We, the athletes of Team USA, hereby declare our support for the 2016 U.S. Youth Olympic Team - a team that is 62 strong in person, with millions more supporting from home. We eagerly await watching our peers and future Olympians compete in Lillehammer, Norway, Feb. 12-21, and are thrilled to show our support with the letters below.
Tim Burke (biathlon; three-time Olympian)
Dear Youth Olympians,
Congratulations on making it to the Winter Youth Olympic Games! Just qualifying for this team is a huge accomplishment and is something that you can be very proud of. Now all of the hard work is done and it's time to enjoy everything the Games have to offer.
I remember my first Olympics in Torino, Italy like it was yesterday. The feeling of representing the United States, with USA on your uniform and the Olympic rings in the background, is truly unlike anything else. The memories you create over the next 10 days are something that you will look back on for the rest of your lives. Of course you are there to do your best in competition, but make sure you enjoy the entire Olympic experience. Get out to cheer on the rest of Team USA, take the time to make new friends and soak in the magical moments of the opening and closing ceremonies. These are the memories that you will truly cherish.
One piece of advice that I would offer for your competitions is to continue to focus on the things that helped get you to the Games. Now is not the time to try new things or overreach during competition. Remember, the same routines that helped you do well at local to national events, are the routines that will lead you to personal bests in Lillehammer!
Good luck and enjoy the ride!
All the best,
Emily Cook (freestyle skiing; three-time Olympian)
Dear Youth Olympians,
Congratulations! The time has finally come to unite with competitors from around the world and celebrate the immense accomplishments, hard work and inevitable perseverance it has taken to get to this day. You did it!
While you are in Norway (how beautiful is Norway by the way!!!), be sure to take in each moment of this amazing journey. Looking back at my Olympic experiences, the most valuable thing I have taken away is a deep love and respect for the diverse and wonderful people with whom I had the privilege of sharing this adventure. Some of my most valued relationships were made on the hill and for that I am incredibly thankful. Make new friends! These are the people you will have in your life forever.
Walking into the first Opening Ceremony of my career with the team who had supported me through injury, success and larger hurdles than I thought was possible was truly one of the highlights of my life so far. Walking into Closing Ceremony, with the world united and all of the friends we had made throughout the years was equally rewarding. This moment it yours, take it all in.
While competing in Norway, be sure to be you! The fact that you are representing Team USA means that you have already accomplished so much! Don’t change; keep your training and competition plans consistent. Breathe deep.
When you walk away from this event, be proud of your accomplishments and especially learn from each experience. Keep dreaming big and pursuing your goals with passion.
Today you represent Team USA. Congratulations!
Meryl Davis (figure skating; 2014 gold medalist in ice dance and bronze medalist in team event, 2010 silver medalist in ice dance)
Welcome to Lillehammer and to the second Winter Youth Olympic Games! I hope you're all excited and proud of the work you've done to get here. As athletes, I'm sure many of you have previously represented our country at international events. Still, the word "Olympic" holds so much meaning for us all and can seem intimidating. There's no need.
I remember when my partner, Charlie, and I arrived in Vancouver for the 2010 Games as first-timers, the reality of the event surprising me. I had anticipated the ceiling in the arena being higher than the eye could see, the roar of the crowd being deafening and the pressure being unfathomable. When we arrived, however, I found that it was a beautiful ice rink to be sure, but one like the hundreds we had competed in before. The seats were filled, the crowd excited, but like the countless times we'd practiced our routines at home, we began when the music did without a problem. When it came time to perform, I realized that the unfathomable pressure I had anticipated facing was based on an idea that this would be different. This time, I had thought, it was the "Olympic Games."
You've all trained countless hours for this. Your bodies and minds are ready. Your plan is set. Like Charlie and myself, your goal here is not to do something different or something new, but to do what you already do in practice each and every day. As Arnold Palmer said, the more you practice the "luckier" you get. Have courage, enjoy these moments and do not be intimidated because you have "luck" on your side. You are ready. Thank you for representing Team USA!
Alex Deibold (snowboarding; 2014 bronze medalist)
Dear Youth Olympians,
Congrats on making it to an amazing and life-changing event. I’m sure you’re all stoked beyond belief to be in Lillehammer representing the Stars and Stripes!
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything going on, between getting focused and prepped for your event as well as trying to make it out to support your teammates. FOMO is the real deal at an event like this. Don’t forget to stop and take a deep breath every once in a while. Regardless of your performance, this will surely be something you remember fondly for years to come. Not only is it an honor to represent your country, but the relationships you form with fellow athletes, Team USA or otherwise, will be ones than can last a lifetime.
