Columbia Olympians in the University Archives

With a long list of Lions participating at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the University Archives looked for past Columbia Olympic competitors. Here are the medal-worthy collections used to rediscover these great athletes.

Although all of our archival collections and resources could surely win medals in many events, in the search for Columbians at the Olympic games, the winners are . . .

Bronze medal

Columbia medals collection, 1770s-2015

Fitzhugh Townsend’s AAU Foils National Championship Medal, 1900 (left) and Universal Exposition Olympic Games St. Louis, AAU Foils International Team Award Pin, 1904. Box 2, item 57 and item 55, Columbia medals collection, University Archives.

There are no Olympic medals in this collection but we do have some beautiful medals of Columbian and back-then-future Olympian Fitzhugh Townsend. Samuel George Fitzhugh Townsend completed an AB from Columbia College in 1893 and an EE from the School of Mines in 1896, all before Columbia even moved to Morningside Heights and just as the modern Olympic Games were about to begin. Townsend was instrumental in bringing back the Fencers’ Club at Columbia, and, in 1894, he wrote a compelling piece in the Spectator encouraging students to take up fencing. Townsend won the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Foils, 1900 (see gold medal on left). He competed in the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis in the fencing events (foil and épée, individual) and received a silver medal in the men’s foil team competition. Townsend was an instructor of electrical engineering at Columbia starting in 1897. He died of typhoid fever in 1906.

Silver medal

Office of Public Affairs photograph collection, 1947-2016

Portrait of freshman and Olympic gold medal winner Cristina Teuscher, January 1997. Photo by University Photographer Eileen Barroso. Scan #4961. Office of Public Affairs photograph collection, University Archives.

This collection contains prints, negatives, contact sheets, color slides and digital files that have been created over the years by the University Photographers and others in the Columbia University Office of Public Affairs. The collection documents many events held on campus (e.g., commencement, homecoming, 1968 protests), life on the Morningside campus, faculty, students, guests, and Olympic athletes, including Cristina Teuscher CC 2000. In the summer before starting at Columbia, Teuscher won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta in the 4×200 freestyle relay. University Photographer Eileen Barroso captured this poolside portrait of her as a freshman in January 1997. At Columbia, Teuscher was a two-time All-American, a four-time NCAA champion. She won 12 Ivy League titles and set 17 Lion records. Just a few months after her graduation, Teuscher competed in her second Olympic Games, this time, in Sydney, and the U.S. Swimming Team Captain won a bronze medal in the 200 individual medley. 

Gold medal

Intercollegiate Athletics and Physical Education records, 1890-2015

Varsity Track Polar Bear Meet “pink sheet,” February 13, 1952. Scan #4968. Intercollegiate Athletics and Physical Education Records, University Archives.

This collection contains the official game records for Columbia’s intercollegiate contests, with dates, locations, opponents, rosters, and final scores. It also includes newsletters, press releases, media guides, game-day programs, photographs, biographical information cards, and so much more. And here you can find former Lion track star and Columbia’s first Black Olympian George D. Shaw CC 1953. Shaw participated in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki and again in the 1956 Games in Melbourne in the triple jump, then known as the hop-step-and-jump event. In this “pink sheet” from the Polar Bear Meet held on February 13, 1952, Shaw came in first in the 60-yard dash, tied for first in the high jump, and came in first in the broad jump, setting a new meet record. At the end of the season, Shaw competed in the NCAA Championships in Berkley, CA (1952) and won the triple jump event (49’1.75″) with a new meet record. At Columbia, Shaw held the triple jump record for 47 years (50’5.5″) before Cie-Jay Brown broke it in 1999, with a jump of 51’03”. Shaw remains the only Columbia track and field athlete to compete in two Olympic Games.

George D. Shaw on South Field, 1951. Scan #4967. Historical Photograph Collection, University Archives.

Columbia Athletics can help you follow all the latest Columbia Olympians at the games in Tokyo. #LionsOlympians! And be sure to check out Athletics’ Columbia’s Olympic History for full lists of the competitors and medal winners.