written by Laurel Brassey Iversen, member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team
United States Olympic and Paralympic Athlete Reunion: This quadrennial event was held in America’s Olympic City, Colorado Springs the weekend of Nov. 4.
Having attended the event four years ago in Las Vegas, I knew this was a great opportunity to catch up with teammates and other Olympians and Paralympians. My 1980 teammates decided early last year that we should make every effort to make it to Colorado.
Our team is tightly connected. We were the first TEAM to go into year-round, full-time training in order to qualify for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, and the first residents of the U.S. Olympic Training Center when it opened in 1978. It was a bleak place in those early days. The land and abandoned buildings were donated to the USOC by the U.S. Air Force. There were chain link fences all around the perimeter with barbed wire on the top.
We qualified for the Olympic Games in April of 1979, but due to the boycott, did not attend the Olympics. We all believe that living and training together and enduring the disappointment of the boycott molded our characters and made us very close to one another.
The current U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center is now a beautiful place for athletes training in many sports and employs the latest sports science and sports medicine technology.
As a sister city of ancient Olympia, Colorado Springs has a lot of ties to the Olympic world – Officially branded as America’s Olympic City. Not only is it home to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center and the Olympic and Paralympic Museum, it is also home to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and many national governing bodies including USA Volleyball.
The reunion weekend was full of many opportunities to connect with fellow athletes. Friday night was the USOPC Hall of Fame Induction Dinner. Inductees included Lisa Leslie (basketball), Apolo Anton Ohno (speedskating), Tommy Smith and John Carlos (athletics), Nastia Liukin (gymnastics), Dara Torres (swimming), Candace Cable (Para skiing and Athletics) and our own Misty May-Treanor (each Volleyball) and others! The addresses by these men and women, the best of the best of all of us, were so heart felt and inspiring. Surely, they have all had many speaking engagements, but to speak in front of 500 of your peers had to be a bit unnerving! They were excellent. Many of my teammates had photos with their ‘Heroes and Sheroes’!
Saturday we were guests of the Olympic and Paralympic Museum which is currently under construction and slated to open mid 2020. Colorado Springs was successful in procuring the land for the future Olympic and Paralympic Museum. This beautiful museum overlooks a large park with views up to Pike’s Peak in the Rocky Mountains.
We were welcomed by the mayor and museum curator and invited to sign a steel band that will be part of the museum. I raced to the top which will house the history of Ancient Olympia and a collection of Olympic torches. Imagine my delight to meet a volunteer from Greece! Kalimera! Ti kanete? Mr. Haris was thrilled to meet so many Olympians.
Tours were conducted by Young Champion Ambassadors who are part of a youth leadership program available to all high school students in the region.
2019 Young Champion Ambassador Atharva Vispute, a local high school student, will represent Colorado Springs during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay in Ancient Olympia, Greece, in March 2020. “The Young Champion Ambassador program comes to life through an online essay competition to select two student representatives per high school to participate in a one of a kind youth-leadership curriculum that concludes with an international trip to the origins of the Olympic and Paralympic movement. YCA participants venture into a journey of personal growth as they master skills such as design thinking, public speaking, networking, branding, and more. Participants also learn all about the Olympic and Paralympic movement.” Olympic Education is thriving in Colorado!
I’m very proud of this new building and the great ideas they have for interacting with visitors. I look forward to returning to see the completed museum and all of its exhibits.
Saturday afternoon we had time to be with friends, enjoy the magnificent surroundings of the Broadmoor Resort by its lake. A fascinating Olympic Documentary called The Last Gold was shown. It’s about the East German doping of female swimmers in 1976. After that: time with Teammates.
Saturday evening was the Gala Dinner, a fabulous affair hosted by John Nabor (swimming), Willie Banks (athletics) and our own Alumni Director, Cynthia Stinger (team handball). The entire group of attendees were invited on stage to introduce themselves. In attendance were Olympians from 1948 to the present and Paralympians from 1960 to the present. Sport is a powerful bond and whether an athlete attended these reunion events as an individual or with teammates, they were able to jump right in and connect with their peers.
After the dinner, my teammates and I found a cozy sitting area in the hotel near a fireplace and talked and laughed into the late hours. You’d think you have heard all of the stories, but someone has a different take on the same story and its funnier than before. These are cherished moments.
Sunday morning breakfast/farewell included a pre-view of Tokyo preparations, and an opportunity to select USA apparel leftover from previous Games.
Later Sunday afternoon, the 1980 teammates made a visit to the OPTC to lay flowers at the memorial to our deceased teammate, Flo Hyman. Flo died from a congenital heart defect in 1986 while playing for her club team in Japan. She was a 1980 team member and a 1984 Olympic silver medalist.
We capped off the weekend with a BBQ at one of the teammate’s home with more stories and plans for the next reunion. I am privileged to be a teammate of these incredible and humble women and an Olympian… never past, never former.