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Q&A With Team USA Chef De Mission Charlie Paddock

By Amanda Manci | Aug. 26, 2014, 9:58 a.m. (ET)

Swimmers Hannah Moore, Clara Smiddy and taekwondo athlete Kendall Yount pose with chef de mission Charlie Paddock during the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games on Aug. 26, 2014 in Nanjing, China. 

As a coordinator in Paralympic high performance for the U.S. Olympic Committee, Charlie Paddock helps oversee emerging sports and talent identification for U.S. Paralympic athletes. Paddock previously served as Team USA’s Young Ambassador at the Innsbruck 2012 Youth Olympic Winter Games, in which he was responsible for encouraging American athletes to participate in the Culture and Education Program and helping support USOC chef de mission Todd Allison. In his second trip to the Youth Olympic Games, Paddock is serving as chef de mission for the 2014 U.S. Youth Olympic Team. He sat down with Team USA.org to talk about Team USA’s experience in Nanjing.  

Describe your role at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games. How is it different from Innsbruck as a Young Ambassador?

My role as chef de mission is to oversee all of the planning and execution on the ground as well as all the logistics for Team USA. Where it’s different from Innsbruck is that my focus isn’t as much on the Culture and Education Program activities, but more on ensuring that we provide a safe, competitive and culturally-relevant environment for all of our young athletes.

This is your first time serving as chef de mission for Team USA. How has your experience been thus far?

My experience has been absolutely wonderful as chef de mission for the first time. I think I’m very lucky to have a wonderful support staff, and it makes my job easy. In terms of the organizing committee, they have provided an incredible experience here. I think this is the first time where we’ve seen it at this level at a Youth Olympic Games, and it’s elevated the experience for all of our athletes here.

With the conclusion of the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in sight, what have you most enjoyed about your role as chef de mission?

What I’ve enjoyed most about my role is the opportunity to meet all of our young athletes. There are a lot of unique and diverse personalities within our team. Getting to know them as individuals and then watching them compete and watching them grow through the Culture and Education Program activities and meet other people from across the world has been truly special.

What do you think about the new Olympic disciplines and what has been the key to Team USA’s success in the new events, such as the debut of 3-on-3 basketball, rugby and women’s boxing?

I think all three disciplines are unique and different. Each provides youth and vitality to the Youth Olympic Movement. The 3-on-3 basketball is a new format, which makes it more relevant and accessible for countries. For Team USA, it’s a great thing because it’s what kids do in the park every day across our country. When it comes to rugby, I think it’s also a great opportunity to bring a sport like rugby to America because the sevens format is fun, exciting and fast-paced and it’s a little different than 15s, which hasn’t caught on in America as much it has in other countries around the world. As far as women’s boxing, it’s great to see gender equality, and both of our women’s boxers performed extremely well, so it’ been exciting to see them do so well in its debut.

How have U.S. athletes responded to the athlete village and the venues?

The athlete village is beautiful. All of the venues that I have been to are equally as beautiful and high-quality. I think that the venues wonderful for our athletes, but I also think it’s great for the city of Nanjing. They are beautiful facilities and there will definitely be a legacy from these Games.

We’ve already witnessed some great moments here in Nanjing.  What have been some of your favorite “game-changing” moments?

I think one of the big moments was when our young track athletes met with Olympic long jump champion Dwight Phillips, who offered our athletes some great advice on how to compete and represent their country on this stage. Then, watching Noah Lyles going out afterward that same day and dominating the field in men’s 200-meter race, where he won the gold medal, was great to see. You could tell he was paying attention during the talk, listening, and he asked Dwight how he prepares before a race. You could see when he was getting ready for his race, he was applying Dwight’s advice. Then, to watch him put in a great performance was incredible. As far as other sports, Hannah Moore won two gold medals in swimming. But it was more than that – it was being able to watch all of our other teams and athletes wanting to get out and support her. I think seeing the camaraderie within Team USA has probably been the biggest game-changer for us.

What has been the biggest surprise about the Nanjing Games, thus far?

I think the biggest surprise is seeing all of the venues, the village, and the level of service that the organizing committee has been able to provide. It’s been incredible and is at a much higher level of service than what I was anticipating for a Youth Olympic Games.

How has the Culture and Education Program enhanced the Youth Olympic Games experience for athletes? What do you think their biggest takeaway will be from the program?

The Culture and Education Program is critical to the Youth Olympic Movement. While our athletes are here competing and doing their best, it’s a great opportunity for countries across the world to interact with each other and make new friends. We live in a digital world where it’s possible for these athletes to stay in in touch for years to come, and this provides a platform for athletes to interact with one another while immersing themselves in different cultures and learning something new about a country they may never have heard of or experienced otherwise.

Can you talk about the volunteers and the positive impact they’ve had on our delegation as a whole? 

With a smaller support staff on the National Olympic Committee end, it is imperative that we have great volunteers. Our volunteers have been wonderful – not only the volunteers who are dedicated to us every day, but also the volunteers around the village. They never hesitate to help, and when you need something they are always there to assist. They have been absolutely critical to Team USA’s success.

With the Youth Olympic stage comes a great sense of both national pride and camaraderie. How do you think American athletes have represented their country?

I am extremely proud of the way our delegation has represented our country. I think the camaraderie between athletes has been exactly what I would have expected. There are athletes who came from all over the country on day one and now they are all great friends. I would expect nothing less. They are a great group of athletes, and I’m proud to be standing by them in Nanjing.