Where do they live when they are away from home training? How do they stay on top of their game even when training conditions are less than optimal? The Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Lake Placid works to meet these needs of visiting athletes.
The OTC opened in 1982, in the building where the Northwood’s Inn is today. It opened in its present location in 1989, and mostly serves winter athletes. I was fortunate enough to take a tour of the facility with intern Matt Bailey.
Contrary to popular belief, summer athletes rarely visit the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid; most reside in the Chula Vista or Colorado Springs facilities. The exceptions are the canoe and kayak team, (who are coming to the Lake Placid OTC next week), the rhythmic gymnastics team, and Para-Olympians. The resident athletes represent biathlon, freestyle skiing, bobsledding, skeleton, luge, Nordic combined, and ski jumping. The Lake Placid OTC hosts athletes mostly dependent on their sport, but also based on availability of rooms at other training centers.
The main purpose of the Olympic Training Centers is “to assist athletes in a variety of Olympic sports, and also provide assistance to a number of affiliated sports organizations and disabled sports organizations.” The Lake Placid OTC boasts state-of-the-art training equipment, but also residence halls to house the athletes and provide a comfortable stay away from home.
Despite its smaller size compared to the Colorado and California training centers, the Lake Placid Training Center hosts an impressive amount of services for the athletes. There is a fully-supplied weight room which includes spin bikes, weight lifting equipment, shock-absorbing flooring, and even a treadmill with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.
A large gymnasium in the back of the complex boasts high ceilings (to host volleyball tournaments), basketball courts, and a trampoline for aerial skiers to practice tricks. One of the most impressive rooms in the OTC is the Coaching and Sports Sciences lab, where athletes can work on their technique with the help of technology. One such piece of equipment is a giant treadmill used mainly by biathletes, which helps them analyze their technique and stride with the help of a television monitor.
Besides helping athletes to be their best in competition, the OTC also strives to make their stay as comfortable as possible. There is an on-site cafeteria, serving meals with optimal nutrient amounts as determined by the OTC nutritionist in Colorado. Near the front lobby, a small recreation area is available for the residents to relax when they are not training.
Athletes can also spend time in the athlete’s services rooms, which include a television, Xbox gaming system, and computers (sponsored by A T & T). One of the most interesting features in the OTC is the A T & T charging station. Located across from the weight room, athletes can plug in their cell phone or iPod while working out- definitely helpful.
Some of the best athletes in winter sports are staying and training at the Olympic Training Center; Erin Hamlin (World champion and Olympian in Luge), Haley Johnson (World competitor in Biathlon), Ryan St Onge (World champion and Olympian in freestyle skiing), Mark Grimmette (World and Olympic Competitor in Luge), and John Napier (World Competitor in Bobsled). Joining them are other athletes who come to Lake Placid to train in hopes of making an Olympic team.
What is it that makes Lake Placid’s Olympic Training Center so special? The Olympic history in Lake Placid is certainly inspiring. Lake Placid is the only US city to host two Olympics Games, and the small-town atmosphere contributes to the comfortable, hometown feel. Olympic Training Center intern Matt Bailey put it this way: “The Lake Placid OTC is smaller and homier… it’s central location to all the other sports venues is very convenient for the athletes, and we have a great staff here”.