Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dan Flack's Chattanooga Olympic Zone Profile

Here's the link to Dan Flack's Chattanooga Olympic Zone Profile:


Keep up the good work, Dan!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"The New Olympians" in the Chattanooga Olympic Zone

In escaping the shadows of winter, it's time to push aside memories of tearful apologies from an Olympic champion and an ugly fight on Capital Hill featuring one of baseball’s greatest pitchers and his former trainer. In regards to recent months in the world of sport, it’s fair to be asking yourself, "Should I be more optimistic or pessimistic about the upcoming Olympic season?"

A week ago, I may have thought twice about how to answer that question myself but that was then – this is now. Since that time, I traveled to San Marcos, Texas to watch the first of the qualifying races for the Olympic Whitewater Canoe/Kayak Trials, which will be contested later this spring in Charlotte, North Carolina. This kind of event isn't as much about who moves on to the next level of Olympic qualification but much more about who doesn’t. In this case, the standouts were young whitewater racers, such as 10 year-old, Chelsea Bornemann, getting their first rub with the Olympic Games and wearing smiles equal to any Gold Medalist you’ll find in Beijing. Check it out right here:


Back in Chattanooga, Baylor Swim Coach, Dan Flack is getting ready to oversee daily swim practice. His varsity athletes file into a top-flight, state-of-the-art aquatic center that shouts, “Serious Swimming Here.” But, strike up a conversation with Baylor star swimmers, Alison Lusk, who is preparing for U.S. Olympic Trials, or Brad Hamilton, who is hoping to represent is Jamaica at the Olympics in China, surprisingly, they’re not talking about personal bests or Gold Medals. Instead, they're talking enthusiastically about representing their school, their families, and what it means to be good teammates. To me, as an Olympic Gold Medalist, it's music to my ears. It’s as if these young athletes are saying, “Don’t worry, the future of the Olympics are going to be ok.”

To be honest, I’m not too surprised – I kind of expected this. A few hours earlier, I’m sitting pool-side waiting for our camera crew to set up, Coach Flack and I get into a frank conversation about coaching philosophy. Most coaches love talking about their star athletes and how far they could go in sport. But, Coach Flack is different. This energetic and value-driven coach really lights up when he talks about helping young people take ownership of their dreams, becoming better citizens, and developing an appreciation for “the process” over and above “results.”

At the end of our interview, I ask Coach Flack about what he looks for in good role models for his athletes. He speaks about people who appear to have meteoric rises but in fact, overcame real challenges life challenges and persevered. But the question was answered before I asked – the right role model for tomorrow’s Olympians is sitting right in front of me.


Catch Coach Flack's Chattanooga Olympic Zone profile on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 on Channel 3's Eyewitness News at 6pm or right here on later that evening on the Chattanooga Olympic Zone blog.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chris Bono's Chattanooga Olympic Zone Profile

Here's the link to Chris Bono's Chattanooga Olympic Zone Profile:


Good luck, Chris!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Chris Bono is in the Chattanooga Olympic Zone

My friend and Olympic Gold Medal swimmer, John Naber, often says, “Olympians are ordinary people who do extraordinary things.” On the road to the Olympics in Beijing this summer, “extraordinary” – as in “extra” and “ordinary” – could not be better defined than by Chattanooga’s Chris Bono.

On the “ordinary” side of the word, Chris is a family man – husband, father of two of young children, and a proud son who admires his parents. He understands the value of a job in his life – he shares knowledge, experience, and his passion for teaching collegiate athletes as the Head Coach of the wrestling program at University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC.) He’s a “regular” at his kids’ activities – soccer and softball games on most weekends. On the “ordinary” side, Chris Bono is like most of us.

