[Note: this story has been modified since its original posting to correct errors.]
Missouri track coach Rick McGuire has followed Derrick Peterson’s Olympic journey up close. Marilyn Rose Thudium said she had to stay up late to watch Peterson run in the 800 meters at the Olympics. Thudium met Peterson as a sorority mother for Alpha Phi.
“I met Derrick as a student when he was dating one of my girls,” Thudium said. “He was a very nice gentleman.”
Both attended a reception Monday at the Reynolds Alumni Center for Peterson and fellow 2004 Olympian Hans Uldal who competed in the decathlon in Athens.
Peterson, a former Missouri athlete and a volunteer track coach for the Tigers, placed fourth in his heat of the 800 and did not make the finals.
Uldal, who will be a redshirt sophomore for the Tigers when the indoor track season starts, competed for his native Norway at the Olympics finishing 27th out of 39 athletes in his event.
Thudium was re-introduced to Peterson on Sunday when he attended a brunch at her house. Thudium said Peterson spent most of his time talking with a fellow fraternity father, Jack Huggans.
Both Olympians said they enjoyed Monday’s reception, having gained a good amount of experience mingling the past several weeks.
“I like things like this because I’m a people person,” Peterson said. “I get to shake hands and talk with people I normally don’t get to.”
Peterson said the most interesting people he has met recently were those at a Kenneth Cole fashion show Sept. 8 in New York City, among them movie actress Angie Everheart. Peterson said he sat next to Everheart, who starred in “Another 9 1/2 Weeks,” at the show.
Uldal was hard-pressed to name the most interesting person he has met since the Olympics.
“There have been too many people to say who’s been the most interesting,” Uldal said. “Here and back home (in Norway), where I had a week of preparation as far as meeting people goes.”
Dick Andrews, the Dean of Education at MU, said he had nothing but respect for the two Olympians.
“I had a friend tell me to hope that you never have an Olympic athlete as a son or daughter because the support system is so rough,” Andrews said. “What happens to them, happens to you.”
McGuire lauded the athletes for more than their athletic accomplishments, noting that both overcame large hurdles to make it to the Games.
Peterson finished one-hundredth of second away from making the 2000 Olympics.
Todd McCubbin, the interim alumni association director, said it looked like Peterson’s performance at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials would also fail to qualify him.
McCubbin was talking to a friend by cell phone, who was on the field during Peterson’s race at the trials.
The friend told him Peterson was in sixth coming out of the final turn. Peterson then made a push, though, which was described to McCubbin in great detail, and finished third, qualifying him for the Olympics.
McCubbin said it was a great moment, even though he had no visual.
“I was probably one of the first people to know who didn’t get to watch it on televison,” McCubbin said.
Uldal underwent surgery in December of 2002 to repair an artery wrapped around his kidney, forcing him to redshirt his freshman indoor track season. He recovered and qualified for the Olympics in July at a meet in Europe.
“We’ve both had challenges,” Uldal said. “We’ve both been hit in the face a couple of times.”
McGuire emphasized their determination.
“We would like to think that all athletes act honorably, but we know that isn’t the case,” McGuire said. “Hans and Derrick represent what is often referred to but rarely achieved; being measured not by what they did but by how they responded to a challenge.”
Peterson and Uldal were also asked to speak, though both said they didn’t expect to. Peterson said he tried to pull seniority on Uldal and make him speak first, but Peterson was introduced before his teammate.
Peterson and Uldal thanked their coaches. Peterson said seeing members of the MU coaching staff when he entered the Olympic stadium was one of the most amazing experiences of the Olympics.