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A Brief History of Oregon State Ties To The Winter Olympic Games

A pair of former OSU students have had success at the winter Olympiad.

OLY W 2-woman Bobsled X USA II

The 23rd Winter Olympics are officially open in Pyeongchang, South Korea. While no Beavers are competing in this year’s games, there are two who have made their way to winter sports’ biggest stage in years past. Those two athletes have three Olympic medals between them.

As you get set to watch the latest edition of the games, enjoy a little history lesson on these names that may not be immediately known to Oregon State fans, but have earned their own chapter in the history of American athletics.


Jean Saubert - Skiing

1964 Winter Olympics
Saubert (right) was a native of Roseburg, OR, and graduated from OSU in 1966.
Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images

Jean Saubert was born in 1942 in Roseburg, Oregon, and graduated from Lakeview High School in 1960. After high school, Saubert studied at OSU where it’s said that she was often seen running the bleachers to stay in shape with hopes of one day skiing for Team USA.

While studying at OSU, Saubert made the U.S. Ski team in 1962 as an alpine racer competing in downhill, slalom, giant slalom, and combined. She was the United States champion in the downhill and giant slalom in 1963 and 1964 and was also the U.S. champion in slalom and combined in 1964. In total, she was a U.S. champion eight times over the course of her four-year international skiing career.

Giant Slalom Olympic Medal Winners
Saubert (center) shows off her silver medal in the giant slalom at the 1964 Olympics.

In 1964, Saubert made the U.S. Olympic team and traveled to the games in Innsbruck, Austria. There, Saubert won two medals: a bronze in slalom and a silver in giant slalom. Saubert was the only American at the 1964 games to medal twice. She was also the first Olympian from the state of Oregon to medal in skiing.

Saubert returned to OSU where she graduated with a degree in education in 1966. She competed internationally once more at the 1966 World Championships in Chile before retiring at the age of 24. Saubert went on to earn a master’s degree in education from Brigham Young in 1976 before returning to Oregon in 1978. She was an elementary school teacher in the Hillsboro area until 2000 when she moved to Salt Lake City and was a volunteer at the 2002 games. She was also a torchbearer at those games.

Saubert moved to Montana shortly after the 2002 Olympics. She passed away in 2007 at the age of 65 after a battle with Cancer.

1964 Winter Olympics
Saubert competing in the Women’s Slalom at the 1964 Olympics.
Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images

Jill Bakken - Bobsleigh

Winteroly 2002 Salt Lake City
Bakken (left) played soccer at Oregon State during the 1996 season.
Photo by Pressefoto Ulmer\ullstein bild via Getty Images

Originally from Kirkland, Washington, Jill Bakken came to Corvallis in 1996 where she stayed for one term before transferring to the University of Utah. Bakken played in sixteen games for the Beavs’ women’s soccer program as a defender and took two shots.

In Utah, Bakken joined the Utah Army National Guard which enabled her to earn a sponsorship from the Army World Class Athlete Program as a bobsleigh pilot. Bakken had been involved in competitive bobsleigh since 1994.

At the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Bakken was paired with Vonetta Flowers in the two-woman bobsled event. Bakken and Flowers won the gold medal in that event. It was Team USA’s first Olympic bobsledding medal in 46 years.

Winter Olympics - Salt Lake City 2002 - Bobsleigh - Women
Flowers and pilot Bakken push off at the start of the race on their way to the gold medal
Photo by Tony Marshall/EMPICS via Getty Images

Bakken went on to graduate from Eastern Washington University in 2005. She is currently a driving coach for the Canadian bobsleigh team alongside her husband Florian Linder.

Winter Olympics - Salt Lake City 2002 - Medal Ceremony - Women's Bobsleigh Photo by Tony Marshall/EMPICS via Getty Images

Whether it be the Super Bowl, the Olympics, or the World Series, Oregon State alums continue to excel all across the sports world.

An Oregon State alum has even won the Iditarod, but that’s a story for another time...

For now, go Beavs and go America.