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Vol. LXII, No. 29
 
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
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(Photo courtesy of Princeton Office of Athletic Communications and Beverly Schaefer)

INTERNATIONAL PLATFORM: Princeton University senior swimming star Doug Lennox gets set to compete in a race this past winter. Next month, Lennox will compete in the Beijing Summer Olympics for the Puerto Rican national team. In addition to testing his skills against the top swimmers in the world, Lennox will be using the games to raise awareness about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Lennox is a member of Team Darfur, a coalition of more than 360 international athletes who are committed to raising awareness about and bringing an end to the crisis in Darfur.

In Swimming for Puerto Rico’s Olympic Team, PU’s Lennox Aims to Make Impact Beyond Pool

Justin Jez

The upcoming Summer Olympics in Beijing have presented athletes with an opportunity to reach beyond their sporting achievements into the world’s political arena.

For Princeton University men’s swimming star and Puerto Rico Olympian Doug Lennox, the chance to be on the world stage has sparked a desire to use his position to raise awareness about what the U.S. government considers genocide in Darfur.

“As an Olympic athlete, there is no ‘duty’ to take a stand,” said Lennox, a resident of Lake Forest, Ill whose mother is a native of Puerto Rico. “But as humans, I believe there is an obligation to recognize the evils of the world.”

The ethnic conflict within the Darfur region of Sudan has resulted in an estimated 400,000 deaths. Many people believe China is failing to uphold the spirit of the Olympic games by supporting the Sudanese government and not using its influence to help end the violence occurring in Darfur.

A rising senior at Princeton, 21-year-old Lennox along with his sister Kristina, a former swimming standout at Villanova, will be representing Puerto Rico in the upcoming Olympic games.

“My feelings about Darfur are simple: genocides and civil wars need to be prevented, and if not prevented ended as quickly and peacefully as possible,” said Lennox, who made the Puerto Rican Olympic team based on posting qualifying times in the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly events.

“I do not consider myself a political person, but I do believe in the basic tenets of human rights and the Olympic Spirit.”

Lennox is a member of Team Darfur, a coalition of more than 360 international athletes who, according to the team’s website, plan to raise awareness about and bring an end to the crisis in Darfur.

“As an ambassador of the Games, my goal in joining Team Darfur is to raise awareness for these global travesties and spread the goodness of the Olympic ideals. I would say that Olympic athletes who feel strongly about basic human rights should not be afraid to speak up and say what their heart is telling them, but in the proper forum and manner. In this way we, as athletes, can use our spotlight-status to raise awareness and hopefully induce changes via politics.”

Lennox put himself in the spotlight a lot for Princeton this past winter, producing a superb campaign for the Tigers. He captured the 200 fly at the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming Championships (EISL) and went on to place fourth in the event at the NCAA Championships. Lennox is now a perfect 9-for-9 in reaching individual championship finals at the EISL championships.

Nicknamed “Puerto Rican Heat,” Lennox is proud of his roots in the Caribbean island.

“My mom was born on the island and grew up in Puerto Rico until she was 24,” Lennox said.

“I have come to visit Puerto Rico every summer since I was born, so I have had very close relationships with my mother’s family.”

With the support of his family, Lennox admits it has been a long-time dream of his to be able to compete in the Olympic games. Both he and his sister have competed in the Puerto Rican National meet each year since graduating from high-school.

“I have always wanted to be an Olympic athlete; I think most, if not all, swimmers and athletes dream about the Olympics because it is the world-wide pinnacle of sports competition,” asserted Lennox.

“Although it took years for this Olympic Dream to become a possible reality, I had the unending support of my family, my best friends, my closest competitors, and more than a handful of coaches.”

Lennox credits PU coaches C. Rob Orr and Jamie Holder for helping to develop his talents in the pool.

“Working with [Orr] and [Holder] has given me a fresh outlook on swimming,” Lennox said. “Since entering college, I have improved a lot and learned how to relax in the highest pressure situations I have ever competed in.”

Training and competing with his Tiger teammates has also aided Lennox’s development in the pool.

“On top of the coaching guidance, training with my past and present teammates has challenged me to be the best I can be every day,” Lennox said. “Everyone is really competitive, and there are some guys who can just flat out train better than anyone, day in day out.”

Now, Lennox will have the chance to meet a new group of athletes from around the world when he travels to Beijing in the middle of July.

“The other Olympians I have met are very nice, very supportive, and obviously some of the best athletes in the world,” said Lennox, who will serve as a tri-captain of the Tiger men’s team next season.

“I hope to gain a true sense of kinship when I am in the Olympic Village, surrounded by these people for a month.” 

While Lennox is focused on holding his own against those athletes, he hopes to advance the cause of creating a true peace in the Darfur segment of the global village. 

“I have obviously realized my world has been very local until my exposure to Team Darfur,” Lennox said.  “I can only hope to grow and help others increase their scope of information.”

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