In today’s spotlight blog post, we’re talking about the Olympics … but what is the connection between EducationUSA and the Olympics?

We’re glad you asked! The connection between EducationUSA and the Olympic Games is the high number of students and alumni of American colleges and universities who compete in the games. This phenomenon is due to the number of students from all over the world who are drawn to the U.S. system of collegiate athletics. Through this unique system, international student athlete can pursue a bachelor’s or even master’s degree while continuing to practice their sport competitively.

U.S. University Alumni at the Olympics

As of the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the following eleven American universities occupied the “Top Ten” spots as producers of the most medal-winning athletes:

  1. University of Southern California, with 309 total medals
  2. Stanford University, with 270 total medals
  3. University of California, Los Angeles, with 233 total medals
  4. University of California, Berkeley, with 207 total medals
  5. University of Michigan, with 144 total medals
  6. University of Texas, Austin, with 143 total medals
  7. University of Florida, with 126 total medals
  8. Harvard University, with 108 total medals
  9. Yale University, with 107 total medals
  10. Indiana University Bloomington, with 104 total medals
    Ohio State University, with 104 total medals

Athletes from Stanford University received a total of 27 medals at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics alone … compared to six medals for the entire Belgian Olympic Team! In fact, if Stanford were counted as a country, its performance in the 2016 Olympics would have placed it in the top twenty best-performing countries (right between Italy and Canada).

Want to learn more? Click here to read more about American universities with Olympic medals.

U.S. University Alumni on Team Belgium

Over 100 athletes from Belgium are competing in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo … including several alumni of U.S. colleges and universities! Members of the Belgian Olympic Team have studied at colleges and universities across in the United States, ranging from North Carolina to Oregon.

Belgian athletes who studied in the USA include…

  • Valerie Barthelemy. Triathlete Val Barthelemy is competing in her first Olympic Games in Tokyo. Originally from Liege, she moved to the United States to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from the University of Michigan … and to compete on their NCAA Division 1 Swimming & Diving Team! Click here to read more about Valerie Barthelemy.
  • Kévin and Jonathan Borlée. It’s no surprise that twins Kévin and Jonathan Borlée are well-known in the Olympic Village … after all, they have represented Belgium at every Olympic Games since 2008! But what you might not know about these sprinters is that early in their careers, they studied in the USA as international students at Florida State University. Click here to read more about Kévin Borlée and Jonathan Borlée.
  • Manon De Roey. Belgian golfer Manon De Roey’s path to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo has included competitions around the world … and four years in Albuquerque, New Mexico! She completed a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of New Mexico while playing for the university’s NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Team. Click here to read more about Manon De Roey.
  • Thomas Detry. Before going pro, golfer Thomas Detry spent four years as a student athlete on the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Team at the University of Illinois. Click here to read more about Thomas Detry.
  • Kim and Hanne Mestdagh. Sisters Kim and Hanne Mestdagh are both competing on the Belgium women’s national basketball team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics … but they have something else in common, too! Both played college basketball as student athletes at Colorado State University. Click here to read more about Kim Mestdagh and Hanne Mestdagh.
  • Claire Michel. Triathlete Claire Michel is competing in her second Olympic Games, after representing Belgium for the first time in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Originally from Brussels, Belgium, she studied in the USA as an undergraduate student at the University of Oregon. Click here to read more about Claire Michel.
  • Thomas Pieters. Before joining Team Belgium, golfer Thomas Pieters studied at the University of Illinois. As an undergraduate student in Illinois, he played on the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Team. Click here to read more about Thomas Pieters.
  • Jo Sacoor. Belgian sprinter Jonathan Sacoor will be competing in the Men’s 400 Metres event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Originally from Lot, Belgium, he currently studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he is a member of the university’s Track & Field Team. Click here to read more about Jo Sacoor.
  • Joran Vliegen. Tennis player Joran Vliegen and partner Sander Gillé will be competing in the men’s doubles at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Before joining Team Belgium, Joran studied in the USA as an undergraduate student East Carolina University. Click here to read more about Joran Vliegen.

These players are among the more than 1000 current and former NCAA college athletes who will be competing in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

Learn More

Not every international student athlete who studies in the USA goes on to compete in the Olympic Games. But for students who are interested in pursuing academic study while also playing their favorite sport at a competitive level, the USA can be a great destination! Prospective students, especially those interested in being considered for athletic scholarships through the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), should remember that the application process to study in the USA begins early. Student athletes should begin preparing for the application process several years before they intend to study in the USA.

Want to learn more? Check out these informative webinars from our fellow EducationUSA Advisers.

In the meantime, join us in wishing the best of luck to Team Belgium!