Aug. 23, 2014

While our athletes are busy competing, training, recovering and going to CEPs, the “team behind the team” here in Nanjing is working around the clock to make sure things are running as smooth as possible for Team USA. There are a lot of moving parts associated with any sort of Games, often leading to long days and late nights, yet laughter can often be heard coming from our little office. I’m bias, but I think we’re a pretty fun group, so I wanted to take a minute to let you all get to know the team behind the team.

First up is our Chef de Mission, Charlie. As the Chef de Mission of Team USA, Charlie is the liaison between the U.S. delegation, the International Olympic Committee and the Local Organizing Committee. If he’s not in the Chef de Mission meetings, on one of his three Games phones, or eating ice cream, he’s either at the McCafe or out cheering on our athletes. Charlie is our resident outdoorsman, so it should come as no surprise that when asked what one weekend activity he would do right now if he had the chance, he said “fly fishing.”

When there is anything village-concerned, Lisa is the go-to person during the YOG. As village director, Lisa oversees all things village-related and has been dubbed Team USA’s “Village Mom.” If you’re locked out of your room, need an extra towel, have questions about directions to the Transport Mall, or anything in between, Lisa’s your girl. When I asked her what one place would she live if she could not live in the U.S., this village director would book herself a one-way ticket to Barbados and go relax on a beach.

Our Games director for the YOG is Rebecca, who oversees all Games logistics. Rebecca welcomed all athletes and staff upon arrival in Shanghai to make sure they all got through customs, baggage claim, and onto their busses safely. Rebecca can be found in the USOC office working away every day coordinating flights, shipping and guest pass logistics. If Rebecca could eat only one thing for the rest of her life, she would want a Caprese salad with fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar from Italy.

To make sure our athletes stay healthy, we have an awesome medical team on-site here in Nanjing. Leading the group is Dustin, our medical director. Dustin mans the office and is there when our athletes come back from training and competition. You can usually find him sipping on his coffee that he shipped to China from back in Colorado, and he will never pass up a brownie, which is his favorite dessert. Crème brulee is a close second, yet unfortunately that hasn’t made it on the dining hall menu rotation just yet.

If you’ve been able to watch any of our athletes compete during the YOG, you’ve most likely seen our sports medicine staffer, Jenna, out there. Jenna’s days go something like this: rugby venue, taekwondo venue, judo, village for lunch, back out to rugby, over to swimming, sprint to athletics, back to the village for dinner and to assist with treatment, medical documentation, and then finally catch a car to her hotel. Needless to say, she’s been busy. I asked Jenna what her walkout song would be, so if Dierks Bentley’s “Up on the Ridge” comes on as she enters the boxing venue, you know that Jenna has arrived.

Dr. Kovan rounds out our medical squad and is Team USA’s Chief Medical Officer. If you don’t see Jenna at a venue, keep your eyes out for Dr. Kovan. Having been with Michigan State Athletics for 19 years, Dr. Kovan comes with China with an arsenal of experience working with elite athletes. I asked him to pick any sport that he would want to go professional in, and he told me golf. After explaining he would choose golf because it would allow him to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the world, he confessed to me that he would actually choose rugby. Team USA’s doctor is tough.

To make sure you all receive up to date and accurate news on our athletes, our Communications team works around the clock keeping everyone back in the U.S. updated with Team USA’s performance with the USA Daily. The dynamic duo of Brittany and Amanda can often be found plugging away writing stories, interviewing athletes and coordinating media opportunities here in China. Because these two travel so often, having just gone to Sochi earlier this year, I asked Brittany what one thing she cannot travel without, not including her laptop or cell phone. She told me her running shoes because that’s how she likes to see the places she travels to. Next it was Amanda’s turn and I asked her the age-old question of how she likes her eggs cooked. With a smile she answered sunny side up. While the eggs in the dining hall only come scrambled, you can find these two ladies running around the village and surrounding running trails brainstorming the next big story.

Rounding out our group here in Nanjing is Brandon, our digital media expert. When I’m not sending over blogs for Brandon to format, he’s managing the content on, writing stories about our athletes’ competitions, and interviewing athletes and staff to share their amazing stories with you all. I asked Brandon if he puts butter on his popcorn when he goes to movies, and he emphatically answered “yes, butter is one of my favorite foods.” I couldn’t agree with you more, Brandon — movie theater buttered popcorn rocks.

Last but not least, as you all may know by now, my name is Jess and I am the Young Ambassador for Team USA. My job here is to promote the Culture and Education Program and have our athletes participate in both on-site and off-site activities, cheer on our athletes as they compete, and be the unofficial high-five giver of the team. The group turned my inquiries around on me, and asked me what three items I would have with me if I was stranded on a desert island. So, if I ever end up stranded on an island (hopefully in the Caribbean), don’t be surprised if you found me with just Chap Stick, fruit roll-ups and a surfboard.

That makes up our team behind the team here in Nanjing, yet there are many others working from headquarters in Colorado Springs that I would be remiss to not mention at this point. Countless late night and early morning phone calls about flights, as well as the woman who is the main force behind Jess Nanjing tirelessly updating Facebook on Team USA’s accomplishments, their help is invaluable to us here in China, so thank you Nancy and Debbie!

Hope everyone back home is doing well, and hope you all enjoyed the sneak peek into our team behind the team!

Go Team USA!