On the “extra” side of the word, Chris begins to separate himself from an ordinary Chattanoogan. Chris’ wrestling program represents a school that lives in the sports shadow of Knoxville but is arguably the shining beacon of Chattanooga’s collegiate sports scene. Chris has built a perennial powerhouse consistently ranked in the Top 20 and attracts top wrestling recruits from around the country. And then there’s that “Gold Medal thing…”

Olympic wrestling is a unique sport in that it’s possible to coach collegiate athletes while pursuing your own Olympic dreams. And Chris carries a big dream. I meet many Olympic hopefuls in my travels and work – most want to qualify for the Olympic Games. For Chris, the goal is a bit higher – to win Olympic Gold. Of course, as an athlete, he wants to win for himself. But in our conversations, he glows when he speaks about how reaching this goal would honor his family and their support of his pursuit as well as Chattanooga and the opportunities a Gold Medal would mean of our city such as hosting world class wrestling events and attracting the “best of the best” student athletes to UTC.

As I have come to know Chris in recent weeks, I’m buying what he’s selling – a big dream mixed in with a “normal” family and professional life. It just fits. In an extraordinary way.


Catch Chris' Chattanooga Olympic Zone profile on Tuesday, February 19, 2008 on Channel 3's Eyewitness News at 6pm or right here on later that evening on the Chattanooga Olympic Zone blog.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Howdy Austin Friends - Welcome to the Chattanooga Olympic Zone!

We are kicking of the 2008 Whitewater Canoe/Kayak "Olympic Selection" system in earnest this weekend here in San Marcos, Texas, just about 30 minutes south of Austin. You might be thinking "Kayaking in Texas?" Seriously? The answer is "absolutely."

San Marcos has constructed a family-friendly, whitewater river-side park which will host the first Regional Qualifer for the U.S. Olympic Trials to be held later this spring in Charlotte, North Carolina. Top performers here in San Marcos this weekend qualify to participate at the Olympic Trials where athletes take a critical step towards representing the United States in Beijing in August.

The field of canoe and kayak racers here in San Marcos is a mix of former Olympians, World Medalists, and new competitors as young as 10 years old who are excited about their opportunity to be a part of the Olympic selection process. Racers to watch will be local canoeing and kayaking star, Ben Kvanli, a 1996 Whitewater Olympian hoping to return to the Olympics this summer in the two-man Canoe with partner and Austin native, Mark Poindexter. Ben also heads up the local Red River Racing Team, a group of aspiring young boaters who can definitely hold their own on the rapids at the San Marcos Whitewater Park.

While I will be excited to be on hand in Beijing this summer to call the television broadcast of the whitewater events and see the Olympic medals awarded, that experience will be far more meaningful having been here in San Marcos where it all begins. The Olympic competition is such a connective event that extends far beyond just the Olympians participating in Beijing. It connects back to the competitors who will have participated in at the Olympic Trials in Charlotte which connects directly here to San Marcos.

Which, if you live in the Austin area, is where you come in. Come down to the San Marcos Whitewater Park on Sunday and plug into the Olympics this weekend. The competition is fast, exciting, and dynamic. It's easy to watch and even easier to access. For more spectator information, please check out the race web site:


Finally, if you happen to be a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, you might want to keep reading. Brand new Washington Redskins Head Coach, Jim Zorn, is a pretty impressive whitewater canoe racer himself. How many NFL head coaches participate in such a cool endeavor? My guess is not many. So, if you want to learn more about your adversary's new head coach, check out this posting from today's Washington Post and come on out to San Marcos this weekend check out what Wade Phillips is missing:


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Joellen Dickey's Chattanooga Olympic Zone profile

In cased you missed it, here's the link to Joellen's Chattanooga Olympic Zone profile:

http://www.wrcbtv.com/news/extra_report/index.cfm and click "The Olympic Zone: Joellen Dickey

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Joellen Dickey is in the Chattanooga Olympic Zone

It’s autumn, 1992 and the giddiness was beginning to wear down. The world of whitewater canoe/kayak slalom had just enjoyed a tremendous “re-launch” back on to the Olympic program after a 20-year hiatus. But just around the corner, there was concern. The Olympic Games were headed to Atlanta but with no guarantee of whitewater on the 1996 program. Additionally, this “un-established” sport carried a hefty price tag as a whitewater venue can be quite expensive to build.

