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Colorado Springs: An Olympic Powerhouse

BY BRANDON ELLIS | AUGUST 2ND, 2021

Proud to be Olympic City USA, Colorado Springs shines as we celebrate the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan! Colorado Springs is home to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, which hosts more than five hundred athletes and coaches at a time. The center is also the national headquarters for USA Swimming and USA Shooting. (So far, Team USA has won 30 medals in swimming and 6 in shooting!) Our high elevation and endless outdoor beauty make our destination perfect for elite athletes training from all over the country. What you might not know is that over a dozen Olympic athletes claim Colorado Springs as home, either growing up here, immigrating directly to Colorado Springs, or attending college here. We’ve done research on each of them so that you might know who to especially cheer for while watching at home.

This year, we have three Colorado Springs natives competing in Tokyo on Team USA Shooting. Amber English, a graduate of Cheyenne Mountain High School and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, has already won gold in Skeet at the Asaka Shooting Range, setting a record with 56 hits. Amber is a first lieutenant and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program in Fort Carson, Colorado. William Shaner, another Colorado Springs native, is the youngest U.S. Men’s Olympic Rifle Qualifier. The University of Kentucky student just secured Team USA’s first gold in the men’s 10-meter air rifle competition. Colorado Springs resident and two-time Olympian, Lucas Koziensky, won silver with Mary Tucker in the mixed-team 10-meter air rifle. Koziensky set a national record at the Olympic air rifle trials with a score he has since beat.

Hometown hero Haleigh Washington is competing in Tokyo on the U.S. Women’s Volleyball team. So far, they have defeated Argentina, China, Turkey, and Italy (only losing to the Russian Olympic Committee). Now qualified for the quarterfinals, the U.S. Women's Volleyball team will go up against Dominican Republic on Wednesday, August 4th. Washington, a Doherty High School alumni, was named the 2013 Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year and has impressed the world since.

Track and field star Benard Keter, a supply specialist and member of the World Class Athlete Program, also calls Colorado Springs home. He beat his personal best to qualify for the men’s 3000-meter steeplechase final. He ran an impressive 8 minute, 17.31 second race which qualified him as the only male American for finals in this race. He then ranked eleventh in the final on August 2nd. Two-time Colorado Springs Olympian Hillary Bor competed in the men’s 3000m steeplechase as well, and got 6th place (of 14 runners) with a time of 8 minutes, 19.80 seconds, though he did not move forward to the final.

After emigrating from Egypt in 2014, pentathlete Amro Elgeziry moved to Colorado Springs where he currently resides. The army sergeant is a member of the World Class Athlete Program and is married to former Olympian Isabella Isaksen. While this is his fourth Olympic Games, it is his first time competing as a U.S. Olympian. Like Elgeziry, Samantha Schulz is competing in modern pentathlon as an army sergeant and member of the World Class Athlete Program. Schulz was born in Littleton, Colorado, and trains in Colorado Springs. The Pentathlon consists of fencing, shooting, swimming, riding, and cross-country running. Pentathlon events will start Thursday, August 5th and go through August 7th.

A native of Uzbekistan, Ildar Hafizov is also a member of the World Class Athlete program. The Colorado Springs resident competed as a Greco-Roman wrestler (60 kg) in Tokyo, along with Tracy G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg) from nearby Fountain, Colorado. While Hafizov fought hard, he lost to Luis Orta Sanchez of Cuba who went on to win Gold. Hancock however, made it to his weight class's quarterfinals after defeating Mikheil Kajaia of Serbia but then lost in a close match against Poland’s Tadeusz Michalik. Hancock attended Fountain Fort Carson High School and recently won the 2019 U.S. Open Outstanding Wrestler and the 2019 U23 World Team Trials outstanding wrestler.

In addition to a lengthy roster of residents and natives, Colorado Springs boasts Tokyo 2021 Olympians who attended or are currently attending college at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. These include triathlete Kevin McDowell and two cyclists, Maddie Godby and Jennifer Valente (who recently won bronze in track cycling team pursuit). McDowell lead his Mixed Relay team members Katie Zaferes, Taylor Knibb, and Morgan Pearson to a silver medal win. As the last in the relay he pushed through with an incredible combined time of 20 minutes and 14 seconds (between swimming, biking, and running). Great Britain won Gold.

In normal circumstances the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, located at Olympic Plaza, offers tours to visitors giving exclusive opportunities for people to watch Olympians train for their events. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the OPTC Visitor Center and Team USA Shop are temporarily closed in an effort to limit any potential exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19). That being said, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum in downtown Colorado Springs is open and is absolutely incredible. This brand-new museum is infused with modern technology, interactive exhibits and a rich history that celebrates mankind’s greatest athletic achievements. It will leave you in absolute awe.

Since we can’t make it to Tokyo this summer, Colorado Springs: Olympic City is the next best place for Olympic celebration. At the Cheyenne Mountain Resort and The Country Club of Colorado we are constantly cheering on all Team USA athletes as they continue to inspire us at the Olympic stadiums.