During the many hours of TV coverage of this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, the airwaves will be filled with the remarkable stories of Team USA’s 550-plus athletes: Their childhoods, sacrifices, thrilling victories, and agonizing defeats. For 49 of these remarkable athletes, their road to Rio went through Colorado Springs.

That’s because Colorado Springs hosts the U.S. Olympic Committee’s (USOC) flagship training center. Located just off I-25, this 35-acre complex has a high-tech sports medicine clinic, a state-of-the-art sports performance lab, and venues and facilities geared toward indoor summer sports, including swimming, fencing, gymnastics, judo, boxing, and wrestling. Another training center in Chula Vista, California, focuses more on outdoor summer sports, although the Colorado facility, because it’s the USOC’s headquarters, gets quite a few “crossover” athletes, including some from track and field, according to Mike Beagley, USOC community relations manager.

The Colorado Springs training center is designed to support up to 500 “resident athletes,” high-level competitors who are invited to live and train at the facility for periods ranging from 6 months to 6 years, according to Beagley. Although you have to be invited to take up residency, the facility also hosts what the USOC calls “campers” for two- to six-week stays, as well as many one-time sporting events.

If, like me, you’re unlikely to ever be invited to train at the facility, you can visit it instead. The experience begins at the USOC’s impressive visitor center, which just reopened after receiving a $1.7 million facelift. The upgrades include a rotunda with five large screens that display a cycling “Olympic Moments” video, as well as rotating exhibits focused on current and previous Olympic and Paralympic athletes who have trained there. For $12, you can also take an hour-long tour, which begins with a longer video narrated by Bob Costas that specifically discusses the training center and walks visitors through a resident-athlete’s typical day.

The tour loops through the facility, including the strength and conditioning area, the center’s newest structure, followed by several of the sports centers, usually including those for men’s gymnastics, shooting, and wrestling, as well as the Olympic-sized pool. The tours pass, but don’t stop, at the athletes’ private living and dining facilities before heading back to the visitor center and gift shop, where you can buy your own Team USA gear to help cheer on the “home” team.

Visit: From mid-June to mid-August, the U.S. Olympic Training Center is open to visitors Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The rest of the year, it closes half an hour earlier, Monday through Saturday. 1750 E. Boulder St., Colorado Springs; 719-866-4618

Terri Cook
Terri Cook
Terri Cook is an award-winning freelance writer based in Boulder. More of her work can be found at down2earthscience.com.