Because the U.S. Olympic team does not receive government funding, it looks to universities as a major training ground and pipeline for talent.
WASHINGTON — Three-quarters of the 613-person U.S. Olympic team that was released Tuesday competed in the American collegiate system — the most up-to-date number to illustrate the country’s dependence on NCAA and other college programs to bring home medals.
The roster released by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee for the Tokyo Games includes 329 women and 284 men, making this the third straight Summer Games in which the U.S. is sending more women than men to the Olympics.
Gymnast Simone Biles, who is a top contender for multiple gold medals, is making her second Olympic appearance. She is one of 31 athletes from Texas. California leads the way with 126, followed by Florida (51) and Colorado (34), which houses the Olympic Training Center and also is a high-altitude training site for some in endurance sports.
No single statistic, however, defines the United States’ unique situation in the Olympic world better than the number of college athletes who go on to wear the red, white and blue. Because the U.S. Olympic team does not receive government funding, it looks to universities as a major training ground and pipeline for talent.
Some recent cutbacks in college sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other financial strains were reversed, which gave the U.S. some breathing room in its long-term quest to develop new pipelines for future Games.
At these Olympics, 463 U.S. athletes (76%) competed at 169 schools spanning Divisions I, II and III, as well as at junior colleges and collegiate club programs. Twenty of the U.S. rosters in individual sports are made up of at least 80% of athletes who played in college and 11 teams are composed solely of them; those include men’s and women’s indoor volleyball, rowing and softball.
Some other facts and figures:
- Swimmer Katie Grimes is the youngest U.S. Olympian at 15, while equestrian Phillip Dutton is the oldest at 57. Dutton is making his seventh Olympic appearance, which included three for Australia.
- The 2020 team has 193 returning Olympians and 104 Olympic medalists, including 56 Olympic champions.
- This year’s team is almost 10% bigger than the one that went to Rio de Janeiro in 2016. That was a 558-person roster.