Gold-Medal Colleges for Summer Olympic Sports

In honor of the Games, check out our college lists categorized by Olympic events from archery to wrestling. Your future school could be on one of these lists!

The amazing athletic feats of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have certainly been inspiring. Maybe they’ve even inspired you in your college search! To help you explore colleges in a new way, we’ve collected some of our best college Lists & Rankings categorized by Summer Olympic sports. Learn more about each Olympic event and see which schools have the best clubs and teams according to our experts. Ready, set, go! 


Archery debuted as an Olympic sport at Paris 1900 but was modernized and reintroduced at Munich 1972. Events include men's and women's individual, men's and women's team, and a mixed team event that’s new for 2020. Many colleges offer USA Archery Collegiate Archery Programs, from varsity teams with scholarship opportunities to clubs like the ones below. 

Athletics (track & field)

Athletics was one of the events that appeared in the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. It involves a program of track, field, and road events, but luckily Olympians no longer race in armor. Check out all these great college track & field programs across divisions. 


Badminton debuted at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Many senior badminton players retired after the 2016 Rio Games, so you’ll see many young players in Tokyo this year. If you share their passion, check out the following colleges and universities. 


Baseball became a medal sport at Barcelona 1992 after years of being a demonstration sport (a sport that’s played at the Olympics just to promote it and not for competition). Both baseball and softball were removed after Beijing 2008 but were added to Tokyo 2020 because of the popularity of the sports in Japan. Check out schools with great baseball and softball teams across divisions with the lists below.


Basketball made its Olympic debut at Berlin 1936. A new 3x3 basketball event was created for Tokyo 2020 in association with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). If you’re looking to play ball in college or just want to cheer on your team in the student section, check out these colleges and universities.


Cycling has been a part of the Olympics since Athens 1896. This year’s 22 cycling events consist of BMX freestyle, BMX racing, mountain bike, road cycling, and track cycling. Though cycling isn’t an official NCAA or NAIA sport, many colleges offer great varsity teams and student clubs, including the following.


Equestrian was featured in Paris 1900 but became an official Olympic sport in Stockholm 1912. Both men and women compete against each other in disciplines that include Dressage, Eventing, and Jumping. According to, equestrian athletes aren’t the only ones that need passports to compete in host countries—the horses need them as well!


Fencing was introduced at Athens 1896 and has been included at every Games since. Three team and individual events for men and women include foil, épée, and sabre. Get your en garde on at these colleges with great fencing programs.


Men’s football (aka American soccer) debuted at the Paris Olympic Games in 1990, with women’s added at Atlanta 1996. While there’s no age limit for women’s teams, the maximum age for men to compete was 23 from 1992 to 1996, after which it was ruled that teams could also include three older players. Here are some great places to play soccer before you get too old to compete at the Olympic level!


Golf debuted at the Paris Games in 1900. It also appeared at St. Louis 1904 but then disappeared from the Olympics until Rio 2016. The US is considered the world’s leading nation for number of golf players, and the following schools are great places to compete at the collegiate level.


Artistic gymnastics made its Olympic debut at Athens 1896. Rhythmic gymnastics came along a little later during the Los Angeles Games in 1984, then trampoline gymnastics at Sydney 2000. You’ll find strong teams for both men and women at the following schools.


Handball—a combination of basketball and soccer—debuted for men at Munich 1972, with the first women’s competition following at Montreal 1976. It’s appeared at every Summer Olympics since and is played on the largest indoor court of any ball sport at the Games. You can find great programs for this intense team sport at the following schools. 


Hockey debuted at the 1908 Games in London. It was played on grass fields until the 1970s and is now played on artificial turf that’s “watered to allow the ball to pass over the surface smoother and faster.” Find championship field hockey teams to join in college with the following lists.


Judo debuted as a men’s sport at Tokyo 1964, with women’s added during Barcelona 1992. It’s one of the most highly anticipated events for this year’s Tokyo Games since the sport originated in Japan in the late 19th century. The National Collegiate Judo Association oversees college championships, which the following schools compete in.


Men’s rowing was introduced at the 1900 Games in Paris, with women’s events added at Montreal 1976. The first rowing event was supposed to debut at Athens 1896 but was canceled due to poor weather conditions. If you’re looking to join the only sport that crosses the finish line backwards, check out the following schools.


Rugby was first played at the Paris Games in 1900. After being cut from the program after Paris 1924, it made a grand return at Rio 2016, including the first women’s competition. Find schools with great rugby teams for both men and women on the lists below. 


Sailing debuted at Paris 1900 and has made an appearance in every Games since, except for St. Louis 1904. It was originally called “yachting” but changed to “sailing” at Sydney 2000. Brave the windy weather by joining one of the teams on this list.


Shooting made its debut at Athens 1896, with women’s events added at Los Angeles 1984. The three disciplines include rifle and pistol shooting at stationary targets and shotgun with moving targets. You’ll find programs for riflery plus skeet and trap shooting at the following schools.

Sport climbing

Sport climbing made its debut at Tokyo 2020 with a combined men’s and women’s program. The sport feature three disciplines: Speed, Bouldering, and Lead, in which climbers go as high as they can on a wall in six minutes. The following schools have all participated in the USA Climbing Collegiate series.


Surfing is another sport that debuted at Tokyo 2020, with surfers competing on Japan’s Pacific coast. It was approved by the Olympic Committee in 2016 in an effort “to bring more youthful and vibrant events and culture into the Olympic program.” You’ll find killer surfing teams at the following oceanside schools.

Swimming & diving

Swimming, artistic swimming, marathon swimming, and diving are some of the most exciting and arduous events of the Olympic Games. A couple fun facts: A pool was first introduced at the London Games in 1908, and this year’s US swim team features 11 teenagers, the most since 1996. Jump in the pool at these schools that will prepare you for Olympic-level competition.


Tennis first appeared at Athens 1896 but was cut after Paris 1924. It returned at Seoul 1988 and has since featured some of the world’s top players, including Rafael Nadal and Venus and Serena Williams. You’ll find all-star tennis teams at the following colleges and universities.  


Volleyball for both men and women debuted at the 1964 Tokyo Games, while beach volleyball debuted as a demonstration sport at Barcelona 1992 and became official for Atlanta 1996. Indoor volleyball involves six players on each side of the court, while the beach volleyball court is much more open with only two players on each team. Crush your sets and perfect your spike at the following schools. 

Water polo

Water polo debuted for men at Paris 1900, but it took 100 years for women to play for the first time at Sydney 2000. It’s the oldest Olympic team sport and involves a lot of physical contact, with many fouls happening under the water out of the referee’s view. Watch out for dirty shots if you join a team at the following schools. 


Weightlifting was one of the original sports included at Athens 1896, with women’s competition added over a century later at Sydney 2000. Techniques have evolved a lot since the first few Games, in which lifters competed in the same events regardless of bodyweight. The schools on the following list are great places to pick things up and put them down. 


Wrestling may be the world’s oldest sport, appearing at the ancient Olympic Games in 708 BC and debuting at the first modern games in Athens in 1896. Women’s freestyle events were finally added to the 2004 Games in Athens, but only men can compete in the original Greco-Roman style. You’ll find extra-strong teams at the schools on the following lists. 

Related: Tokyo Olympics: Where US Olympians Went to College  

There you have it! If you want to become the next Caeleb Dressel (University of Florida ’18) or A’ja Wilson (University of South Carolina ’18)—or if you just want to be a spectator in the student cheering section—be sure to add some of these schools to your own college list. Enjoy the rest of the Games and go Team USA! 

Didn’t see your favorite sport listed here? Browse even more Lists & Rankings categorized by athletics.

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