The Olympic Training Center would be a wonderful resource for me and my teammates, but how do we get in?
I remember being a tourist at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as a kid on family vacation. I was awed by the facilities, the fact that the people who lived there got to play sports all day, and my proximity to many current and future Olympians. As an aspiring professional hockey or soccer player, I wondered if my athletic pursuits would ever bring me to the OTC.
Flash forward to this past summer, when I was searching for a new training set-up. One situation I considered was running with Juli Benson, coach at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. I loved Juli, I felt free on the mountain trails, and my body clamored for the desert climate. Since Juli doesn’t have a formal professional training group, the largest obstacle to moving to Colorado Springs would be figuring out the financial side. How would I pay for training and racing expenses, such as flying to races, on top of daily living expenses? Juli said the Olympic Training Center should be a good resource for me, especially since I had run the world ‘A’ standard in the steeplechase and had the 12th-fastest time in the world that year. As she spoke of dorms, food, weightlifting coaches, massage therapy, in-house doctors and chiropractors, the possibility of moving to Colorado became much more realistic (The OTC Athlete web page has not been updated since 2011, but this link is where resources are supposed to be listed: http://www.teamusa.org/For-Athletes/Olympic-Training-Centers-and-Sites/Colorado-Springs/Athlete-Services-and-Life-Skills). I sent a message to USATF to ask about the application process, either for the fall or for 2014. I didn’t hear back, so I wrote again. This time I was told I could pay $17/day to use the weight-lifting room at the OTC. I was disappointed, since I thought this resource was intended to support emerging athletes like me, especially those with limited financial backing. I ended up accepting a great opportunity with the Brooks Beast Track Club, so I let OTC questions go.
Jump in time to this past fall. My coach, Danny Mackey, was trying very hard to figure out how he could coordinate an altitude training stint for the team this coming February and March. Brooks is being very generous with our team budget, but it is very expensive to fly a team to a training location and lodge it for two months. Danny figured that an excellent way to provide altitude training for the team would be to stay at the Olympic Training Center. Three people on our team should have been able to stay for free, since we had run world ‘A’ standards this past year, another three or four should have been able to stay for free under ‘emerging elite’ status, and the team could have paid the daily rate for the other team members. I’ve had many friends stay at the center, and I was excited to see who else would be there in the late winter and to train in Colorado. Danny asked for permission to bring our team, waited, asked again, waited, asked again, waited, and finally got the answer that, no all of us were denied funding.
I’m confused about how to access these resources. My teammates and I seem like exactly the type of athlete the OTC is built to support. We are some of the best athletes in our events in the United States; few of us have made a World or Olympic team yet, but we are very well capable of doing so. The USATF web site makes it sound like the OTC is a major part of its athlete development program and that it is available to elite athletes (http://www.usatf.org/groups/HighPerformance/AthleteDevelopment/OlympicTrainingCenters.asp). It would be one thing if the training center was full with other qualified athletes, but I have heard there is plenty of space, and other training groups have stayed there in the past.