Current Issue / DU Alumni

Remembering the Olympic dream

Jim Shea never won an Olympic medal, but he may be DU’s most famous Olympian.

Shea, BS ’61, competed in the Nordic combined, 4×10 and 30k cross-country events in the 1964 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria, and coached the U.S. Ski Team at the 1972 Games in Sapporo, Japan.

Other DU Olympic athletes

2002 — John Livaditis, graduate student

1972 — Ronald Naslund, BSBA ’65, silver
1972 — Stephen Landis, BFA ’67, silver
1980 — Glenn Anderson, attd. ’78–’79
1980 — Kenneth Berry, attd. ’78–’81
1980 — Richard Bragnalo, BA ’74
1980 — Dave Tomassoni, BSBA ’75
1984 — Kevin Dineen, attd. ’81–’84
1984 — Craig Redmond, attd. ’82–’84
1994 — Derek Mayer, BSBA ’91, silver

1998 — Mark Grimmette, attd. ’94–’95, bronze/doubles
1998 — Brian Martin, attd. ’93–’95, bronze/doubles
2002 — Mark Grimmette, silver/doubles
2002 — Brian Martin, silver/doubles

1948 — Alva Hiatt, BA ’56
1948 — Donald Johnson, attd. ’50–’51
1952 — Marvin Crawford, BS ’54
1952 — Theodore Farwell, BS ’59
1952 — Willis Olson, BSBA ’56
1952 — Catherine Rodolph, attd. ’49–’50
1952 — Alvin Wegeman Sr., BA ’55, MA ’56
1952 — Keith Wegeman, BA ’51
1956 — Marvin Crawford
1956 — Theodore Farwell
1956 — Willis Olson
1956 — Catherine Rodolph
1956 — Clarence Servold, BSCE ’60
1960 — John Cress, BA ’56
1960 — Theodore Farwell
1960 — Charles Ferries, attd. ’57–’63
1960 — Craig Lussi, BSBA ’58
1960 — Ansten Samuelstuen, attd. ’53–’65
1960 — Clarence Servold
1960 — Alfred Vincelette, BFA ’59
1964 — Charles Ferries
1964 — Michael McManus, BSBA ’68
1964 — Richard “Rip” McManus, JD ’70
1964 — Jon Terje Overland, BS ’68, MBA ’70
1964 — Ansten Samuelstuen
1968 — Georg Krog, BSBA ’69
1968 — Dennis McCoy, BSBA ’69
1968 — Jon Terje Overland
1968 — Otto Tschudi, BSBA ’75
1972 — Terry Palmer, MBA ’72
1972 — Eric Poulsen, BSBA ’74
1972 — Otto Tschudi
1976 — Odd Hammernes, BSBA ’72
1994 — Jeannette Lunde, attd. ’96–’97
1998 — Andre Bachleda, attd. ’97–’98

1964 — John Kelso, BA ’63
1984 — Yoram Kochavy, BS ’86, MS ’87

But Shea’s claim to fame is membership in the nation’s only Olympic dynasty: His father, Jack, won two speedskating golds in 1932. His son Jimmy is the 2002 skeleton gold medalist. His wife, Judy, BA ’62, was a DU alpine skier who almost made the Olympic team herself.

“I was never a medal contender, and I knew that. Still, I did my best,” Jim Shea says. “You were an Olympian. It didn’t matter where you placed.

“It is so special when you work a lifetime [on your sport] and then represent your country in the biggest show on earth.”

Shea had a chance to represent his country again in the 2002 Winter Games when he and his son carried the Olympic torch in the opening ceremony. Now, he says, he is recognized wherever he goes, including Times Square.

Although he may be the only DU Olympian who is a household name, Shea is among 42 Pioneers who competed in the Olympics, most for the United States.

Vince Boryla, BS ’50, remembers that in 1948 the world was still trying to recover from World War II. Nations were saddled with debt and decimated by war casualties — the last thing on anyone’s mind were the Olympic Games, which had been on hold for 12 years while war raged.

DU’s first Olympic gold medalist, Boryla recalls that there was very little publicity, enthusiasm or even interest in the games at that time. “It was nothing like it is today,” he says. “But, it still was a thrill because you were representing your country.”

Boryla won his gold medal as a forward on the 1948 U.S. men’s basketball team, but it wasn’t winning the gold that dominates his memory. Like Shea, the memory of marching in the opening ceremony is among the most significant.

When Jerome Biffle lined up for the 1952 Olympic long jump, he was nervous but still thought he had a chance to medal. Biffle, BSBA ’50, MA ’59, sailed 24 feet, 10 inches to the long-jump gold. Winning the gold was “one of the most glorious moments of my life,” the DU track star recalls. “I felt very patriotic. A tear did drop out of my eye.”

Shea, Boryla and Biffle all agree that a lot has changed since they competed in the Olympics. The games are more commercial today, cheating is more prevalent and many of the athletes now are professionals who are under tremendous pressure to win.

Still, Shea says the lessons he learned from his Olympic experience — hard work, sportsmanship and the value of friendship — have helped him get through life.

“It’s not about winning,” he says. “It’s about peaceful competition among nations. And win or lose, the entire country is proud of every athlete.”


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