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A short history of the University of Calgary Dinos at the Olympics

By Emilie Medland-Marchen, August 2 2016 —

The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will see seven former University of Calgary Dinos compete for their country — the most that have suited up for the games in 20 years. To celebrate this achievement, the Gauntlet took a walk through the history of Dinos alumni who became Olympians. We narrowed down the list to five all-star players and teammates who embodied the spirit of the games — as well as the legacy of athletic excellence at the U of C.

Hayley Wickenheiser

Women’s hockey

Hayley Wickenheiser is a household name in Canadian women’s hockey. Wickenheiser decided to return to university in 2010 to complete her degree in kinesiology. Thankfully, she chose the U of C and played under head coach and former Olympian Danielle Goyette.

Wickenheiser dominated the CIS and Canada West, as was expected from an Olympic medallist. She earned the first Canada West CIS player of the year distinction ever for the U of C, which paved the way for others to follow in her footsteps. While studying in Calgary, Wickenheiser earned two more Olympic golds at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics in Vancouver and Sochi, respectively. In 2010 she was a leading goal scorer, recording 11 points in five games. With her fourth gold medal win in 2014, she became one of only five athletes to win gold in four consecutive Winter Olympic Games.

While playing for the Dinos, Wickenheiser was known for her leadership. Her name on the Dinos roster established the U of C as a top developmental school in Canadian women’s hockey — since then, the program has highlighted the Dinos athletics department.

Curtis Allen Myden

Men’s swimming

Curtis Myden is an example of excellence, both in competition and the classroom. A three-time Olympian, Myden won two bronze medals in the 200-metre and 400-metre individual medleys in 1996 and followed with another bronze in 2000. As a Dino, Myden dominated the CIS in swimming and remains one of the top athletes among the U of C’s illustrious swimming alumni.

Myden won the CIS national championship title in 1997 and quickly followed up with a Borden Ladner Gervais Awards for the top CIS male athlete the same year. He graduated from the U of C with a Bachelor of Science in 1999.

A celebrated student as well as a swimmer, Myden was named an Academic-All Canadian each year he competed and later went on to earn his MD in 2006. Myden now practices as an orthopedic surgeon in Kelowna, B.C.

Karl Tilleman

Men’s basketball

When you look into the history of the Dinos athletics program, Karl Tilleman’s name repeatedly appears. He was a Canadian Interuniversity Scoring Champion, four-time Canada West All-Star,  World University Games gold medalist — and to top all that off, a two-time Olympian.

Tilleman played for the Dinos between 1981 and 1984, collecting male athlete of the year awards from both the U of C and the city of Calgary along the way. When he moved on to
compete for the Canadian national team at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul he broke the record for the most three-point baskets ever scored in an Olympic game. That record still stands today.

One of the highlights of Tilleman’s career was at the 1983 World Student Games in Edmonton. Canada’s performance at the games is remembered as one of the greatest moments in the history of Canadian basketball. Tilleman led his team in scoring to defeat the United States and Yugoslavia before earning a gold medal. It remains the only Universiade medal that Canada has ever won in basketball, known in the history books as “the miracle on wood.”

By all accounts, Tilleman was a miracle. After his stellar varsity career, he was drafted to the NBA as a fourth round pick for the Denver Nuggets. He remains the only Dinos basketball player to ever be drafted to the league.

In 1984, Tilleman’s #30 jersey was retired by the university. It remains a testament to the greatest basketball player to have ever walked through the U of C’s halls.

Tom Ponting, Jon Cleveland and Mark Tewksbury

Medley swimming

Tom Ponting, Jon Cleveland and Mark Tewksbury exemplify the strength of the U of C’s swimming program, which throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s rivalled the best in the world.

At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics the Dinos swimmers came together to compete for a bronze medal in the 4x100m medley relay behind the U.S. and the Unified Team, consisting of 12 of the 15 former Soviet republics. At the time, the Americans set the world record in the event, while the Canadians were a mere 2.73 seconds shy of first.

The medley event consists of four swimmers on each team swimming a 100-metre leg of the relay using a different stroke. Although Ponting didn’t swim a leg in the final, he was a major addition to the team in the qualifying heats. The backgrounds of Ponting, Cleveland and Tewksbury in the butterfly, the breaststroke and the backstroke, respectively, led to them earning the medal for Canada. And when they came together, it secured the fifth ever Olympic medal for the Dinos athletics department.

Dana Antal, Kelly Bechard and Collen Sostorics

Women’s Hockey

The women’s hockey final at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City is arguably one of the most important moments in Canadian sporting history. Women’s hockey was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1998, and after losing out on a gold medal to American rivals in Nagano, the Canadian women’s hockey team was out to prove that they were the strongest players in the world.

The talent-stacked team contained 10 returning members from ‘98, including captain Cassie Campbell. Her leadership efforts — alongside scoring powerhouses Hayley Wickenheiser and Caroline Ouellette — secured the win for Canada.

More than just a gold medal, the game was a match between nations. It pitted the two strongest women’s hockey teams in the world against each other, battling it out on the ice as long-standing rivals. The Canadians versus the Americans. Underdogs against reigning champions.

On this historic team were three Dinos athletes — and one future Dino in Wickenheiser. Dana Antal, Kelly Bechard and Collen Sostorics all played for the U of C before joining 2002’s Team Canada roster. Sostorics added her skill on defense while Bechard and Antal played as forwards alongside future Dinos head coach Danielle Goyette.

While Antal, Bechard and Sostorics are all outstanding hockey players in their own right, their efforts on the stacked 2002 team are an example of what happens when individual athletes work together to achieve something greater. Returning to compete against the U.S. women’s team after suffering such a disappointing loss in 1998 was no easy feat, but fighting for the gold in a 3–2 showdown highlighted the strength and perseverance of the Canadians. The fact that three Dinos athletes, a future Dino and a future head coach were all there to celebrate the moment reflects the legacy of excellence in the Dinos women’s hockey program.

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