Sept. 8, 2014

It’s been more than a week since the Closing Ceremony of the Youth Olympic Games, and the buzz of Nanjing is still in the air. During the final few days in the village athletes exchanged shirts and pins, the staff got our last Americanos from the McCafe, and everyone prepared for Closing Ceremony.

It’s hard to believe that not only three weeks prior all the Youth Olympians arrived in China wide-eyed and eager for competition. Now, it was nearly impossible to identify which athlete was from which country after all the apparel swapping, and new friendships had been born amongst Team USA and between countries.

Team USA achieved success at the Youth Olympics both on and off the field. Whether it was athletes coming by the office to show us their hard-earned medals, how our athletes supported each other at their competitions starting “U-S-A” chants that shook the windows, to our athletes participating in a total of 2,500 different Culture and Education Program activities, our athletes represented Team USA professionally at all times.

While a large part of my role at the Youth Olympics was to promote the Culture and Education Program that occurred throughout the Games, another part of my role was to encourage our athletes to make the most of their time in China; to support each other at events, make friends and learn about other cultures, and to expand their understanding of the power of sport. It was the best kind of predicament when we had more athletes interested in going to each other’s events than we had tickets. When we had upwards of 30 members of Team USA in the stands cheering on our male boxers in their gold-medal matches, the venue rocked with “U-S-A” chants. It was an absolute honor to be part of Team USA at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.

I hope our athletes look back on their time in Nanjing positively, having gained exposure and experience competing against some of the world’s most talented young athletes. I hope they have a better understanding of other cultures as well as their own, and have created friendships across the country and world.

It’s been a privilege to get to know all of Team USA’s athletes these past three weeks, and I look forward to following what will be bright careers in the future both on and off the field. So thank you, Team USA, for an unforgettable experience that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.

Stay in touch and all my best,

Jess