Posted: Saturday February 18, 2006 7:02PM; Updated: Monday February 20, 2006 11:50AM
Since then, Joey has continued to excel in his craft; in 2006 he was world sprint champion. His application probably covered this, but Joey isn't simply a jock. He's a self-taught guitar player, too. His favorite magazine is the The Economist (yes, he should have said the Harvard Business Review) and his favorite actress is Natalie Portman (hopefully, that negated the magazine answer).
I see that Harvard has a rich tradition of gold-plated figure skaters: Tenley Albright Blakeley (class of '55), Dick Button (class of '52) and Hayes Alan Jenkins Law (class of '59). But I checked the Ivy League Web site just to be sure and you've never had an Olympic long-track speedskater as part of your alumni. I also learned from your own site that Harvard students are "scholars, community volunteers, journalists, artists, athletes, actors, musicians, and enthusiasts of many other kinds."
I didn't see the word philanthropist on that list, but I'm sure they're nice to have around Cambridge as well. After Joey won the 500, he announced that he was donating the $25,000 he received from the United States Olympic Committee to the Right to Play organization, which promotes sports for children in the third world. After winning the silver earlier today, Joey said that he planned to also donate the $15,000 he will receive for that medal. He said that eight or nine companies had decided to match his original donation and that his efforts in Turin have so far raised $250,000. The person who oversees Right to Play is Johann Olav Koss, the former speedskater and one of the great Olympians of the 20th century. He won our magazine's Sportsman of the Year in 1994, and told one of our reporters today that because of Joey's efforts, donations are coming in from people in Norway and the Netherlands.
Here is what Joey said to the world's press following his win in the 500:
"I've always felt that if I ever did something big like this I wanted to be prepared to give something back. So ... I'm going to be donating the entire [Operation Gold] sum the USOC gives to me, which I think is around $25,000, I'm not sure, to the organization that Johann Olav Koss either started or gave to in 1994. And I'm going to be asking all of the Olympic sponsors that give hundreds of millions of dollars if they will also maybe match my donation to a specific project. As you know, there's been some media, but not a ton, especially in the U.S., in the Darfur region of Sudan. There has been tens and tens of thousands of people killed. My government has labeled it a genocide, and so I will be donating money specifically to refugees in Chad where there are over 60,000 children who have been displaced from their homes. And hopefully, if the region ever gets stabilized, hopefully from pressure through the United Nations or from the U.S. government or from some other agency, then we can go into Sudan and start programs for refugees there. For me, the Olympics have been the greatest blessing. If I retired yesterday, I would have gotten everything in the world from speedskating and from competing in the Olympics. So for me to walk away today with a gold medal is amazing. And the best way to say thanks that I can think of is to help somebody else, so I'm going to be donating my money. I'm going to try and talk to the Olympic sponsors, and if there's anyone in particular in the U.S. or Europe who's going to be reading these articles, if you'd like, check out Right to Play. You can check out their Web site, it's (http://www.righttoplay.com/)."
Joey has tentative plans to go to Zambia in a couple of months and invited journalists along for the trip. When I spoke with his mother, the first thing she asked me was, "Are you going with Joey to Africa?"
This is a family that appears to care about things beyond an oval.
Though Harvard was clearly the No. 1 school on his wish list, his mother said he had applied to other schools. The list includes Columbia, Duke, North Carolina, NYU, Princeton, Stanford and Yale. Joey said he plans to quit the sport following the Games and will study economics. His mother, who lives in North Carolina, said she wouldn't mind if he became a Tar Heel, at least for a year.
I still think your office should admit that it made a mistake and invite Joey Cheek to be part of the Harvard class of 2010. But as an alum of Columbia, we're more than happy to add an Olympic gold medalist with a humanitarian bent to our little university family.