Bobsled · Rugby · Skeleton · Team USA · Track Cycling

Could You Be An Olympian?

Attention Americans:

Team USA is looking for its next batch of Olympians, and one of them could be you!

What’s the deal?

The US Olympic Committee has created a program called “Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful” (likely also the title of the NBCSN documentary about this effort that will be on the air in August) to find a few Olympic hopefuls to add to their training rosters, and the process starts with try-outs this Saturday, June 24, from 9am – 1pm at select 24 Hour Fitness centers in Texas, Colorado, California, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Oregon, Washington, Maryland and Virginia.

While this is really exciting, keep in mind that they’re only selecting four women and four men. One woman and one man will join the national team in one of these sports:

  • Bobsled
  • Skeleton
  • Track cycling
  • Rugby

Who should go?

  • Current and former high school athletes
  • Current and former college athletes
  • Current and former professional athletes
  • Anyone else who thinks they have what it takes to be an Olympian

In short, athlete, athlete, athlete — oh, and you too. Right. Our advice: If you think you have what it takes to be an Olympian, we recommend being young and having a very good to great level of fitness–and if you’re going for track cycling, know that you’re coming out of that program with massive thighs. If you’re like me and have a ton of Olympic spirit with an Olympic ring around my gut, you’re going to have to show a lot of potential, mental determination and moxie to make it through the first test. Or hit up one of the Bobsled and Skeleton combines to try there without the cameras rolling.

Want to go for the gold? Register at 24 Hour Fitness or at Team USA. If you go, report back to us and tell us what the experience was like! Hit us up on Facebook with your pictures and experience.

 

doping · IOC · Olympic Sports · Olympics · Scandals · Weightlifting

Weightlifting Put on Notice

The IOC Executive Board met last week, and afterward, TBach gave a press release summarizing a lot of initiatives, including giving weightlifting a smackdown and putting the sport on notice.

What’s all this about? Well, doping’s been a slight issue in the Olympics lately, and weightlifters have been some of the biggest offenders. Retests going back to the 2008 Beijing games are still finding weightlifters who doped, which causes a lot of problems with medals and certificates being stripped, and then the athletes who are now getting awards for competition from eight years ago have lost out on a lot of opportunities, and then the IOC and the Olympics starts losing some integrity, and that’s not really how this org thinks they fly.

The IOC gave the International Weightlifting Federation until December to take care of the problem or at least have a plan for it. If they don’t, well, it might be adios for weightlifting as a sport in 2024. As a glimpse of what that might look like, in the IOC’s recently approved Tokyo 2020 program that removes one men’s event and wipes out 64 participants from those Games–a move that’s supposed to help them reach gender parity.

The IWF’s response is pretty timid–they’re shocked (surprise!) by the results of the retesting, and they’re going to get right on making that plan.

The European Weightlifting Federation, run by a guy who recently lost in the election to oust the incumbent IWF president (who just won his fifth term), was a little more critical on its website, saying that the cut in athletes was “just the first instalment [sic] of the price we will have to pay for years of inadequate management, which has showcased our sport as a doping factory run by private power.” You could hear that mic drop around the weightlifting world.

Good luck to them–changing the system can be pretty tough work, but the possibility of being ousted from the Olympics could make things a lot worse for the sport.

Athletes · Bobsled · Olympians

Death Reels Bobsled World

This spring, USA Bobsled & Skeleton has been reeling from the unexpected death of Olympian Steven Holcomb, who passed away on May 6. Yesterday, the organization announced, “The toxicology results indicate Holcomb had a fatal combination of the prescription sleep aid Eszopiclone/Zopiclone (Lunesta) in his system as well as a .18% blood alcohol concentration.” The coroner’s report also found evidence of pulmonary congestion.

Holcomb was 37, and at the time of death, he was in Lake Placid, NY, for training. He’d been prepping for the 2018 Olympics, including doing some promotional shoots for NBC.

Although he battled keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease, he learned how to drive a bobsled based on feel. The disease nearly took his sight, but he had a surgery called C3-R that restored it to nearly perfect.

Holcomb piloted bobsleds in three Olympics: Torino, Vancouver and Sochi. Driving the infamous “Night Train” in Vancouver, he led the team to the U.S.’ first gold medal in the event in 62 years. Four years later, he won bronze in both the two- and four-man bobsled–the two-man was the first American medal in the sport since 1952.

Here’s a look at the Night Train’s gold medal moment:

A memorial fund’s been set up in Holcomb’s honor. The family will distribute the money to keratoconus patients and elite athletes who need financial support.

