East Tennessee State University students Jordan Beard and May Thompson are thrilled they will get to train for the Olympics and not have to leave the area to do so.
ETSU President Brian Noland announced Wednesday morning the university was officially designated as a U.S. Olympic Training Site for weightlifting by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).
“It’s going to be really exciting,” said Beard, a junior. “I’m excited to see who all comes into the program and who all puts forth effort to make this program strong.”
Beard and Thompson are two of the kind of elite-level weightlifters the university will recruit through partnership with the USOC and USA Weightlifting. These wieghtlifters aspire to compete at the Olympics. ETSU will screen athletes who apply to train at the center, and the school’s Mike Stone will design a training program specific to each athlete. Mike Stone, is director of the Exercise and Sport Science Laboratory at ETSU and is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of sport science.
Those lifters selected will be admitted to ETSU and will enroll as full-time students, the school said.
Beard began competing on the track team and threw discus and shot put and javelin before making the move to weightlifting.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s so much fun. I’m willing to work hard. I’m willing to go as far as I can.”
Right now, Beard and Jordan work out twice a day four days a week. Beard said it was good to have coaches there to tell them how to recover, how to properly train and to provide good critical analysis of their performances.
Thompson, a sophomore, did not start lifting until about a year ago.
“This past year has been amazing for me and being able to put my dreams toward this Olympic training center,” she said. “The designation is a great opportunity for all of the athletes, myself and Jordan especially. It gives us the opportunity to excel in a level and excel in a place that we really have the dream to.”
There are 14 Olympic Training Centers in the country. Only two other centers provide training for weightlifting. One of those is in Colorado Springs, Colo., which is the flagship training center for the USOC.
Beard had her sights on going to Colorado until it was clear ETSU would become a training center.
“I was trying to go to Colorado to the Olympic Training Center just to do an internship, maybe see where that goes,” she said. “But now that (ETSU) is an Olympic training site, you know, why not stay here?”
Meg Stone, director of the Center of Excellence in Sport Science and Coach Education and now the director of the ETSU Olympic Training Center, said it was a 3 1/2-year process to get the training site designation. But now that ETSU has the Olympic site, the school will have national recognition.
She said the designation benefits the region.
“These young people that will be coming on to campus to compete in weightlifting and to train serve as role models not only to ETSU students but to their community,” Stone said.
Stone, a strength and conditioning coach and a two-time Olympian, hopes to have athletes competing in the 2016 Olympics.
ETSU currently has a weightlifting club.
“The weightlifting team that is on campus at the moment will exist as it does,” Stone said. “The weightlifters coming in will be the elite level of that club.”
Last year, the team won third place at the National Collegiate Weightlifting Championship, according to the school.
The training site could expand to include additional sports like cycling, Stone said.
“We’ve talked about triathlon and we’ve looked at rugby possibly, because the rugby sevens will be involved in this upcoming Olympics,” Stone said.
Stone said there are around 15 weightlifters on campus, five or six of whom are considered elite. She hopes to add another five or six elite lifters this summer. Scholarships are available.