This summer over 15,000 athletes from 200+ nations will converge on London for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. And for most of these athletes, participating in the Olympics will mark the apex of their athletic careers.
While the Olympics themselves are short-lived, the process of building an athlete occurs over a lifetime.
“I think one of the hardest things about having the goal of being an Olympian is that in my sport you only get that opportunity one day every four years to try. That’s it. In essence you are working for 1,459 days straight so that you can have the opportunity to do your best on day 1,460.” – Brianna Glenn, USA Long Jumper
For many of the Team USA athletes and Olympic hopefuls, a number of those 1459 days have been spent at one of the three US Olympic training centers.
According to Emily Cox from the US Olympic Committee, “some 25,000 athletes get some amount of training every year at one of the facilities – this includes people who are here for a few days along with people who live on-site for a full year or longer.”
Chula Vista, California is home to one of the three training centers. Spread across 155 acres and offering year-round training, the land and facilities were gifts to the USOC from the San Diego National Sports Training Foundation.
“We’ve had over 300 medalists train here: marathoners Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi, and the 2008 BMX medalists, Mike Day, Donny Robinson and Jill Kintner to name a few. And Olympic legend Al Joyner is one of our current coaches.”
From Garrett Weber-Gale, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist:
“Part of me truly wishes I could live at a training center like this and let all my other worries and responsibilities melt away. I’m refreshed by the simplicity of life here at the OTC. In part it makes me wonder just how good I could become if I had nothing else to worry about but training.”
Sports arenas and training facilities are often the venue where we watch athletes perform, but they often represent and encapsulate much more to the elite athletes. For many athletes the facilities offer an opportunity to build community and nurture a shared dream. In addition, a sports arena with rich history can also connect an athlete to their place in history.
I remember hearing how former NC State basketball coach Jim Valvano brought recruits into Reynolds Coliseum. He would sit them in a chair at mid court, dim the lights and replay the last minutes of the 1983 national championship game over the sound system. Did Valvano need to do any more to motivate that athlete to want to be a part of NCSU? For the athletes who train at the Olympic training centers, their potential to be part of something bigger than themselves is front-and-center every day.
Brianna Glenn sums it up nicely:
“I train at the Olympic Training Center, and to be able to do so is a huge honor and blessing for a myriad of reasons. But perhaps something that can be easily overlooked is just how inspiring it is to be in a place plastered with Olympic rings and American flags all around you. It’s not that I don’t wake up every day knowing why I’m here, what I’m doing this for, or how important my goal is to me, but having this constant affirmation is helpful. In fact, it’s a gift.”
Keep track of Team USA and the road to London by visiting TeamUSA.org.