Florida Southern College has Olympic connections that date back to the 1940s. To date, nine alumni have participated in the Olympics in some form, whether it be as an athlete, athletic trainer, coach, or journalist. In addition, in the 1980s, the Men's Baseball team faced off against an international Olympic-bound team as part of a series of preseason exhibition matches, and, in more recent years, the College has also hosted Team USA as part of their training for the upcoming Games.
Jenson Van Emburgh is Bronze Medalist in Class 3 Table Tennis. He won his first medal at the 2020 Paralympic Games and is the first Moc to win a medal at the Paralympics. The 2020 Games were also the first that he attended.
Van Emburgh is currently attending Florida Southern College and is studying Psychology. He is also the son of Men’s Tennis coach Greg Van Emburgh. Aside from his Bronze Medal, Jenson Van Emburgh has also won the Class 3-5 USA Table Tennis title, multiple medals at various Para Opens, and was named USATT Wheelchair Athlete of the Year in 2019. He has also been selected by the US Junior Para National Team for nine years in a row.
“First Paralympic Medal Won by a Florida Southern College Student.” Florida Southern College, October 21, 2021. https://www.flsouthern.edu/news/first-paralympic-medal-won-by-a-florida-southern-c.
In 2020, the Barnett Athletic Complex served as a training location for the USA Softball team in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games. Team USA returned to train at the Complex in 2021 when the games were rescheduled.
In 2016, the Complex underwent renovations to update and upgrade the failures. The Barnett Athletic Complex reopened in 2018 and serves as the home for FSC’s soccer teams, lacrosse teams, and softball team.
Beasock, Ray. "US Softball Team Begins Olympic Journey in Lakeland." The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida), January 30, 2020.
"USA Softball Olympic Team Reassembles in Florida for Training Camp." World Baseball Softball Confederation, January 7, 2021. https://olympicsoftball.wbsc.org/en/2021/e-2021-softball-olympic-games/news/usa-softball-olympic-team-reassembles-in-florida-for-training-camp.
Diana “Anna” Griessler served as a Sports Medicine Intern for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee in 2019 where she worked with athletes who participated in track and field, rugby, archery, cycling, and tennis events.
Griessler graduated from Florida Southern in 2019 with a degree in Exercise Science and was a member of the Women’s Soccer team from 2015 to 2018. She is only one of eleven players to have scored a hat trick, which makes her tied for the most goals in a single game (3). Diana “Anna” Griessler was also elected to the Sunshine State Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll for all four years that she played.
“2019 Graduate Serves as Sports Medicine Intern with Olympic, Paralympic Athletes.” Florida Southern College, November 4, 2019. https://flsouthern.edu/news/2019-exercise-science-grad-serves-internship-at-tr.
Allan Gutierrez is the first Moc Olympian. While he was enrolled at Florida Southern, he swam for the Honduran national team in the 2012 Olympic Games in the 400m Freestyle event. He swam again for the Honduran team in the 2016 Olympic Games in the 100m Butterfly event. He was eliminated in the first heat for both Games.
Allan Gutierrez graduated from Florida Southern in 2015 and was a member of the Men’s Swimming team from 2011-2015. While here, he earned 20 All-American certificates and helped the team reach 4 top-five finishes in the NCAA Division II Championships. Gutierrez also holds multiple records in Honduras for swimming.
After graduating from FSC, Allan Gutierrez planned on entering graduate school and later working in the medical field. In 2017, he donated the commemorative medallions he received from participating in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. He did not participate in the 2020 Games.
“Allan Gutierrez ’15 Donates Olympic Medallions.” SouthernNews 63, no. 1, 2018, 44.
Sabate, Valeria. “Hard Work Propels FSC Swimmer to London.” The Southern (Lakeland, Florida), September 14, 2012. http://fscsouthern.com/hard-work-propels-fsc-swimmer-to-london/.
John Napier was part of the USA Bobsled Team in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. In the two-man event, his team finished tenth, and in the four-man event, his team did not qualify due to a crash in the third run.
Napier began studying at Florida Southern in 2012 after retiring from the Olympics as well as after serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the Army National Guard. While here, he studied Biochemistry. Napier later graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Professional Studies with a major in Life Sciences from New York Chiropractic College. He would later earn his Doctorate of Chiropractic degree from the college in 2019.
