Chula Vista’s crown jewel U.S. Olympic Training Center turns 20

Phillip Brents

Fri June 26, 2015 10:52am

The Chula Vista-United States Olympic Training Center remains the city of Chula Vista’s crown jewel. Dedicated to the development and performance of America’s future Olympic and Paralympic athletes, the year-round warm-weather facility was a gift to the U.S. Olympic Committee from the San Diego National Sports Training Foundation.
It celebrated its 20th anniversary on June 7 with a public open house that attracted an estimated 2,500 visitors to the 155-acre site overlooking the Lower Otay Reservoir.
CV-OTC resident athletes were stationed at nearly every venue on the campus during the seven-hour event. Visitors had the unique opportunity to speak with resident athletes and also attend various sports demonstrations and interactive opportunities.
“Everything went really well,” CV-OTC media relations coordinator Emily Cox said.
Neatly summed up, it was a day filled with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
The free public celebration provided visitors with an abundance of activities. Throughout the day, guests had the opportunity to give different Olympic and Paralympic sports a try. They could ride a BMX bike, shoot archery, aim for a field hockey goal, pass a rugby ball, spike a beach volleyball, kick around the soccer ball, play wheelchair tennis or experience running with a blindfold and guide runner like some of the CV-OTC’s visually-impaired athletes.
Sports demonstrations by CV-OTC resident athletes and special guests included archery, rugby, field hockey, BMX supercross, track and field (javelin, shot put, long and triple jumps and blind running) and wheelchair tennis.
Along with sports activities there was music, food and fun. Local bands performed live music and an assortment of local food trucks were on-site with food for purchase. The community expo included a variety of local organizations with information and activities.
Photo opportunities were aplenty with a real Olympic torch and numerous Olympians, Paralympians and CV-OTC resident athletes in attendance.
Then and now
The sprawling facility, which can accommodate more than 130 resident-athletes, continues to produce high performance results two decades after its opening. Resident athletes have captured 49 Olympic and Paralympic medals since the facility came online.
The Chula Vista campus has both expanded and adapted over the last 20 years.
Athletes from the CV-OTC won two medals at the 1996 Olympic Games and doubled that total to four medals at the 2000 Olympic Games. Since then, success at the Olympics, Paralympics and Pan American Games has become stronger.
At the 2012 London Games, for instance, CV-OTC athletes captured Olympic medals in archery, women’s beach volleyball, rowing, track and field, swimming, women’s soccer and women’s water polo. Paralympians also won medals in track and field, wheelchair tennis, rowing, archery and cycling.
In fact, two sports – BMX and beach volleyball – that have found homes on the Chula Vista campus weren’t even Olympic sports when the facility opened in 1995. Rugby is another newcomer to campus.
Though U.S. Soccer no longer utilizes the Chula Vista campus as its dedicated home training base, U.S. youth development teams have continued to train and hold camps here.
Several members of the 2015 U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer team participated in development team camps at the Chula Vista facility, including Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Heather O’Reilly and Shannon Boxx.
The U.S. women’s senior national team brought home the silver medal from the 2000 Sydney Games as a parting gift to the facility.
Field hockey, archery and track and field have maintained a strong presence over the years along with cycling. The Thorpe Cup, an annual multi-events competition between men’s and women’s teams from the United States and Germany, took place at the Chula Vista-OTC in 2013 and is set to return in 2016. Germany is expected to bring its full Olympic team to California as a training camp for the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.
The Chula Vista campus features four natural turf soccer fields, six sand volleyball courts, three BMX tracks (including replicas of the Beijing and London Games courses as well as a youth development track), a 400-meter track with separate throwing areas, a field hockey pitch, softball field, nine-tenths of a mile cycling course, two tennis courts and the largest permanent archery range in North America.
Construction is expected to be completed this fall on a new $14 million archery complex, the Easton Archery Center for Excellence, that features a 40,000-square-foot field house with additional housing units.
Recurve archer Brady Ellison won gold medals at both the 2007 and 2011 Pan American Games. The U.S. men’s team narrowly missed the gold medal at the 2012 London Games, settling for silver by one point to champion Italy. Ellison and Co. bounced back to win the U.S. team’s first world championship title in 30 years in 2013 in Turkey.
Besides residence units and athletic fields, the CV-OTC also houses a strength and conditioning center, a sports medicine and science pavilion, dining hall, an athletes communications and recreation lounge and a boathouse and rowing course on the adjacent Lower Otay Reservoir. The U.S. Olympic Team Store and BMX Hall of Fame also occupy space in the visitors center.
Paralympians have become an integral part of the Chula Vista campus in recent years.
Blake Leeper, an amputee sprinter, won silver and bronze medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, while Les Gillette, a blind long and triple jumper, brought back a bronze medal in the long jump.
Gillette, who also won bronze medals at the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Paralympics, set a new American record in his F11 classification of 22 feet, 2 inches on April 23 at a high performance meet held at the Chula Vista-OTC.
The next 20 years should be equally rewarding.