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Olympic-sized Send-Offs

By Paul D. Bowker | July 10, 2012, 5 p.m. (ET)

Ben Provisor is one of many athletes who will celebrate with friends and family before heading to London.

Big Ben will hear the music soon enough.


A 2012 U.S. Olympic Team member in Greco-Roman wrestling, Ben Provisor will head home to Wisconsin July 19 for a rockin' send-off that will include a musical tribute by a former Grass Roots singer/writer/keyboard player: his dad.


As the days wind down toward the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games, Olympic Team athletes nationwide are enjoying pre-Olympic celebrations, many of them fundraisers, and most of them in their hometowns. Among them: Chris Colwill, a diver, was honored with Chris Colwill Day in Brandon, Fla., near Tampa. Fellow diver Brittany Viola, the daughter of 1987 World Series MVP and former Minnesota pitcher Frank Viola, enjoyed a send-off party at Planet Hollywood in Orlando, Fla.


But of all the send-offs, few will be as unique as the one being planned for July 19 in Plover, a small town of about 12,000 located south of Stevens Point in central Wisconsin.


“The Big Ben Olympic Send-Off,” as the event is being billed for Provisor, will be held at Five Star Lanes in Plover. If you’re looking for bowling, volleyball, food and a place to purchase T-shirts, this will be the place. Dennis Provisor, Ben’s father, who is best known for his keyboard playing and singing with the Grass Roots from 1969 to 1980, has assembled his current band, The Hits, for the gig. Also singing with the band is Ben’s sister, Kayla.


“We’re very proud of him,” Dennis Provisor told TeamUSA.org. “We really didn’t have any idea that he would win the Trials. It’s been a long time coming.


“He had a real big day that day. He had a mission in mind.”


Once the Olympic spot was won, Ben’s mom went to work. Tammy Provisor lined up the send-off party in Plover, including the posters, T-shirts and restaurants.


The Olympic Spirit is alive across the country.


Missy Franklin, 17, a swimmer who qualified in seven events, actually had her send-off celebration at Regis Jesuit High School in Denver before she left for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, because school ended for the year before the Trials began.


Franklin’s surprise send-off celebration on the last day of school included an appearance by Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker.


“Missy is a great girl. I had to be here,” Decker told the crowd at the school’s traditional Senior Send-off, which turned into an Olympic send-off for Franklin, who was just finishing up her junior year at Regis Jesuit.


In addition to the many individual send-off celebrations, there have been a number of team send-off games and celebrations. The U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team defeated Canada 2-1 in its send-off game June 30 in front of more than 16,000 in Sandy, Utah. The U.S. Olympic Women’s Field Hockey Team tied Argentina, the world’s second-ranked team, in a send-off game June 23 in Virginia Beach, Va.


This past Saturday, a fundraiser send-off was held for the U.S. Olympic water polo teams in Los Angeles. A week before, hundreds turned out to meet the teams in a public event at The Shops at Mission Viejo.


Among the team send-off parties still to come, USA Volleyball is planning a celebration for its Olympic teams July 17 in Anaheim, Calif. Details are still in the works. The U.S. Sailing Team is holding a “Good Luck USA” send-off party for its Olympic and Paralympic teams Saturday in Larchmont, N.Y.


In Springfield, Mass., wrestler Elena Pirozhkova reunited with coach Anibal Nieves during a wrestling clinic and tournament at Springfield Technical Community College. Fundraising activities produced enough money so that Pirozhkova’s mother, Tatyana, and Elena’s brothers and sisters can travel to London to watch her compete in the women’s 63kg freestyle.


“They’re a motivational aspect of my life,” Pirozhkova, a native of Russia who moved to Greenfield, Mass., as a small child, told masslive.com.


Justin Lester, a Greco-Roman wrestler, was honored with “Justin Lester Day” in Akron, Ohio. More than $1,300 was raised for women’s freestyle wrestler Kelsey Campbell at a car wash fundraiser in Colorado Springs. Another wrestling send-off will happen July 21 in Albertville, Minn., when a fundraiser is held for Chas Betts.


Anna Li, an alternate for the U.S. gymnastics team, was honored by Aurora, Ill., city officials and school officials on Monday night. Both of her parents earned Olympic medals for China at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.


Claire Donahue, an Olympic nominee in swimming, returned to Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky., for a send-off party which included her Olympic-qualifying swim being replayed on two projection screens at the Indian Hills Country Club.


“Oh, my gosh, watching that gave me chills,” she told the Bowling Green Daily News.

Meanwhile, Hillsgrove, Pa., a town of about 300, is proud of Josh Richmond, the 2010 double trap shooting world champion who is considered to be a top contender for gold in London.

“My hometown is blowing up over me going to the Olympics,” Richmond told TeamUSA.org. “There are road signs up and the high school shooting team is making T-shirts. They’re going crazy now. They’re even trying to rename the highway after me.”

Richmond, who trains at Fort Benning, Ga., as part of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, said he could not make it to Hillsgrove before he heads to London, but definitely has plans to be there afterward.

"Hopefully," he said, "I'll be there with a gold medal."

Even more Olympic send-offs have been celebrated on social media. Among them: Diver Nick McCrory, who posted a photograph of an exquisite cake made in his honor featuring the Olympic rings, a gold medal, and a diving board positioned over a pool.

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Paul D. Bowker is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.

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