Olympic Sports · Weightlifting

Want to Try an Olympic Sport? Weightlifting Day is Tomorrow!

Haven’t you wondered how people get into some of the smaller Olympic sports? Take handball, for instance. It’s not necessarily a sport we learn in grade school gym class. Or badminton, which I did learn in high school (and loved), but didn’t know how to pursue any further because it wasn’t that popular of a sport.

Weightlifting’s also in that boat. If you’ve ever lifted weights at a gym for any amount of time, you know how great it feels when your muscles get stronger and make you feel more powerful. If you’re a competitive type, getting into the sport of weightlifting might be a great hobby for you. But how do you do that?

You’re in luck. Tomorrow, USA Weightlifting’s sponsoring Try Weightlifting Day. Over 200 clubs around the country will open their doors and have programming to introduce the sport and give you a hands-on feel for it.

I had an email conversation with Kevin Farley, Director of Membership, Communications & Digital Marketing at USA Weightlifting to get some more details about what you can expect from the event. Gyms involved may use USA Weightlifting Coaching Department’s one-hour coaching program that teaches the sport’s basic technical execution without having to lift actual weight. The secret? PVC pipe. “With no weights–there is no risk of injury,” says Farley.

If you’re interested in finding an event near you, check out USA Weightlifting’s site, which has a map showing all participating clubs. Contact a club near you to find out the exact time of their event. Farley recommended wearing hard-soled shoes and comfortable gym clothing like a t-shirt and gym shorts that you can easily move around in.

What can you expect if you get bitten by the weightlifting bug–or rather, if you want to become a weightlifter, what are we really talking about in terms of the bottom line?

A great aspect of weightlifting is that you don’t have to own your own barbell and set of weights. You do need a place to lift, however. Farley recommends finding a good USA Weightlifting-affiliated club so you have access to good equipment and people who understand the sport. Gym expenses vary depending on the location and the coach’s experience, but Farley says they can run $60-120/month for the gym membership and access to a coach and training program. Look for a USA Weightlifting certified coach–they’ve gone through rigorous training in proper coaching methods and have a lot of good tools to develop personalized training programs and goals.

Other items you’ll be investing in are proper weightlifting shoes, which have a raised heel. These will set you back $100-200 a pair. You may also have to buy knee sleeves, lifting straps and finger tape. If you compete, you’ll don a singlet, which like any athletic apparel, can also range in price. A quick Amazon search shows you can get some in the $25-40 range, but if you want more quality ones from a place focused on powerlifting, you’re likely talking $75-125 or so

In terms of time, Farley says that the average weightlifting training session is 1-3 hours. Non-elite athletes train once a day, 2-3 days a week. Elite athletes usually train 1-2 times a day, 5-6 days a week. You generally have a training cycle that’s 8-12 weeks long, and you hit your max at the end of a cycle. Farley says that the end of a cycle usually coincides with a competition, if you’re going to be a competitive weightlifter.

Let’s put that all together. Looking at year one, here’s an estimate of your investment:

Cost:

Gym: $720-1440

Shoes: $100-200

Additional gear: $50-100

Clothing: $25-125

Total: $895-1865 (or, if you like to round up, probably $1000-2000)

Time (non-elite athletes):

low-end: 104-156 hours

mid-range: 208-312 hours

high-range: 312-468 hours

One of the great things though is that getting to the Olympics is definitely not the goal of every athlete involved with the sport, and Farley says that many competitive weightlifters are hobbyists. “There is so much flexibility in the sport because athletes determine their own schedule, and set their own price depending on how serious they want to get,” says Farley.

If you’ve dreamed of being a powerful athlete, the sport of weightlifting is one that can transform pretty much anyone into realizing that dream. Check it out tomorrow–or at the very least, use the site to find a USA Weightlifting-affiliated gym close to you and see how you can try out the sport. If you take part, let us know how it went!

Olympic Sports · Olympics · Uncategorized

Olympic Sports of the Future?

The Olympics–particularly the Summer Olympics–are massive events featuring a ton of sports. So how does a sport get included into the Games?

First off, you can’t just make up a sport and then find it in the Olympics four years later. It’s a lot more complicated than that. Sports have to have certain elements to be considered for inclusion in the Olympics:

  1. The sport has an International Federation. International Federations basically run the events for their sports at the Games, so there’s got to be one overarching international governing body per sport because…
  2. The sport has to be practiced and organized in at least 50 countries in order to be recognized by the IOC.
  3. Federations have to have a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-compliant policy.
  4. Federations have to have regular world and continental championships.
  5. Federations have to be well-governed and also be independent entities.
  6. Sports need to demonstrate commitment to youth because you have to ensure the future existence and growth of the sport.

