U.S. Paralympics

U.S. Paralympics

U.S. Olympic Committee celebrates 100 days to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games with a flurry of activity

Nov. 05, 2009, 12:50 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The 100-day countdown to when Vancouver-bound athletes will come together in pursuit of Olympic and Paralympic glory has officially begun. To celebrate this milestone, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) along with presenting sponsor Hilton Worldwide and its portfolio of 10 hotel brands, four associate sponsors including Acer, Coca-Cola, McDonald's and 24 Hour Fitness, Olympic broadcaster NBC, as well as the winter National Governing Bodies (NGBs) turned New York's Rockefeller Center into a winter wonderland Nov. 4.

With Olympic sport demonstrations from all winter sports, appearances by Olympians, Paralympians and 2010 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, various sponsor activities, as well as a Making Team USA Teleconference, the USOC not only awakened the excitement of the upcoming Olympic Winter Games but also spotlighted the individual journeys of athletes striving for spots on Team USA.

One of the sport demonstrations included a simulated luge run, which was enjoyed by passersby as well as by NBC late night host Jimmy Fallon. Other activities included trampoline routines performed by Flying Aces including Olympic aerialist Jeret "Speedy" Peterson (Boise, Idaho); public ice skating sessions with Olympic champion Sarah Hughes (Great Neck, N.Y.); sled hockey lessons taught by Paralympic sled hockey players Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.) and Andy Yohe (Bettendorf, Iowa); and a special recognition of USA Hockey past and present with 1980 Olympic legends Mike Eruzione and Jim Craig teaming up with 2010 Olympic hopeful David Backes (Minneapolis, Minn.) to teach Today Show host Meredith Vieira how to shoot a puck.

Hilton Worldwide helped create the celebration with giveaways, sponsored complimentary skates and Team USA meet-and-greets. Also, Hilton Worldwide representatives registered guests for the "Official Guest of Team USA" sweepstakes. For complete sweepstakes rules and prize details, visit www.HiltonHHonors.com/officialguest.

To get an inside look at the action and photos in Rockefeller Center earlier today, check out this blog by Olympic fencer Tim Morehouse (Bronx, N.Y.) for TeamUSA.org .  To view the photo gallery from today's event on TeamUSA.org, click here.

Olympic snowboarding silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler (Aspen, Colo.) and short track speedskater J.R. Celski (Federal Way, Wash.) were featured on NBC's Today Show donning Nike's 2010 Olympic podium apparel, which stresses sport performance and sustainability. Check out the Today Show coverage here.

Bleiler and Celski were also in New York to promote their spot on Team 24 Hour Fitness. Other Team 24 Hour Fitness members include pairs figure skater Rockne Brubaker (Algonquin, Ill.); Paralympic alpine skier Chris Devlin-Young (Campton, N.H.); speedskater Tucker Fredricks (Janesville, Wis.); and alpine skier Julia Mancuso (Lake Tahoe, Calif.).  24 Hour Fitness also had a 5-ring challenge where fans could try out their athletic strengths at stations for power, speed, strength, flexibility and agility.

Introducing the Americana-themed Closing Ceremony uniforms by Polo Ralph Lauren were freestyle skiers Emily Cook (Belmont, Mass.) and Sho Kashima (South Lake Tahoe, Calif.). Also modeling for Polo Ralph Lauren was biathlete Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.) who touted personalized gear. Click here to shop Polo Ralph Lauren's U.S. Olympic Collection. Amid the excitement in the Plaza, Cook was also keeping fans in the know by posting pictures and updates from her facebook fan page.

Acer, associate sponsor of the Winter Festival in Rockefeller Center, displayed their latest line of Netbooks, Notebooks and LCD displays: a range of special edition products distinguished by the Acer Olympic Games composite logo, showing the brand name and the Olympic rings together.  These special-edition products were designed to showcase excellence in engineering and design and all computers used at the Nov. 4 event will be donated to participating local public schools.

Longtime USOC sponsors, McDonald's and Coca-Cola, also activated around the event. McDonald's set up three McCafe sampling stations throughout the plaza and supplied apple dippers and milk to all of the children who participated in the event. Coca-cola unveiled their 6-pack packaging, had Bleiler signing autographs and handed out product.

The USOC's Making Team USA program also made its debut by recognizing the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes nominated to date to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams for Curling. These are the first and only athletes to have been nominated to Team USA and received special recognition from the USOC. Skip of the U.S. Men's Olympic Team, John Shuster (Chisholm, Minn.), was also featured in the Making Team USA video series on TeamUSA.org.

Along with the events in New York City, the USOC hosted its third Making Team USA Teleconference, which featured Olympians Erin Hamlin (luge/Remsen, N.Y.); Chad Hedrick (long track speedskating/Spring, Texas); and Lindsey Vonn (alpine skiing/Vail, Colo.); as well as USOC Chief of Sport Performance Mike English and USOC Sports Performance Team Leader (Winter Sports) Alan Ashley.

"We are extremely focused in our efforts and in support of the NGBs and athletes," said English during the call.   "We know that they [NGBs] certainly are equally as focused on their preparation and the athletes will tell you that their focus is towards Vancouver.  Unquestionably, we have the same mission, and that is to make sure that we're properly prepared."

Ashley spoke of the plan for the winter NGBs and athletes, with just 100 days remaining:  "The key thing to understand and recognize is that we have a good plan and we need to stick to the plan and not try to make last minute modifications or changes. If you look at the where the athletes have gone and what they've done and how they've trained, they've really prepared themselves to get to this point. Now, following through with a good competition plan, a good training plan and really look for consistency right up until they step foot in Vancouver is the most important."

Vonn discussed the advantages that come with being one of the marquee stars heading into Vancouver:

"People know who I am a lot more these days than before, but what is really nice for me is coming to Vail and having the kids know who I am and be excited to ski with me. Those are the things that really make me happy. It's definitely been a little bit tough with all the media and everything going on, but I'm trying to utilize the opportunity and set a good example for the kids and hopefully ski racing becomes more popular in the process."

As always, Team USA will be filled with unheralded athletes like Hamlin. She shocked the world last season by ending a German stronghold on the event, when she captured a World title and ended a 93-race winning streak by the Germans.  Hamlin spoke about the pressure of heading into the Olympic Winter Games as a World champion.

"Everyone goes into an Olympic year trying their hardest and I will be just as motivated if I hadn't won as if I had, so hopefully it will be enough to counter what they'll be going for. It's always great to break a barrier and in a sport that's been so dominated, it's good for not only myself, the U.S. women's team, but of the sport as a whole.  Overall, you can only take away the positives from it and that's what I've done."

To maintain the energy of today's 100-day kick-off event and to keep fans connected to the fast approaching Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, TeamUSA.org is producing the Making Team USA: Vancouver Daily.  Presented by Hilton Worldwide, this daily news feature will provide complete coverage of athletes trying to secure a spot on Team USA, in-depth athlete interviews, features, blogs and extensive Paralympic coverage.  Check out the first edition here and tune in over the next 99 days for more extensive coverage on the Making of Team USA.

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