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Cal’s Winter Olympics History

No currently affiliated Golden Bear is at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games (as far as I know), but this is a good time nonetheless to look at the history of Cal at the Winter Games.

Johnny Moseley won Winter Olympic medals, gave a Cal commencement speech before enrolling as a Cal student and eventually becoming a Cal graduate.

With the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games firmly underway, let’s take a minute to look at the considerably shorter Cal Winter Olympics history. The bulk of the info below came from the official Cal Bears dot com webpage documenting all the Calympians feats; this list is most likely an incomplete one (it also spelled Jonny Moseley’s last name incorrectly).

Jonny Moseley (B.A. in American Studies, 2007) - Freestyle Skiing, USA

1998 - Gold

2002 - 4th

Jonny Moseley took a rather circuitous route to his Cal degree. Growing up in NorCal, Moseley had wanted to be a Cal student but apparently did not get in. He instead focus on his thriving skiing career and won a Gold in the 1998 Nagano Games.

Moseley had a special move called “Dinner Roll”. He showcased it in the 2002 Olympic game, but was only able to place 4th.

If you were a Cal student in the early 2000’s (like me), you may remember the controversy when Moseley was selected as the 2002 spring commencement speaker. Some part of the campus were disappointed that a person who does not even has a college degree is going to speak at the ceremony. UCLA encountered a similar outcry when actor James Franco was asked to give a commencement speech - in both cases of Moseley and Franco, they both eventually earned their degree from Cal and UCLA, respectively.

Nevertheless, Moseley’s 2002 commencement speech below is actually pretty good.

Thank you. When I was asked to speak here I’m sure my reaction was a lot like yours. What? They want me to speak at UC Berkeley? Does that mean that Maya Angelou is going to speak at the X-games?

I mean, Berkeley’s reputation is world renowned and this school has always been close to my heart. In fact, today I’m fulfilling a lifelong dream to participate in Cal’s commencement. I feel deeply honored at your invitation to speak here. I can remember the last time UC Berkeley contacted me, it was through the admissions department, a letter, something reading “Dear Mr. Moseley, we regret to inform you...”

I have to say that I am humbled by the company that has come before me. Famous diplomats, politicians, former members of congress, each of whom has given previous classes a glimpse into their lives in an attempt to educate and inspire.

I’m sure many of you out there could step up here and teach us some profound lesson that you’ve learned in your lives about happiness, love, struggle, hope, fear. These are all timeless, universal themes and every one of your stories is somehow sacred in that respect.

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Moseley is the first Puerto Rican to make the US Ski Team. Jonny and his family moved to California when he was young. He also hosted three seasons of the early MTV Challenges back when it was Real World/Road Rules Challenge.

Moseley also hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live back in 2002 and was one of the first host of American Ninja Warriors.

After his skiing career has subsided, Moseley enrolled at Cal as a student and earned his B.A. in 2007, 5 years after giving the commencement speech.

Julian Munoz (B.A. 1970, Master Architecture, 1972) - Alpine Skiing, Costa Rica

1988 - Giant Slalom - 68th, 3:20.59

1988 - Slalom - 51st, 2:56.72

1992 - Giant Slalom - 90th, 3:46.51

1992 - Slalom - 64th, 3:44.11

Julian Daniel Munoz was born on July 11, 1946 in San Francisco, CA. He earned his bachelor and master degrees from Cal to become an architect. Years later, he became an Olympian for Costa Rica in alping skiing.

His LinkedIn profile shows that he is currently active as the co-founder of the Bridging Consultancy Inc in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Nion Tucker (Class of 1909) - 5-man Bobsled, USA

1928 - Gold, 3:20.5

Nion Robert Tucker Jr. (August 21, 1885 – April 22, 1950)

The most interesting Cal winter Olympian has got to be Nion Tucker. The Cal grad somehow became an Olympian thanks to responding to a newspaper ad and won the Gold medal with a bunch of bobsled novices at the 1928 St. Moritz games.

Turns out that the best source of the Nion Tucker story is the old CGB article by CalBear81 back in 2011.

Making this solitary Winter Olympics Medal all the more remarkable was that it was won by a 42-year-old investment broker, who had never been on a bobsled, and had not participated in competitive sports at all, until he answered a newspaper advertisement just prior to the 1928 Olympics. Three weeks later, Cal alum Nion Tucker was an Olympic Champion. Here is Nion Tucker’s improbable Olympic story.

It is a very interesting story (with some healthy dose of history about how bobsledding got its name and how it has changed).

Chuck Berkeley (B.A. American Studies, 2000) - 4-man Bobsled, USA

2010 - DNF

Charles Berkeley became interested in bobsledding when he was at Berkeley seeing Darrin Steel training for the 1998 Olympic Games. Somehow, Berkeley did not begin his own bobsled career until 2007. He was a push athelete with Todd Hays and John Napier in the four-man sled but has also done some two-men races.

Berkeley was a vocal opponent against the conversion from track to bobsled by Lolo Jones few years ago.

Darrin Steele (MBA, 2008) - Bobsled, USA

(Not listed in the above but mentioned in Chuck Berkeley’s bio)

1998 - 4-men - 12th

2002 - 2-men - 9th

Darrin Steele is the US Bobsled and Skeleton CEO. He was training in Berkeley when he became an Olympian. Darrin has a twin brother Dan who is also a bobsledder after being a track and field athlete. Dan Steele has a Bronze from the 2002 Olympics.

Timothy Brown (M.S. in Zoology) - Figure Skating, USA

1960 - 5th

July 24, 1938 – September 14, 1989

Brown earned a berth for the 1961 World Championships thanks to the skate above but had to withdrawl due to an illness. The rest of the U.S. Figure Skating team were killed en route to the competition in Brussels due to the Sabena Flight 548 crash.

Although he did not medal in the lone Olympics appearance, Brown finished 2nd in the World Championships in 1957 and 1958 and 3rd in 1959. He also took the bronze in the 1958 Ice Dancing U.S. Championships with partner Susan Sebo.

After earning a zoology degree from Cal, Brown attended medical school and practiced medicine.

Brown eventually succumbed to AIDS in 1989.

Connie Carpenter (B.A. Physical Education, 1981) - Speed Skating, USA

1972 - 1500m -7th

Carpenter (later Carpenter-Phinney) was the youngest American woman to compete at the Winter Olympics when she raced in the 1500m at age of 14 years old (this is a record that is unlikely to be broken with the minimum age rules for most sports being 15 or 16 years old right now). She eventually switched to road cycling and won the Gold in 1984 Los Angeles games in the cycling road race. Check out her photo finish win for the gold medal below.

At Cal, Carpenter was a member of Cal Rowing team. She was on the varsity squad for two seasons. In 1979, the Cal team finished 2nd and 1980, her Varsity 4 boat won the national championship.

Carpenter is married to professional cyclist Davis Phinney and have two kids. His son Taylor competed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in cycling as well. Carpenter-Phinney is a member of both the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

Who knows? With many of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympians being quite young, some of them may consider attending Cal once their Olympics games are over. Chloe Kim, Nathan Chen, even someone slightly older like Mikaela Shiffrin (she was basically the winter version of Missy Franklin, after all) may find their way to campus at some point in the future. Cal is more likely to get more “Winter Olympic Medals” this way from past achievements. Of course, if any readers (I’m looking for either one female or three males) want to join me on a future Olympic curling team...(it would be great if one of you reader has a ton of money to pay for all the trainings).