When you can check off these boxes, you can take the path to becoming an IOC Recognised International Sports Federation and from there you petition the IOC to get into the Games. Alternatively (and this is part of the IOC’s attempt to bring the costs of the Games down), a particular Games can also petition to have new sports included.

There’s an association for this group of International Federations called ARISF, the Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations. It’s kind of like the farm team for Olympic Sports. You hang out there and kibbitz with your fellow sporting associations about issues you have, how to stage good events, etc. You also try your darndest to get into the Olympic Games.

Some groups have been successful, like karate, surfing and climbing sports. They’re three of the five new sports you’ll see at Tokyo 2020–maybe not beyond 2020, but they’ll be in for at least that Games. When Golf got onto the program, it was guaranteed for at least two Olympics, and then it will be up for review again.

But back to the farm team players. ARISF consists of 35 members. Who are the rest of them? What are some of the potential future Olympic sports?

Floorball

Life Saving

Tug-of-War (a former Olympic sport)

Squash

Ski Mountaineering

DanceSport

Roller Sports (FIRS has tried to get inline speed skating into the Olympics, but there are other disciplines, including inline hockey and artistic skating)

Underwater Sports

Chess

Bridge

Motorcycling

Billiards

There are more–many more. And then there are sports that are trying to check off the criteria boxes in order to get into this club, like the International Pole Sports Federation and World Bowls and the International Federation overseeing fishing.

Should these sports be in the Olympics? Inclusion really means a bump in exposure and potentially participation, and increased participation is really a goal for all sports. But does a sport need the Olympics in order to be successful?

 

Athletes · Gymnastics · Olympic Sports · sports · Summer Olympics

The Interesting Geopopularity of Sports

Our case of Rio Olympic Fever is starting to wane, but that doesn’t mean the flame in our heart will die out. Over the next couple of years, we’re going to be looking at different aspects of the Olympics and of sports in general.

One element of sport that really interests us is geography. Fiji’s a powerhouse in rugby. The US still dominates basketball. Brazil is known for football excellence, etc. While we do some research into how and why different sports grow popular in different countries or areas of the world, let’s take a look at Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar. Karmakar’s the first female gymnast to represent India at the Olympics, and she took fourth in the vault.

India’s not known for its gymnastics prowess, so Dipa had a lot of issues to overcome, reports Firstpost, such as not having access to a vault to learn how to vault. Her coach improvised one for her out of second-hand springs, old scooter shock absorbers and mats. She would get cast-off equipment (up until earlier this year, she reportedly practiced on a six-year-old vault, which may not seem like a big deal, but vault technology has apparently improved since then) and little funding or attention, particularly because she’s a woman.

Earlier this year, she did get funding and new equipment that allowed her to train properly.

By all accounts, she did well in Rio. Fourth is nothing to slouch over, even if India was hoping for a medal. Even with fourth place, she can continue breaking down barriers to help future generations of Indian girls participate in the sport.

Here in the US, Karmakar’s story is dumbfounding. Gymnastics is hugely popular here, and women’s gymnastics even more so than men’s. Our top gymnasts get access to high-quality training and equipment (perhaps you saw some of the million minutes devoted to the Karolyis on NBC). But I’m sure that in a sport like, say, handball, our athletes also suffer the same as Karmakar. Can every country have decent participation and funding for every sport? Should they?

 

 

Diving · Rio 2016 · Uncategorized

Last Day (Sort of): More DVR’d Action

1:11 PM EDT

Men’s Diving

Say what you want about American commentators and their slant–I hear plenty about how American-focused and biased their coverage is–but you cannot say that about Cynthia Potter, who’s one of NBC’s team covering diving. She gets so excited about every great dive, no matter where the competitor is from. She’s fantastic at explaining little things the judges look for and what happens to make dives go bad. She makes diving even more fun to watch. Announcing is tough work, and she does it effortlessly.

Chen Aisen from China captured the gold in the 10m platform and did so magnificently–one absolutely perfect (across all judges) dive in the middle of the final round, and a final dive that was equally as stunning. I don’t understand quite how divers do it–and much like gymnastics, continue to develop more and more difficulty. I’m curious to see what will be standard by the next Olympics.