Long after the medals have been handed out and the curtain falls on the Closing Ceremony, the experiences you have and the people you meet will leave a lifelong impression.
Good luck and have fun!
Meghan Duggan (ice hockey; 2010 silver medalist and 2014 silver medalist)
Dear Youth Olympians,
In preparation for the Youth Olympics and the amazing journey you are about to experience during those 10 days, I would love to share with you one of my favorite quotes I often read over and share with others before big events.
“You are about to embark upon the great crusade towards which you have striven these many months and years. The eyes of the world are upon you. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. Go out there and take what is yours. Whatever it takes.”
My advice to you is — Enjoy every single moment, every single one. Push yourself. Push others. Be proud. Be a good teammate. Lift others up. Take interest in other sports and cultures. Show class. Represent your country with honor. And take a deep breath when you need to, remember how amazing you are at your sport and how many times before you’ve done exactly what you’re about to do. You’re all going to be GREAT!
Good luck out there!
Jamie Greubel Poser (bobsled; 2014 bronze medalist)
Dear Youth Olympic Team,
The moment you have been dreaming about is finally here!! Can you believe it?!! You are representing Team USA in the Youth Olympic Games! All of your hard work, dedication and love for your sport has gotten you to this amazing moment in your life.
Embrace it, and be confident in your preparation. The best advice that one of my coaches gave to me at the Sochi Olympics was that I didn’t need to do anything different or out of the ordinary just because it was the Olympics. When you try to do things differently, that is when you make mistakes. If you stick to your routine and do everything that you did all season to have success, you will be successful at the Olympics as well. Even though it was my first Olympics, I was able to go into the race confident in my preparation and calm as I approached the line, because I knew it was still bobsled and I knew I was prepared.
Just be yourselves and do what you have done all season and you will be great!
Meeting other athletes from Team USA as well as from other countries is a very special part of competing at the Olympics. When I watched other Team USA athletes compete I was very inspired and got really excited for my own event.
There will be a lot going on, so have fun, but also leave some time for yourself to get focused on your performance, and just relax. Whether it is watching a movie with your roommate, reading a book, or listening to music, have a plan to help you wind down; it can all be a little overwhelming. This helped me a lot to calm my nerves.
Have an amazing time, you have earned it!! We will be cheering for you!! Go USA!!
Jamie Greubel Poser
Erin Hamlin (luge; three-time Olympian, 2014 bronze medalist)
Dear Youth Olympians!
Congratulations on achieving the very coveted position of representing Team USA! It is definitely the greatest job in the world and a title that nobody can ever take away from you.
I competed in my first Olympic Games when I was only a few years older than many of you, and with it came some of the most memorable moments of my career as well as one of the best learning experiences of my life! I never had the opportunity to compete in a Youth Olympic Games, and being able to put your skills to the test on the world’s stage at a young age is such a bonus in the development of your careers.
So, a few words of wisdom: Stay focused and remember what you are there for, but allow yourself to truly embrace the experience. Meet fellow athletes, learn about and watch different sports, but mostly live in and enjoy the moment (which might require looking up from a phone or iPad…you won’t regret it, I promise)!
Race, perform, and compete at your very best. No matter what the result, learn from every moment, good and bad. Celebrate the victories and find at least one positive in any less-than-ideal result. Cheer so loud for your Team USA teammates you almost (or do…) lose your voice. Being a part of the excitement is so much fun and their success can be incredibly inspiring!
You all have amazingly bright athletic futures ahead, so let this moment be the catapult that helps you hit the ground running!
Best of luck, and wear that red, white and blue proudly!
Sarah Hendrickson (ski jumping; 2014 Olympian)
Youth Olympic Team,
It's like nothing in the entire world. You walk into the stadium and a wave of relief washes over you. You look to each side and see your close teammates and the new ones you have only seen on TV. You have a moment to think of all the athletes that surround you on this memorial night of Opening Ceremony.
No one got here from money. No one got here by taking shortcuts. Everyone around you sacrificed time, sweat, tears, hardship, education and their bodies to reach the highest level. You all have this inner connection, regardless of where you're from, that you worked day-in and day-out for countless years to take those steps through the stadium.
Team USA uniforms on, walking with what will become good friends from across your country to stand tall and believe in yourself and be proud of what you have worked for to represent your nation. Be proud of what you accomplished but never settle that inner fire that got you to the Games, let it light your passion for the next step, whatever it may be. I still remember that feeling of pride, it lives in me every day so I can get back to that stadium again and beyond, the podium.