D’Angelo, Tony. “The Chuck Norris of Florida Southern.” The Southern (Lakeland, Florida), February 13, 2014. http://fscsouthern.com/the-chuck-norris-of-florida-southern/.
“Meet John Napier.” New York Chiropractic College. https://www.nycc.edu/spotlights/meet-john-napier.
Rosen, Karen. “After Escaping Death in Afghanistan, Bobsled Driver John Napier Reflects on Brotherhood Found in National Guard.” Team USA. United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, November 11, 2020.
Yuichi Sasaki (right) is a Sports Therapist for the Malaysian Olympic and Paralympic teams and is part of the Strength and Conditioning program.
Sasaki graduated from Florida Southern in 2011 with a degree in Athletic Training. He then earned his Master’s degree in Athletic Training from Missouri State University in 2014. After graduation, he worked at Lee University in Tennessee before getting the position in Malaysia. Yuichi Sasaki’s aspiration at the Tokyo 2020 Games is to have the athletes he works with win gold medals.
Nawlo, Salma. “Meet Sports Therapist Yuichi Sasaki ’11.” Florida Southern College, August 7, 2020. https://www.flsouthern.edu/news/meet-sports-therapist-yuichi-sasaki-11.
Paloncy, Kristin. “MSAT Alumni Update: Yuichi Sasaki.” Athletic Training Blog, Missouri State University, May 24, 2016. https://blogs.missouristate.edu/sportsmed/2016/05/24/msat-alumni-update-yuichi-sasaki/.
In October 1987, the Florida Southern Baseball team faced off against the Olympic-bound Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) national baseball team in a set of preseason exhibition games. The first game was on October 3 and the second on October 5; unfortunately, the Mocs lost the first game 7-4 and the second game 2-1. Less than a year later at the 1988 Olympic Games, the Chinese Taipei team placed fourth in their preliminary division and did not go on to the finals.
The Chinese Taipei team was the first international team that the Baseball Mocs had played against, but over the years, the team has faced a variety other national and international teams, including the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, and the Soviet national team.
"FSC vs. Taiwan." 1988 Baseball Yearbook. Lakeland, Florida: Florida Southern College, 1988.
Stoyer, Dean. "FSC Hosts Chinese Baseball Team." The Southern (Lakeland, Florida), October 9, 1987.
Paul Walker is a member of the coaching staff for Team USA Women’s Wheelchair Tennis team and was most recently part of the 2020 Paralympic Games held in Tokyo. He has been a coach for the team since 2005. In 2016, he was awarded the Order of Ikkos medal by the US Olympic Committee for his outstanding contributions to wheelchair tennis.
After graduating from Florida Southern College in 1986, Walker went on to join the U.S. Army where he attained the rank of Captain. Three years after a parachuting accident, Walker began a new career path in wheelchair tennis in 1997, and in 2005, he was part of the inaugural US Open Wheelchair Competition. Walker played wheelchair tennis competitively for 8 years with his highest career rankings being #4 in the US and #31 in the ITF world rankings. He was also named ITF Wheelchair Coach of the Year (2013), Wheelchair Tennis Champion of the Year for Tennis Industry Magazine (2014), and the USOC/USTA Paralympic Tennis Coach of the Year (2014). From 2002 to 2015, he coached at George Jenkins High School in Lakeland, Florida. In 2015, he returned to his alma mater where he is currently the Assistant Coach for the Women’s Tennis team.
Maher, Erin. “US Open Interview: Paul Walker.” US Open, September 4, 2018. https://www.usopen.org/en_US/news/articles/2018-09-04/us_open_interview_paul_walker.html.
Marshall, Ashley. “Top Award for USTA Wheelchair Tennis Coaches.” USTA, July 27, 2017. https://www.usta.com/en/home/stay-current/national/wheelchair-tennis-coaches-land-national-award.html.
“Paul Walker '86 - Assistant Women's Tennis Coach.” Florida Southern College Athletics. https://fscmocs.com/staff-directory/paul-walker-86/106.
“World Team Cup: Paul Walker, Women's Captain.” USTA Player Development, May 7, 2019. http://www.playerdevelopment.usta.com/news/world_team_cup_paul_walker_womens_captain/.
