Olympic Hopefuls Training In-State Impressed With Oklahoma Spirit
By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma River was named a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site last summer. Oklahoma is home to one of just three U.S. Rowing Training Centers in the country. Now, Olympic hopefuls have moved to the state to train for their dream.
"I was born and raised in southern California. I never thought I would graduate from college and move to Oklahoma City," said Olympic hopeful Ryan Shelton.
Shelton is training under John Parker who is the head coach of the Oklahoma City High Performance Training Center.
"When you have the opportunity to make something from scratch like we do here, I try to put everything I've ever learned into this program," said Parker who also picked up and moved to Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma River is the only river in the country to have the Olympic Rings.
"To have the athletes moving here, living here, training here is really exciting," said the director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation Mike Knopp.
The nine young men currently training under Parker have a grueling schedule.
"They get up and come train. Then they go out to work. Then they come back in the evening to train. They have a good shot at 2012 and they're in it for the longer term and have a very good shot for 2016," Parker said.
The schedule leaves little free time and can cause stress for some athletes who have to worry about housing and nutrition, but the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City is stepping in to help.
Executive Chef Andrew Black volunteered to cook nutritious meals five nights a week for the Olympic hopefuls.
"Put it this way. I know they're going to make it," Black said.
The help is providing an unexpected relief to the coach and team.
"It's going to help us run better and heal quicker from our workouts," Shelton said.
Coach John Parker has traveled the world and competed in the 1992 Olympic Games.
"I've just never seen the hospitality I've seen here. I've never seen anything like this. It's funny. I tell coaches and athletes around the country and they're in disbelief," Parker said.
Shelton said he and his teammates have felt beyond welcomed by Oklahomans.
"I love it so far. It's great people like you always hear about," Shelton said.
Chef Black said he's thrilled to be fueling Olympic dreams.
"We're part of it, not just the Skirvin, but everyone in Oklahoma. We're proud to have them here," Black said.
The team goes straight from practice to eat at the Skirvin five nights a week. Right now there are nine rowers training, but more are expected to come once the headquarters for Oklahoma City's High Performance Training Center is completed later this year at the Devon Boathouse.