Monday, October 30, 2006

Olympic Revolution

The title is likely too strong, but you sense change and revitalization for the US Olympic effort in sailing if you spend anytime with Dean Brenner, who is the Chairman of the US Olympic Sailing Committee. I had breakfast with Dean last week while he was in California, where his trip coincided with the Pre-Trials that were occurring. He was checking in with the sailors, and continuing to spread the word not just about the committee's goals, but also how they are being achieved.

The reoccurring theme in the conversation was how the US effort has been able to get more funds than in the past (as of now, the US has three times more money), and in how the US is better directing the money to the elite athletes. The 2004-08 committee slashed out all the fluff, including their own legitimate reimbursements. They are lean, and have even reduced the US Sailing Team from five members in each class to three for 2007, which will allow for the disbursement of funds to get to those teams that have clawed their way up to that level.

Dean also acknowledged that there is a keen eye focussed beyond 2008, and how they are looking at the US sailors presently in each class, and in which classes the US needs to do some recruiting to insure that the bottom keeps pushing the top. He readily admits that some classes are currently getting shorted, such as the boardsailors, and regrets not having the resources to improve every area of the US effort.

I passed on a message to Dean what I regularly pass on to all the campaigners that I come across: Keep telling your story. For the campaigners, their trail is full of hurdles and drama, from which many great tales that can be shared. During events, often the only information available to the media is from competitor reports. Given the emergence and ease of email and websites, plus with blogs (like this one) being free and super easy to use, there is no reason that every serious Olympic campaigner does not have a regular internet presence. The better job the sailors do at telling their story, the better chance there is to heighten the awareness of both their effort, and the US effort as a whole.

Listening to Dean, it is easy to feel good about the direction the US Olympic effort is going, but just in case, he has the stats to back it up. The funding is better, the team is getting younger, and the results are improving. While he admits that the US is still playing catch-up with the new standard of how to run an Olympic program, he feels like the recent strides are huge, and is very excited about the medal prospects in China for 2008 and beyond. We are too. - Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

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