Early tomorrow afternoon, the Arkansas Razorbacks have a chance to honor four of their own who have reached one of the great pinnacles of sport. Current Razorback swimmer Yi Ting Siow and former track and field stars April Steiner Bennett, Christin Wurth-Thomas and Alistair Cragg will receive the ovation of the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium crowd on behalf of their fellow 2008 Beijing Olympic Razorbacks.
Arkansas had a record-setting number of Razorback athletes present in Beijing with 11 on the rosters of four nations, plus a 12th former athlete as the head coach for a fifth nation. Two former Razorbacks — multiple gold medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown and former UA multiple all-American Jerome Romain — had the privilege of their nation’s Olympic delegations selecting them to carry their nation’s flags in the opening ceremony.
A short montage of photos of the other 2008 Olympians — Amy Yoder Begley (USA, 10k), Tyson Gay (USA, sprints), Deena Kastor (USA, marathon), LaShauntae Moore (USA, 400 relay pool), Wallace Spearmon, Jr. (USA, 200m), Nicole Teter (USA, 800m) — will set the stage for the introductions of our four resident Olympians.
Of the four, Steiner Bennett may have the best story from Beijing. A gallery of her snapshots from August are attached to this pregame blog and the Olympian story from Satuday’s game program.
The current elementary school teacher in Springdale already had a pretty exciting athletic career. A four-time all-American pole vaulter at Arkansas, she became a reality TV star by winning a special two-hour long Thanksgiving Fear Factor. The cash prize from winning the NBC reality show went a long way toward assisting the Arizona native in continuing her training. At the time, April said she did Fear Factor to fund her dream — making the Olympics.
With the aid of her college and current coach, Razorback women’s track and field assistant Bryan Compton, Steiner Bennett qualified earlier this summer at the USA Olympic Trials. With Compton at her side in Beijing, she advanced into the finals and finished eighth.
April also managed to meet a few interesting people. In fact, her photo gallery is Zelig-like with everyone from President Bush to Kobe Bryant.
Enjoy the photos, and we’ll talk to you next from the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium press box for breakfast tomorrow morning.