I am an Olympic geek. When the previews of the Summer or Winter Games start running, I get super giddy. I’m immediately transported back to 1999 when I was living at the United States Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Spring.
No – I wasn’t an athlete training for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. I was an OTC intern…and cocky as hell.
I interned and lived at the OTC for six-months. Yes – I said lived there too. I still remember driving into the Training Center and then being able to drive past where the tourists were stopped, and entering the private “athletes only” living area. Yowza!!!!
Not quite sure how I did it, but I landed a six-month internship doing Media & Public Affairs for the USOC. Part of the internship involved living at the OTC with the athletes training for the 2000 Olympic Games, eating in the same cafeteria (which was beyond awesome) and even working out in the same facilities. Imagine being on a treadmill right next to an Olympic gold medalist. How crazy is that!?
To be clear, the dorms the interns stayed in were former military barracks, had shared dorm-style bathrooms and one hallway phone. This was before cell phone were the norm, so if you got a call, someone would yell down the hallway for you. If you were on the phone, you better believe everyone else was ease dropping. You know what? We didn’ care, at all.
The top-tier athletes lived in much nicer dorms. Ahh, the perks of being an elite athlete.
My internship and the people I met there changed the course of my life. I was at the OTC the summer before my senior year at the University of Iowa and for the first semester. Most interns were there for only three months, but I was lucky enough to get to know two groups of amazing people.
When I moved into the OTC, the summer interns had already been there for a couple of weeks and they hailed from all over the country. After going to school in Iowa where almost everyone was from the Midwest, it was incredible to meet people from states across the map. There was so much diversity and perspective. And we all shared a love of sports. Lifelong friendships were formed immediately.
For my Media & Public Affairs internship, I got to do amazing things like interview and write profiles on Olympic hopefuls (some who went onto medal), work at the Olympic Congress and even travel to San Diego for the Olympic Cup. The people I worked for were inspiring and gave me full-time employee responsibilities to build my professional portfolio. No getting coffee for this girl. I also got college credit, so it was a win-win.
As interns, we worked hard, but we also played hard. Weekends were spent visiting Pikes Peak, the Garden of the Gods, the Royal Gorge Bridge, skiing, Denver Nuggets games and maximizing all the beauty Colorado had to offer, including partying with the Olympic hopefuls. Good thing social media and smartphones didn’t exist back then! Oh the stories I could tell.
Remember when I said I was cocky? My first week at the OTC I attended a party with a bunch of people, including well-known former Olympians. Shockingly, some of them are pretty cocky too. My 21-year-old self played a game with one of the athletes pretending I had no clue who he was and even went as far as to ask him if he was one of the interns. It drove him CRAZY.
Another intern used to give tours of the OTC Whenever she’d see me walking by during a tour she’d tell the group to get their cameras out because I was an Olympic ice skater. I have no doubt I am in at least a couple photo albums from vacations to Colorado Springs. 🙂 To bad no one realized ice skaters didn’t train at the OTC.
Since we were there over Thanksgiving, my intern besties and I decided to drive to Las Vegas instead of going home for the holidays. The things you do in your youth. While in Vegas, we told a group of guys we met that we were Olympic gymnasts. Turns out they were from Denver – ooops! Well, we did live at the OTC, so it wasn’t all a lie.
My internship at the OTC was almost 20 years ago now – gulp! As my dad used to say, it was lightening in a bottle. I still keep in touch with many of the interns. Facebook and LinkedIn help with that.
My heart swells when I see all the accomplishments of OTC intern friends. From our group, there is a marketing VP, athletic conference Commissioner, NBA executive, sports phycologist, social media expert, marketing director, sponsorship director, numerous head collegiate coaches, United States Olympic Committee employees, and lots of other awesome job outside of sports.
No matter where we landed, we are still linked together by our experience as OTC interns…and our love of the Olympic Games.
My advice to my daughters and all other kids with a dream – GO FOR IT! Apply for that internship, try out for the team, submit that proposal. I never thought I’d get the OTC internship, but am so glad I pushed past my self doubts and took a risk. It paid off in more way than I could have ever imagined.
Treasure every experience and continue to cultivate those relationships and friendships. They may help shape your life.
Click here to learn how you (or your kids in college) can apply to be a United States Olympic Committee intern.