As the Olympic Games in Beijing approach, several UW athletes are attempting to qualify and continue the tradition the Badger program has in the Olympics. Watch the Badger Olympians page for updates on our current athletes, as well as a weekly look back at past UW Olympians. Check back frequently as we review our illustrious Olympic history and the Badgers who have made it.
Today's look back features Suzy-Favor Hamilton, the most decorated women athlete in UW history. A letter winner in track and cross country at Wisconsin from 1986-90, she became a four-time (1987-1990) Big Ten Athlete of the Year, an award that now bears her name, and represented UW and her country as a three-time Olympian. To see video of Suzy Favor-Hamilton click mid=2335"> --> here .
Favor Hamilton ended her high school career as an 11-time state champion and one of the most decorated runners in WIAA history. For her efforts she was also named one of the top 100 high school athletes of the century by Scholastic Sports Magazine.
Entering Wisconsin as a freshman in 1987, Favor Hamilton wasted little time writing herself into the record books, winning NCAA titles in the indoor mile and 1500 meter outdoors. The Stevens Point, Wis., native also captured Big Ten titles in the 800 and 1500 meters, which would be the first of many.
Over her next three years, Favor Hamilton would win more titles and garner more recognition than any other collegiate athlete before her. She finished her career with 23 Big Ten titles (21 of them in individual events) and nine individual NCAA championships, becoming the winningest woman ever in NCAA history. The 14-time All-American and then-NCAA record holder for the 800 meters (1:59.11) was also honored in 1991 as the Big Ten Female Athlete of the Decade. When asked about her top-10 track-related moments at UW, Hamilton stated, Winning the nine NCAA Championships. Each has its own story. Each is very memorable to me.
After running successfully on the international circuit and competing in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, Favor Hamilton entered the 2000 Sydney Olympics as a strong medal contender for the 1500 meters. But while leading the final with 200 meters to go she collapsed due to dehydration and numerous injuries. She managed to pick herself up but could only finish 12th. However, despite her Olympic disappointment, the 1993 UW Athletic Hall of Fame inductee turned 2000 into her best season to date, posting the fastest womens 1500m time in the world in 2000 (3:57.40) while setting PRs in the 800, 1500, 3000 and 5000 meters.
Favor-Hamilton said of the honor of representing her country, Theres nothing like being able to call yourself an Olympian. As great as running is on the collegiate level, its just the ultimate thrill to compete against and beat the best in the world.
Looking back on her time at UW, Favor-Hamilton recalls her years as a Badger fondly, citing numerous memories of her teammates, particularly on their long road trips. But there is one way her time as a Badger most dramatically affected her life.
I met my husband (former UW baseball player Mark Hamilton) my freshman year at UW. Meeting him changed my life in such a positive way. We now have a baby girl, the greatest gift he could give me.
As part of the Wisconsin Track tradition and legacy she stated, I hope it continues. It was the reason I chose to attend UW. Weve had so many great runners come through. Wearing that uniform gives you a sense of pride and confidence. There are high expectations for Wisconsin runners, and you want to live up to those expectations, and even surpass them.
Favor-Hamilton now lives, runs and enjoys life with her family in Madison, Wis. She gives back to her community by sharing lessons learned on and off the track through motivational speeches, appearances and running campus and clinics.