October 31, 2006

Itskhoki ’96 Never Lost Ivy Tennis Match

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Olga Itskhoki Harvey ’96, a former star of the women’s tennis team, often returns to campus to recruit promising Cornellians for her food marketing company. This weekend, Harvey returns to the East Hill again, but this visit marks a very special milestone for her. On Friday night, Harvey will be inducted into Cornell’s Athletic Hall of Fame, along with 10 other former standouts in Cornell Athletics.

Harvey, a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year and Academic All-Ivy selection, absolutely dominated the Ivy League throughout her brilliant career, managing a perfect 21-0 record in league play, while going a remarkable 53-5 overall in singles play. In addition to those impressive numbers, Harvey was also named to the GTE Academic All-America Spring At-Large University Division second team and MVP after her sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, when she was also named co-captain. Harvey’s 21-1 performance her senior year played a major role in helping the Red make its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.

Originally from Moscow, Russia, Harvey couldn’t have asked for a better milieu than Cornell, both in the classroom, and on the court. She recalls her collegiate years with favorable sentiments.

“My overall experience was great. It was my first experience in the United States. Having tennis in addition to academics was very helpful,” Harvey said. “Definitely the Ivy season every year was the most exciting time when you’re really playing for Ivy championship. It’s the most intense and probably the biggest kind of team event where every match matters so much. For me personally, [the most exciting part of my career] was my streak of consecutive wins, and I was competitive not to let anyone break it.”

Accompanying Harvey at Friday’s ceremony will be her husband, who she met her senior year at Cornell, as well as her former coach.

“I still feel very much connected [to the Cornell community],” Harvey said.

She continues to stay involved in tennis, on both the social and competitive side, keeping in touch with many of her Cornell teammates, and playing for a team in Westchester, N.Y., that will be traveling to nationals. “I still play recreationally, after work and on the weekends. It’s more of just keeping up with the old sport.” And like any truly retired athlete, she’s even taken up golf.

Harvey says it took her some time to fully comprehend the honor of being permanently enshrined in Cornell’s Hall of Fame.

“I guess I was definitely surprised and a little bit unsure of what it really meant just because it’s not as common of a thing in Russia. And I’ve been so busy with work and my travels,” she said. “But my husband kept telling me what a big deal it is and I kept getting all of these calls. Then it kind of sank in. Once I get to Ithaca, it’ll probably be much more overwhelming.”

But if one thing is clear from Harvey’s Cornell days, she’ll be able to handle that little but of pressure just fine.