herb Barten  Erki Koutenen  Bruce Harlan
Herb Barten, Erkki Koutonen, Bruce Harlan


Cliff Keen, 1927

U of M wrestling coach Cliff Keen served as manager of the U.S. wrestling team. Keen, who was an outstanding college wrestler at Oklahoma State, made the U.S. wrestling team in 1924, but a broken rib kept him out of the games. His replacement won a silver medal. Keen served on the U.S. Olympic committee from 1928 to 1952.

Ralph Craig, double gold medal winner at Stockholm in1912, was an alternate on the yachting team. His team's boat "Rhythm" finished 11th in the dragon class. In recognition of his Olympic accomplishments, Craig was given the honor of carrying the U.S. flag in the opening ceremonies.

For U of M, the great disappointment of this Olympics came in the shot put. World record holder Charles Fonville was a heavy favorite for gold, but a back injury kept him off the U.S. team. Fonville finished 4th in the U.S. trials, seven inches behind the 3rd place winner.

Ralph Craig carrying flag   Charles Fonville
Ralph Craig with flag in opening ceremony, Charles Fonville, world record holder

Herb Barten in 800-meter run
Herb Barten finishing 4th in the 800-meter run behind Mal Whitfield
(Olympic record 1:49.2), Wint of Jamaica and Hansenne of France

Winter Games - St. Moritz

Neil Celley
               Neil Celley
Wolverine hockey player Neil Celley, a letter winner in 1949-1951, was selected for the official U.S. team in 1948 and made the trip to St. Moritz but never got the chance to compete. Domestic and international rivalries in the management of "amateur" hockey would intervene. The U.S. Olympic Association's Ice Hockey Committee held tryouts in St. Paul, Minnesota and Princeton, New Jersey. A team of fifteen college and amateur club players was named, including Celley. Another group, the Amateur Hockey Association, representing commercial hockey interests and the Boston Garden and Madison Square Garden organizations put together another team which included some professional players. On the eve of the games, following a complicated series of decisions, the International Olympic Committee at first declined to recognize either of the U.S. teams and threatened to cancel the hockey competition if the dispute was not resolved. In the end the AHA team was allowed to participate but its results would not be count in medal standings. Since the AHA contained some professionals, it was not allowed to march in the opening ceremonies, but the USOA team was. The upshot was that Celley's Olympic experience all took place off the ice.

The U-M Results - 1948

Bob Sohl
   220 breaststroke3rd, 2:43.9
John Davies (Australia)
   220 breaststroke4th, 2:43.7
Jack Wardrop
   1500 meter freestyledid not place
Herb Barten
   800 meters4th, 1:50.1
Erkki Koutonen
   triple jumpdid not place
Ralph Craig
   yachtingalternate, did not compete
Neil Celley
   Ice Hockeydid not compete
Cliff Keen
   manager of U.S. wrestling team

Photo Credits:

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