The U.S. Olympic Committee last week named Lawrence Probst as its new chairman, even though he was first contacted to join the USOC board just “six or seven months ago” by his own recollection.
Probst is the chairman of Electronic Arts, the world’s leading video games company. His resume is in line with USOC’s goals of operating with the business sense of a successful corporation.
If Probst is looking for advice for how to better utilize the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, he need not look further than San Diego’s golden girl, Monique Henderson.
The three-time Olympian and two-time gold medalist should be the cover girl for the OTC’s marketing campaign, and not because at least one prominent athlete I know of saw her picture at the San Diego Hall of Champions (my day job) and thought it was a photo of Naomi Campbell.
Henderson, unlike most Olympians, has used the OTC as her training base ever since the Morse High alumnus returned home from her All-American career at UCLA. She added a 2008 gold medal in the 4×400 relay at Beijing to the gold she brought home from the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
“I’m so lucky it’s down here in San Diego,” Henderson said. “My family lives in Bonita, and I found a place between the two (family and the OTC). It’s the per fect situation. I go from the track to the weight room.”
The trouble with the OTC is when it opened, it was irrelevant to Olympians such as Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson or even basketball’s Dream Team. That class of athletes stays in five-star hotels, not OTC dorm rooms.
But athletes at the middle, low or non-existent level of endorsements deals can use all the facilities to maximize their potential.
Henderson was one of only five athletes from the OTC to claim medals in
2008 — two in track and three in BMX cycling (two men, one woman).
In fact, Henderson recruited the other track medalist, former UCLA teammate Sheena Tosta. She won the silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles.
“She was having trouble in L.A. finding a track she could train on and place she could get treatment for her body,” Henderson said. “It was costing her a fortune. I told her everything (at the OTC) is free and you can’t lose — it’s in San Diego. She came down here, used the facilities and earned a silver medal.”
The U.S. women’s field hockey team also recently moved its base from Virginia Beach, Va., to the OTC, and the team’s overall performance improved. The U.S. women qualified for the Olympics for the first time since 1988 and placed fifth after entering the Beijing Games ranked 11th in a 12-team field.
The OTC can appeal to more athletes by targeting the right athletes as well as educating the general public on which athletes use it. Making sporting events open for the public to attend wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.
“I tell everyone it’s an ideal situation,” Henderson said. “I think it’s underutilized. It’s a great place to train in a remote area. It does what it was built for — 100 percent.”