USOPTC For the Win!
When I was researching The Thomas Flair, I may have watched many hours of men’s gymnastics competitions. (Okay, I did, but hey—I’m a fan!) One of the things I learned was that the US men’s national team trains at the US Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, so I wrote that into the book. Then I paid an unexpected visit to Colorado Springs in early December on family business, and while I was there, I took the opportunity to take a tour of the USOPTC. Because how could I resist?
Our tour guide was a charming Paralympic swimmer who was engaged to an Olympic shooter. As she took us around the campus, she shared a lot of information which I frenziedly wrote down in my phone. For instance, the Center used to be an air force base, and the original barracks (located behind the cafeteria) still remain, but they’re used by “campers”—non-Olympians/Paralympians who come to the Center for brief training camps.
Olympians/Paralympians live in the dorms located on either side of the cafeteria, in two-person suites with private bedroom/bathrooms and a shared living room, but no kitchen.
The Sports Science Center has a commercial-grade kitchen that’s used for demonstrations. When we were there, I wanted to linger because a video featuring figure skater Jason Brown cooking was playing on a monitor.
The first floor of the Sports Science Center is where the gymnastics training facilities are located. The outer gym features a basketball court and the warmup area. But I zeroed right in on that door across the court—because the US men’s team was in there practicing!
In fact, as our guide was letting us look around, Donothan Bailey, the gymnast whose looks were my inspiration for Tony Thomas, walked out of the training room and across the basketball court. I snuck a picture of him, but I can’t share it, because permissions. But here he is on pommel horse at the 2019 US championships.
I peeked in the door, but I couldn’t really gawk at the guys practicing as much as I would have liked (because I didn’t want to be a creepy old stalker lady).
I did catch a glimpse of six-time US champion Sam Mikulak though. Squee! I’d hoped to see my personal favorite from the team—Yul Moldauer, who was my inspiration for Sol, but no luck. You can check out Yul’s floor ex routine from the 2019 championships here:
One of the things our guide emphasized was that any athlete living at the USOPTC is there to train— period—and they can be kicked out at any time, so they don’t screw around. Maybe somebody should have mentioned that to Sol and Tony before they tried out the Thomas-Ashvili for the first time. 😉
2021 Update: On December 16, 2020, USA Gymnastics hosted an LGBTQ-focused panel on diversity, equity, and inclusion in gymnastics. You can see the recording here: