Olympic athletes in Rio affiliated with the New York Athletic Club won 23 medals, including 20 gold, the most ever for the city institution founded in 1868.
“Anything we can do to help these athletes reach their goals and their dreams, it’s really gratifying to us,” said NYAC athletic director Cedric Jones after 21 of the club’s 68 Rio athletes medaled.
The NYAC’s City House is on Central Park South, with outdoor facilities at Westchester County’s Travers Island. Aside from facilities, the club provides its elite athletes coaching, training and traveling expenses.
Club swimmer Jimmy Feigen grabbed gold on the 4x100 freestyle team (alongside Michael Phelps). As part of the Ryan Lochte controversy, Feigen was detained in Brazil, apologized for being a distraction and paid a $10,800 fine to return home.
“It’s a tough situation,” Jones said. “They’re young people and young people make mistakes.”
NYAC swimming gold also went to David Plummer in the men’s 4x100 medley and Katie Meili in the women’s 4x100 medley.
Making history, the NYAC’s Gwen Jorgensen won the first U.S. Olympic triathlon gold ever, while Michelle Carter earned America’s first women’s shot put gold.
Continuing track domination, the club’s Natasha Hastings contributed to the 4x400 squad’s sixth straight gold.
Women’s eight rowing took a third straight gold fueled by five NYAC athletes, while women’s water polo claimed a second consecutive gold with eight NYAC representatives.
Of the club’s developing athletes, Jones said, “They look at these athletes as heroes and idols.”
NYAC’s Kayla Harrison, who has spoken out about being sexually abused as a minor by her former coach, repeated as women’s 78-kg judo champion.
“Watching her overcome and become a two-time gold medal winner is very gratifying,” Jones said.
Jones played nine years in the NFL as a wide receiver for the New England Patriots. He was a member of the 1985 team that lost Super Bowl XX to the Chicago Bears, earning a silver medal so to speak.
“Yes, as I tell people,” he said, laughing.
The NYAC predates the first modern Olympics by 28 years.
“I think that history sets us apart from other clubs in the world,” Jones said.