By Phillip Whitten
PHOENIX, March 7. IN a gutsy, principled move, swimming legend Jenny Thompson today turned down a high honor scheduled to be bestowed upon her by the University of New Hampshire to protest the university’s decision to axe its men’s swim team along with several other sports.
The decision to cut the sports, announced more than a month ago, ostensibly was made for budgetary reasons.
Thompson, America’s most decorated Olympian and a native of Dover, New Hampshire, rejected the Charles Holmes Pettee Award, the UNH Alumni Association’s highest honor, pointedly asking: “How can the university honor me for accomplishments in an endeavor which they clearly do not respect?”
She added: “As the largest university in the state, UNH has a duty to provide diversity of opportunity to its students. I feel compelled to let UNH know that their actions disappoint me, and that their actions are a step in the wrong direction for the future of Olympic sports in New Hampshire. It is on these grounds that I have decided to refuse the Pettee Medal.”
Thompson noted: “I grew up in New Hampshire. I am proud to be one of the few Olympians from the state, but I dream of a day when being an Olympian from New Hampshire is not an exception, but a rule. I could not have achieved my dreams if I had not had the opportunity provided by swimming teams."