Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Williams' Sultan competing under Olympic banner in Rio
The 2016 Summer Olympics are underway in Rio. Two weeks of sports wrapped up in politics and drug testing.
But there are, as always, more than a few interesting stories. Some of them could be part of the game Six Degrees of the Purple Valley.
When you watch the swimming portion of the Summer Games, keep your eye on Faye Sultan. She graduated from Williams in the spring and will be competing in Rio. She will not, however, be competing for her country.
Sultan is a native of Kuwait, and according to a story on the website sport360.com, Kuwait has been suspended by the International Olympic Committee, and was not permitted to send a team of athletes to Brazil. The article stated that the IOC suspended Kuwait because of "government interference in sport."
According to the article, it came as a bit of a surprise to Sultan.
"I found out two weeks ago that I was going to the Olympics under the IOC flag for sure," she said in the article. "But before that I was kind of kept out of the loop, I wasn't entirely certain whether I was going or who I'd be representing."
If Sultan and her Kuwaiti cohorts win medals, they will receive them, see the Olympic flag fly and — if they win a gold — will hear the Olympic anthem. They will all march in the Opening Ceremonies under the five-ring flag of the Olympics.
Sultan participated in the London Olympics and then came to Williams. She was the first Kuwaiti woman to swim in the Summer Olympics.
She was 48th overall in the 50 free in London.
"For a lot of my training for the London Games, I had to practice in a pool that was meant to teach little kids how to swim. I did not have four years of Williams swimming under my belt before London," she said in a Williams release, "and I quite literally went from swimming in kiddie pools to the Olympics."
She has been working out with Williams swim coach Steve Kuster.
Once, Mandy Glenner was a very successful diving coach at Williams. Now, she is the mother of a very successful Olympic diver.
She is now Mandy Hixon, married to Amherst College men's basketball coach Dave Hixon. Their son Michael will be competing in the individual and synchronized 3-meter diving events.
Mandy Hixon went from Williams to Amherst and then to the University of Massachusetts, where she has spent 15 years tutoring divers.
I happened to watch Michael compete in the U.S. Olympic diving qualifiers. I had just gotten home and flipped on the TV and there was the 3-meter synchronized diving.
I've known Michael Hixon since he was knee-high next to nothing. He used to come to all the Williams-Amherst football games with his father.
The morning after the synchronized qualifiers, I called Dave Hixon to congratulate him and his family for Michael's accomplishments. After a little small talk, he said that the basketball teams at Williams should be glad he's going to Rio.
When I asked him why, Dave Hixon laughed and just said Michael would have been a heck of a point guard.
It's not an Olympic event — although it could be — but shoe and equipment contracts in college are a big deal. A release that crossed my desk this week makes me wonder if the NESCAC arms race is going to grow exponentially.
Amherst College has signed a five-year contract with BSN Sports and Under Armour for apparel, uniforms and equipment.
"This partnership will help our department with building a visual brand identity for Amherst athletics, while providing alumni, students, parents and fans the opportunity to purchase Amherst College athletics and team-specific Under Armour branded apparel," Amherst athletic director Don Faulstick said in a statement.
It makes you wonder if this is the future of Division III athletics? Will adidas put Williams or Wesleyan under contract? Does Nike step in at some point?
It'll be interesting to see if this is the kind of move that translates to more success in game action.
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.
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