Olympic scandal doesn’t deter athletes

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    By CAMIE HOWARD

    Put the two words “Olympic” and “athlete” together and one seems to contradict the other — especially in light of the current SLOC scandal. However, BYU athletes like Tiffany Lott consider the Olympic organizers a separate entity from the Games themselves and haven’t really paid much attention.

    Lott, who recently broke a world record in the 55-meter hurdles, said she isn’t too worried about the Olympic scandal. Lott practices daily at the BYU track for the upcoming Olympic trials.

    “I’m not really too concerned with the scandal,” Lott said. “It seems like every Olympics something always happens, like the bombing in Atlanta. If this is the worst it gets then I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.”

    Lott said the unfortunate thing about the scandal is it makes Utah look bad. And a lot of people do not take the time to separate Utah’s problems from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she said.

    BYU women’s track coach Craig Poole agrees with Lott, saying you can’t judge an entity solely on its members. He gives the example of trying to judge the church based on its members alone.

    “Just like the church, the Olympics were started for a worthwhile purpose,” Poole said. “Right now the Olympics have a bad name, but the Games are for the athletes, not the organizers.”

    Poole also said the reason the scandal broke in Utah is because it came into an ethical environment which exposed it right away. He said the scandal may create uncertainty for a few athletes, but he believes in the long run reforms will be made by the Olympic committee.

    Most Olympic hopefuls are just too busy training to worry about the scandal, according to Lott. A strong sense of competition is what keeps her going, she said.

    “I’ve always had a strong competitive drive,” Lott said. “I have a strong desire and I’m very goal-oriented. I have a list of goals that I look at in my locker everyday.”

    Lott explained that she obtained her incentive through a series of injuries.

    “I didn’t know how much I really needed to work on; it became my motivator,” she said.

    However, according to Lott, her desire to compete in the Olympics has been around for most of her life. She said she became interested in running track in the fifth grade and decided she would try out for the Olympics someday.

    “I knew it was the premiere event,” Lott said. “It was a chance to represent the U.S., to represent my family and to prove what I was made of.”

    However, Lott is not the only BYU alumna shooting for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Amy Steele Gant, former All-American, was once an important part of the BYU women’s volleyball team. During her four-year stint at BYU, Gant won several awards, including a position on the 1997 American Volleyball Coaches Association first team.

    Already a member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, Gant has the possibility of earning a spot on the Olympic team. During an Olympic year, the national team becomes the U.S. Olympic team. With a total of 14 members, some players will be staying home as only 11 players will be traveling.

    Gant is quoted by Brigham Young Magazine as saying she is “really excited about the possibility of traveling to Sydney … Everybody (on the national team) is fighting for a spot — not literally, but we all are working hard.”

    Poole, who has been coaching track for 35 years, has helped several BYU athletes prepare for the Olympic games. He said the average age of an Olympic competitor is around 26, and since the average age of a BYU graduate is 23, it leaves time for an athlete to prepare for the Olympics — if that is what they choose to do.

    “Every kid I’ve worked with has the (Olympic) aspiration,” Poole said. “Every kid has the dream, and some actually make it.”

    Lott, who works with Poole every weekday afternoon, said training for the Olympics is like getting ready for a national championship because it is more intense and purposeful.

    “Since I’m working now and have less time to practice, my training has become more efficient rather than longer,” Lott said. “I want to put everything I have into it while I’m here.”

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