The emerging sport was in need of a spirited leader, diplomat, and lobbyist who could sway Atlanta’s Olympic organizers to take a chance.

Enter Joellen Dickey.

Fresh off of winning the gold medal at the Olympics in Spain a few weeks earlier, I traveled to Chattanooga to meet Joellen and assist with the campaign that was called the “Whitewater In '96." I was immediately impressed with how quickly and effectively Joellen had organized and settled into her new role – she had raised money, recruited volunteers, engaged politicians, rallied the community, and energized canoe/kayak athletes across the country and around the world, including myself.

Much transpired between this period and the start of the 1996 Olympic whitewater competition on the Ocoee River in Polk County, Tennessee – challenges that helped a sport and community grow stronger and relationships formed that brought people closer together. But here’s the rub – I can’t say I know of any friend/colleague/associate within whitewater paddlesports that took on a bigger challenge than Joellen did and won. Probably more fair to say we all won when you consider the gift that the Olympics on the Ocoee River left behind – namely the signature landmark of Polk County in the form of the Ocoee Whitewater Center and an endless playground of outdoor adventure enjoyed by tens of thousands every year.

The Ocoee Whitewater Center is the setting for this week’s “Chattanooga Olympic Zone” profile. As the beautiful stone and wood building behind the sparking rapids of the Olympic whitewater course fills our background camera shot, I am reminded of the power and momentum of one person’s focus, determination, and vision for a better future of for our community. Thank you, Joellen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Jim Parrish's Chattanooga Olympic Zone profile

In case you missed, here is Jim Parrish's Olympic Zone profile:


Thanks for tuning into the Chattanooga Olympic Zone!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Jim Parrish is in the Chattanooga Olympic Zone on Tuesday, February 5th

When I retired from competitve canoeing after the 2004 Olympics Games in Athens, there were a few things I was sure that I would NOT miss:
  • Freezing rain-filled winter workouts on the Ocoee River
  • Travelling on long, crowded flights with fragile racing canoes in tow
  • The "shadow" of performance enhancing drugs that is cast upon the Olympic Movement
While I still do not miss any of these points, I feel for the thousands of "Drug-Free" U.S. Olympic-hopefuls preparing for the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer. Performance enhancing drugs are THE "Top of Mind" issue heading towards Beijing and the constant media coverage of denials/admissions from past Olympic stars and Capital Hill hearings all take an emotional toll on our young athletes trying to represent the U.S. with pride and dignity.

But there are good people in the Olympic movement who believe this is an issue in which we can not be wrong and can not give up. Such people raise standards and offer hope. I met one of them recently - Chattanoogan Jim Parrish produced all of the drug testing kits for the U.S. Olympic Committee between 1992-1998 and is the subject of our newest profile in the "Chattanooga Olympic Zone."

When you first meet Jim, you immediately feel a sense of honor, decency, and clarity about him. He comes across very balanced, purposeful in his thought, and values health and wellness in his own life. He works out at Chattanooga's Sports Barn five mornings each week, which is an important part of his "can-do" approach and outlook to living well.

In our conversations, the complexities of performance enhancing drug issues became less complex - as in, "why is choosing to do the right thing so difficult?" For Jim, it isn't and he is resolute in his belief that the Olympic movement is already heading in a better direction.

In the time we spent together for this story, I began to think about the many dedicated people that support the U.S. Olympic Team, its values, and traditions. While such individuals want to be a part of a winning team, I believe they really want to a support a clean and honest process that is capable of producing victories for which we can all be proud. The athletes who will make up Team USA this summer at the Olympics Games in Beijing need these supporters more than ever before - supporters like Jim Parrish.