Richard John Valerino (center) covered multiple Olympics, including the 1996, 2000, and 2002 Games, as a journalist for The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida). He has won multiple state and national awards for his sports coverage of both the Olympics and local sports, including the FSC Mocs.
John Valerino graduated from Florida Southern in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. During his time here, he was part of The Southern staff as both a reporter and a member of the editing staff. In his senior year, he became the Editor of the newspaper. He was also a member of Phi Sigma Kappa, Pi Delta Epsilon, and Omicron Delta Kappa as well as a member of the Greek Hall of Fame.
In 1974, Valerino was hired to write for the News Chief in Winter Haven as well as for The Ledger. In 1978, he became the Sports Editor for The Ledger, and in 1984, he was promoted to the Executive Sports Editor for the paper. In 1988, he became the Sports Coordinator for the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group. In 2009, he received the Hal Waters Alumnus of the Year Award, and in 2015, he was inducted into the Florida Southern Athletics Hall of Fame. John Valerino retired as The Ledger’s Sports Editor in 2003, but he continued to write for the newspaper and also wrote two books on baseball. John Valerino passed away on February 25, 2023 at the age of 70.
“Ex-Ledger Editor Honored by FSC.” The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida), April 21, 2009.
Fuoco, Roy. “John Valerino, Ledger Sports Editor for 24 Years Since the 1970s, Dies at 70.” The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida), February 28, 2023. https://www.theledger.com/story/sports/2023/02/28/john-valerino-ledger-sports-editor-for-nearly-a-quarter-century-dies/69951555007/.
Interlachen 1974. Lakeland, Florida: Florida Southern College, 1974. https://archive.org/details/interlachen197442flor.
“John Valerino.” Florida Southern College Athletics. https://fscmocs.com/honors/hall-of-fame?hof=120.
Valerino, John. “Looking Back and Moving Forward.” The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida), November 28, 2003.
Hal M. Smeltzly was the Technical Delegate for baseball in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He also was an advisor for the Royal Netherlands Baseball Federation teams in 1967 and 1971. He later served as Manager for two non-Olympic USA teams in 1972 and 1975. Smeltzly was also key in making Baseball an official Olympic sport in time for the 1992 Games.
Hal Smeltzly graduated from Florida Southern in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education. He was a member of both the Baseball team and the Men’s Basketball team. Smeltzly was also a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and Vice President of the Varsity “S” Club.
Right after his graduation, he became the Head Coach for the Mocs Baseball team. He coached from 1957 to 1976 and won three NCAA Division II Baseball National Championships. In 1978, he became Florida Southern’s Athletic Director. Under him, Florida Southern won 18 National Championships across all sports including the Triple Crown of three National Championship wins in 1981. Smeltzly was also key in implementing Title IX at Florida Southern through the creation and advancement of women’s sports. Smeltzly has been inducted into six Halls of Fame: American Baseball Coaches Association, Royal Dutch Sports, Florida Sports, Sunshine State Conference, Polk County Sports, and Florida Southern Athletics. His baseball number, #7, has been retired at Florida Southern and the Hal Smeltzly Award for Best Male Athlete of the Year was later named in honor.
Hal M. Smeltzly passed away in 2018.
Fredericksen, Brady. “Former Florida Southern AD Hal Smeltzly Dies at 86.” The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida), June 15, 2018. https://www.theledger.com/sports/20180615/former-florida-southern-ad-hal-smeltzly-dies-at-86.
“Hal Smeltzly.” Florida Southern College Athletics. https://fscmocs.com/honors/hall-of-fame/hal-smeltzly/14.
Interlachen 1957. Lakeland, Florida: Florida Southern College, 1957. https://archive.org/details/interlachen195700flor.
Stoovelaar, Marco. “Former Netherlands Team Manager and Hall of Fame Coach Hal Smeltzly Passed Away.” Grand Slam Stats & News, 2018. https://catcher.home.xs4all.nl/bb18-1212-former-netherlands-team-manager-and-hall-of-fame-coach-hal-smeltzly-passed-away.htm.
Dr. Mohammed Sabie (left) served as the coach for the entire Iraqi delegation at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City by sheer chance. Dr. Sabie had gone to the Games as a spectator, but he stepped up when the entire Iraqi delegation was about to be disqualified as their coaches were unable to enter Mexico. He coached a weightlifter, a cyclist, and a wrestler who finished 11th, 36th, and 6th respectively in their events.
