The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movement joined the global sport community in facing unprecedented adversity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which placed athletes’ Olympic and Paralympic dreams on hold with the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games. Fortified by the strength and resolve displayed by Team USA athletes and all who support them, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic community came together and confronted the realities of a global pandemic with creative solutions. Through it all, the USOPC prioritized the safety and security of its community and took a fact-based approach that focused on the inevitable return to sport. That process included adapted plans to maintain consistency in athlete and National Governing Body support, and preserving an optimal allocation of resources to ensure the safety, well-being and success of the Team USA delegation for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo and Beijing.

Tokyo 2020 Games Postponement

Despite the eventuality felt by so many athletes, officials and fans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rightful decision to postpone the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 was intensely felt across the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movement and left a profound impact on the global sport community. The USOPC immediately began work in partnership with athletes, NGBs, International Federations, the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, to ensure fair, transparent and equitable standards for safety, communication, anti-doping, qualification and selection for the reimagined Games in 2021 – all while continuing to deliver against the USOPC’s mission in support of Team USA athletes, both in the near and long-term.

Performance Planning and Support

When faced with adversity, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic community displayed immense creativity in adapting to an altered environment. Whether through virtual competitions, modified coaching and training techniques or unwavering continuity in support, the resilience and persistence of Team USA athletes, NGBs and sport partners were inspiring. Together with NGBs, the USOPC collaborated to evolve performance and periodization plans, integrate best practices and develop medical standards – for multi-sport events, training, travel and return to competition – sharing the guidance widely in support of all those who administer sport.

High Performance Grants

The USOPC continued to invest and improve high-performance best practices that allow the U.S. to field competitive and successful Olympic and Paralympic Teams to improve and advance the entire sport ecosystem. To maximize resources, high performance grants are strategically allocated to give the greatest number of American athletes the opportunity to succeed using a focused, high-performance support process. In 2020, $77 million was distributed directly to athletes, National Governing Bodies and High Performance Management Organizations.

Funds given to NGBs and HPMOs were utilized for elite athlete programming, such as training camps, coaching and travel. The USOPC increased its Athlete Performance Pool to $16.9 million, expanding the amount of funds available to athletes who qualify for monthly monetary stipends to supplement the training and competition resources provided. Additional support was offered via Elite Athlete Health Insurance benefits, which amounted to $9.3 million in support to 1,341 athletes.

Sport Science

The impact of the pandemic challenged the USOPC sport performance team to reimagine its service model, evolving to provide more remote and virtual support than ever before to ensure continuity in athlete resources and care. The USOPC provided over $6.5 million in sport science support to the nation’s top athletes and coaches. The team of experts in the fields of dietetics, strength and conditioning, psychology, physiology, coaching, data and analytics, and performance technology worked across the full range of summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic sports and were focused on enhancing performance while also working closely with USOPC athlete services and sports medicine to support the holistic needs of athlete health and wellness.

The sport performance department took on a number of key initiatives in 2020, that included heat and hydration strategies for Team USA athletes preparing for the climate in Tokyo, enhancing support and resources for Paralympic sport, and expanding data and analytics to guide training strategies and tactics. Through Operation Wildfire, the USOPC deployed more than 300 activated carbon filtration masks to allow sustained outdoor training for athletes in areas grossly affected by wildfires, ranging from Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

Technology and Innovation

The USOPC’s Technology and Innovation Fund – made possible by the generosity of American donors – was critical to helping athletes, coaches and USOPC service providers stay connected and maintain consistency in preparation for the Tokyo and Beijing Games amidst the prevailing COVID-19 climate. In 2020, over $640,000 was allocated against 17 technology projects, impacting athletes representing more than 20 National Governing Bodies. Since the fund’s inception in 2015, over $2.5 million has been distributed to support 49 projects across 33 sports.

Examples of technology in action include virtual reality, which was leveraged to give Team USA athletes and support staff cyber tours of the Athlete Villages, competition venues and training facilities in Japan. Some sports even utilized VR in training with US Equestrian taking virtual rides of the courses in Tokyo. Additionally, technology and data analytics were applied to empower individual athletes – including to help Nathan Chen and other leading figure skaters, who used sensors to optimize their jump technique, while Paratriathlete Kendall Gretsch was upgraded with a custom handcycle in preparation for the Tokyo Games.

The USOPC also deployed a variety of digital platforms, using data to derive key insights into athlete health and performance. Notemeal, an interactive nutritional platform, allowed dietitians to remain connected with athletes and dial in nutritional plans, while the Athlete 360 data platform continued to support athletes by tracking trends in sleep, training load and recovery.

Investments were also made to enhance sport infrastructure for Team USA. At the Lake Placid Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, and in partnership with the Olympic Regional Development Authority, video, timing and sensor technologies were integrated into the newly constructed start facilities for luge, bobsled and skeleton. The information provided by these systems will be critical in propelling Team USA athletes to the podium in Beijing and beyond.

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Centers

The USOPC operates two high-performance Olympic & Paralympic Training Centers that create an integrated environment of training and support services for Team USA athletes with a focus on athlete performance, safety and well-being. Despite operational challenges due to COVID-19, the two facilities in Colorado Springs, Colorado and Lake Placid, New York, continued to provide a safe and productive environment for athletes to live and train in preparation for the Tokyo and Beijing Games. In addition to using the integrated facilities for intensive training camps and sessions, some year-round athletes also live on campus as residents.

COVID-19 Mitigation and Return to Training

The USOPC leveraged its relationships in the sports medicine world with its Infectious Disease Advisory Council, as well as state and county health officials to lead the way in providing a safe and viable training environment for Tokyo and Beijing-focused athletes. Based upon rapidly changing public health regulations in response to escalating cases of COVID-19 in the United States, the Colorado Springs and Lake Placid Olympic & Paralympic Training Centers were temporarily closed for training in March. During that time, the USOPC continued to provide food and lodging for those athletes who called the OPTCs home, while prioritizing planning to safely reopen the training centers for training.

The USOPC developed an infectious disease management strategy designed to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 at USOPC facilities through a gradual and phased approach and allow training to resume at the OPTCs. The best practices and protocols are covered in the USOPC’s OPTC Re-Entry Playbook, which outline the rules behaviors recommended to promote a healthy and safe environment.

The prevention measures allowed the USOPC to receive professional sports waivers from the states of Colorado and New York, allowing the OPTCs to remain open contingent on continued prevention of outbreaks. Overall, the strategies proved effective to identify and isolate any COVID-19 cases and maintain a safe place for Team USA athletes to train in the lead-up to the Tokyo and Beijing Games.

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Sites

In 2020, the USOPC partnered with 11 U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Sites that work in collaboration with NGBs and HPMOs to provide nearly 400 national team athletes access to additional resources, services and facilities in nine states. The USOPC provides additional support to two of the sites—the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center and the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation—to ensure the highest level of resources and availability for Team USA athletes. The training sites remained steadfast in supporting Team USA to the best of their ability while complying with local restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.