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Swarthmore and the Summer Olympics

Throughout the College’s history, Swarthmore student-athletes have reached the pinnacle of athletic success, winning national championships, earning All-America accolades, and competing in the Olympic Games.

With the Tokyo Summer Olympics now underway, get to know three Swarthmore student-athletes who competed in past Summer Games.

DuncanTricia Duncan ’95, who graduated with a degree in psychology, swam the 100- and 200-meter backstroke in the 1988 Seoul Olympics for the Virgin Islands before arriving at the College. At Swarthmore, Duncan was a member of the 200-meter medley relay team that captured first place at the 1995 Centennial Conference Championships. Duncan is the sister of NBA Hall of Famer Tim Duncan.

valentineAlan Valentine, Class of 1921, won a gold medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics as a player-coach for the U.S. rugby team, which upset a heavily favored French team.  Along with his athletic success — which included starting for both the Swarthmore football and lacrosse teams — Valentine was a Rhodes Scholar, college president, and professor. In 1948, he was chosen by President Harry Truman to head up the Marshall Plan. Valentine graduated from Swarthmore with degrees in history and English and was awarded an honorary degree in 1937. 

valtinRolf Valtin ’48, who graduated from Swarthmore with a degree in economics, was a member of the U.S. soccer team that competed in the 1948 London Olympics. A two-time soccer All-American at Swarthmore, Valtin scored a goal in a pre-Olympic exhibition match against the team from the newly formed State of Israel. An Olympics appearance was just a small part of Valtin’s incredible life journey, which also included being born in Nazi Germany, immigrating to America, and then storming the beach during the World War II Normandy invasion. Read more about Valtin's life.


A version of this article was originally published in 2016. Know of any additional Swarthmore Olympians? Please let us know at

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