INDIANAPOLIS, July 24, 2019 – USA Gymnastics is excited to participate in the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s “Olympians Made Here” campaign to celebrate national team student-athletes and advance collegiate Olympic and Paralympic sport opportunities on campuses across the country. The campaign, as well as the parallel “Paralympians Made Here” campaign, was launched today to mark the one-year countdown to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“Collegiate gymnastics is an intrinsic part of the USA Gymnastics community,” said Li Li Leung, president and CEO of USA Gymnastics. “Many of our gymnasts hope to compete for a college team, and the collegiate pipeline is tied to our elite program, especially the men, whether it is before, during or after their elite careers. ‘Olympians Made Here’ is a wonderful way to recognize our gymnasts, past, current and future, and their educational institutions.”
Quite a few of the USA’s gymnastics Olympians either competed in and/or are involved in coaching. Some of the Olympians who currently are collegiate coaches include Chris Brooks, University of Arkansas; Jim Hartung, University of Nebraska; Courtney Kupets, University of Georgia; Kristin Maloney, Iowa State University; Elise Ray, University of Washington; Kip Simons, U.S. Naval Academy; Justin Spring, University of Illinois; Chris Waller, University of California – Los Angeles; and Jordyn Wieber, University of Arkansas.
The two non-commercial solidarity campaigns are the latest initiatives taken by the USOPC’s Collegiate Advisory Council to enhance collaboration between colleges, universities and conferences, the USOPC and its member National Governing Bodies.
With commitments from more than 100 American universities and representation from 24 conferences across NCAA DI, DII and DIII levels – including participation from all Power Five institutions, West Coast Conference universities and the NCAA – the campaigns are the first of their kind to focus on elevating the profile of collegiate Olympic and adaptive sport programs, and their impact on the Olympic and Paralympic movements at the national level. Additionally, more than 20 collegiate-centric NGBs have joined the campaign.
Schools and conferences may opt into the campaign if they have historically supported a U.S. or international Olympian or Paralympian competing on campus, or if they have an active national team student-athlete. Institutions that are interested in joining the campaigns may register at TeamUSA.org/OlympiansMadeHere and TeamUSA.org/ParalympiansMadeHere.
“Olympians Made Here and Paralympians Made Here will be cornerstones to changing the narrative around Olympic and Paralympic sport programming on campus,” said Kevin White, USOPC board member and CAC chair, and Duke University vice president and director of athletics. “Through these campaigns, we’re excited to spotlight our collegiate programs and celebrate the Olympians and Paralympians who so proudly represent our schools and their countries.”
Following the launch on July 24, the campaigns will manifest on participating college campuses in four phases throughout the 2019-20 academic year – including honoring collegiate historical contributions to Team USA in the fall of 2019; tracking the Olympic and Paralympic qualification and team selection process in the spring of 2020; celebrating athletes’ inspiring performances during the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer; and concluding with recognition of student-athletes’ Olympic and Paralympic achievements in the fall of 2020.
“We are grateful for this collaboration that provides a unique opportunity for athletes to learn, grow and compete as they shape their dreams, in both sport and in life,” said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland. “Collegiate athletics are critical to Team USA’s success, and for the athletes who take great pride in representing both their schools and their national teams on the world stage, the student-athlete experience is invaluable to their Olympic or Paralympic journey.
The impact of Team USA’s collegiate footprint was evident at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, where nearly 80 percent of U.S. athletes – and 85 percent of U.S. medalists – had ties to collegiate programs. Additionally, one-third of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team – and 50 percent of U.S. medalists – competed collegiately. On the Paralympic side, 41 U.S. athletes who competed at the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016 competed on varsity programs as an athlete with a disability.
Paralympians Made Here is inclusive of both disability-specific programs like wheelchair basketball – a sport where 97 percent of national team members have competed collegiately – and of varsity teams that include athletes with a disability, including rowing where 82 percent of current national team members have competed collegiately.
Further research conducted by the USOPC’s collegiate partnerships division and the NCAA affirmed significant contributions of both the collegiate and USOPC ecosystems in supporting holistic elite athlete development. NCAA DI institutions alone invest $5.6 billion annually to support Olympic sport programs through state-of-the-art facilities, training and coaching expertise, among other services. Meanwhile, the USOPC and NGBs support elite student-athletes by providing access to industry leaders in science and medicine, cutting-edge technology and stipends to offset living expenses.
“The NCAA has long been an incredibly impactful partner with the USOPC and the NGBs by providing student-athletes, whom also happen to be elite Olympic and Paralympic athletes, with incredible support,” said Rich Bender, USA Wrestling executive director and USOPC board member. “The Olympians Made Here and Paralympians Made Here campaigns are wonderful examples of providing the much deserved recognition for that commitment and support. Programs like the Regional Training Center Model are terrific examples of the Olympic family and the NCAA working together to support both prospective and current NCAA student-athletes, as well as our country’s Olympians. The NCAA Emerging Sport Status process is also helping create new Olympic sports opportunities for women within the NCAA structure.
Participating institutions are encouraged to celebrate both their current and historical contributions to Team USA – as well as international teams – in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Games by using the official campaign hashtags, #OlympiansMadeHere and #ParalympiansMadeHere. Additionally, the USOPC will provide registered schools, conferences and NGBs with pre-approved digital assets – including a campaign playbook, social templates, campaign logos, customizable scripts, video tools and other best practices for activation – all with the aim of sharing the inspiring stories of national team student-athletes and coaches while illustrating the value of Olympic and Paralympic sport opportunities in the American collegiate model.