Mohammed Sabie graduated from Florida Southern in 1957. He is considered the founder of the FSC Soccer Program as he organized soccer as a club sport and coached the team during his senior year. He was also a member of the International Club and the Men’s Basketball team while at FSC.
Dr. Sabie is also considered the founder of soccer in Kentucky where he taught and coached soccer at Morehead State University for 38 years. He was inducted into both the Florida Southern Athletics and Morehead State University Athletics Halls of Fame.
Dr. Mohammed Sabie passed away in 2007.
“Dr. Mohammed Sabie.” Morehead State University Athletics. https://msueagles.com/honors/hall-of-fame/dr-mohammed-sabie/88.
Interlachen 1957. Lakeland, Florida: Florida Southern College, 1957. https://archive.org/details/interlachen195700flor.
“Mohammed Sabie.” Florida Southern College Athletics. https://fscmocs.com/honors/hall-of-fame?hof=61.
Murray, Gene. “Dr. Sabie Attends Olympics.” Press Release, November 9, 1968. Morehead State University. https://scholarworks.moreheadstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1011&context=msu_athletics_press_release_archive#page=66.
Janet Rudolph Scanlon qualified to represent the USA in Speed Skating during the 1944 Winter Olympics; however, the Games were cancelled due to World War II and she did not participate in the rescheduled Games in 1948.
Janet Rudolph attended Florida Southern from 1948 to 1950. While she did not speed skate here, she was part of the Water Skiing team and participated in intramural swimming. She was also a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority, and in 1950, she was selected as Campus Queen at the TEP-HOP. While at FSC, she started working at nearby Cypress Gardens as both a model and a water skier. She later performed in two movies that were filmed there: This is Cinerama and Easy to Love.
Scanlon later became a national spokesperson for Jantzen Swimwear before her marriage to her husband in 1956. The couple settled down on a farm in New York where she began an oil painting career that would win her numerous awards.
Janet Rudolph Scanlon passed away in 2007.
“Janet Rudolph Scanlon.” Syracuse Post Standard (Syracuse, New York), January 12, 2008. https://obits.syracuse.com/obituaries/syracuse/obituary.aspx?n=janet-rudolph-scanlon&pid=101087627.
“Rudolph Captures Queen Honor at Fourth TEP-HOP.” The Southern (Lakeland, Florida), April 28, 1950. https://cdm15558.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/Southern/id/1537.
Floyd Edwin Lay (left) was a member of the U.S. Olympic Basketball Committee from 1964-1980 and served as Vice Chairman from 1972-1980.
Lay graduated from Florida Southern in 1941 with a degree in Science and a minor in Mathematics. He played on the Varsity Men’s Basketball Team from 1938-1941 where he was the lead scorer as well as Team Captain in 1941. In 1939, he was named to the State AAU All-American Basketball Squad where he set a record for the most points scored in a single-tournament game (41). While at FSC, he was also a member of the Alpha Sigma fraternity and Student Government as well as the President of the Varsity “S” Club in 1941. Lay later received his Master’s degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from Florida Southern as well.
In 1956, Lay began his career at the Florida High School Athletics Association; he later became the head of the Association in 1963. After a long career, he retired from the organization in 1980. In recognition of his contributions to the organization, FHSAA’s Floyd E. Lay Sunshine Cup All-Sports Awards program was later named in his honor. Lay has been inducted into seven Halls of Fame: Florida High School Athletic Association, Lakeland High School, Florida Southern Athletics, National High School Sports, Florida Sports, Polk County Schools, and Polk County Sports Halls of Fame.
Floyd E. Lay passed away in 2010.
“Floyd E. Lay.” Florida High School Athletic Association. https://fhsaa.com/hof.aspx?hof=146.
“Floyd E. Lay.” Florida Southern College Athletics. https://fscmocs.com/honors/hall-of-fame?hof=9.
Interlachen 1941. Lakeland, Florida: Florida Southern College, 1941. https://archive.org/details/interlachen194100flor.
Zebold, Tom. “Youth Sports Advocate Floyd Lay Dies at 94.” The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida), May 19, 2010.