Steven Holcomb (bobsled; three-time Olympian, 2010 gold medalist in four-man, 2014 bronze medalist in two-man and 2014 bronze medalist in four-man)
Congratulations and welcome to the brother and sisterhood of athletes who represent the United States of America on the biggest stage in the world. You have been bestowed an honor that hundreds of thousands of youth athletes have fought hard and sacrificed for. Not only are you representing yourself and your country, but those athletes that didn’t make it as well; wear those colors and those rings proudly, you’ve earned it.
This is it, all eyes are on you, we are all watching and we are all cheering! You are going to have an amazing time, an experience of a lifetime. I’m so excited for each one of you. Just remember, in all this hype, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses – this isn’t something you want to miss.
As the competition approaches, and the pressure builds, which it’s going to, keep one thing in mind: You are the best athlete for the job, that’s why you are there. We have chosen YOU to represent our great country, on this grand stage, because YOU have what it takes. Just relax and do what you do best, we trust you, we believe in you. Now get out there and do it!
Steve Langton (bobsled; two-time Olympian, 2014 bronze medalist in two-man and 2014 bronze medalist in four-man)
First, I'd like to congratulate you on qualifying for the second Winter Youth Olympic Games! You will be representing the greatest nation in the world and competing against the very best competition our planet has to offer. That in itself is an incredible accomplishment and one that you should be quite proud of.
Looking back at my first Olympic Games in Vancouver, I didn't fully grasp the magnitude of what I was a part of until the Games were over and dust had settled. My very best advice to you is to fully embrace it and enjoy every single second of your experience. The Games will be over in what will seem like the blink of an eye but your experiences and the friendships you make will stay with you forever.
Very best of luck and Go USA!
Devin Logan (freestyle skiing; 2014 silver medalist in slopestyle)
Congratulations! You’re competing in the Youth Olympic Games! First, the Youth Olympic Games, then the Olympics…you never know! It is so important to always have fun and enjoy yourself and if you get discouraged, never, never give up.
It is a huge honor to represent your country and I know you’ll make us all proud. Be sure to take lots of pictures, laugh with your friends and no matter how you perform keep your head held high.
It is a truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to compete at this level and I know how much hard work and dedication it has taken to get to get to where you are now. The hard work won’t stop after your time at the Youth Olympic Games, but no matter what you do, always keep up that work ethic and remember that you can do anything you put your mind to!
Elana Meyers Taylor (bobsled; 2010 bronze medalist and 2014 silver medalist)
Congratulations on making the 2016 Youth Olympic Team!
Every day I am honored to represent our country in the sport I love, bobsled, and now you have the opportunity to do the same. You are now representing the USA, something very few people get to do, so welcome to the team! You have accomplished so much by even making the team, let alone competing and hopefully coming home with some hardware – you should be very proud. You are going to get to experience something very few people will – make make sure to stay humble and enjoy the entire process.
For me, although walking in the Opening Ceremony was a dream come true, it was really competing that was the most exciting part. It was the moment I had always dreamed of, and you couldn't wipe the smile off my face if you tried! For me, I looked out and saw the fans screaming and cheering for me and thought to myself, "Wow, this is really cool!" I used the energy from the crowd to help me have one of the best performances of my life – and you can do that. When you get on the line to start your competition, just revel in the excitement of the atmosphere. When else do you have the opportunity to show the world what you’re capable of? It's definitely not pressure – it’s exciting!!! And if you're nervous, it's just that excitement pouring out of you, so use it to your advantage and enjoy the experience!
Best of luck and know that you have already made your country proud! Have fun!
GO TEAM USA!
Elana Meyers Taylor
Steven Nyman (alpine skiing; three-time Olympian)
To the U.S. Youth Olympic Team,
Congratulations! You have been chosen to represent the United States of America! This is a big accomplishment and you should be proud. This means you have the skills to compete with the best in the world and now is your opportunity. Take it all in, walk in the ceremonies, go to other events and cheer on your teammates; enjoy the moment because it is brief but it is inspiring. Become inspired, find the desire within you to display your best performance.
When it is your time to compete, do what you do, don’t change a thing and trust yourself. You know what you are doing, believe in your talents and let them shine and see what is possible. Remember, you are a representative of the USA. I will be watching and can’t wait to cheer you on!
Go for gold! Go USA!
Kikkan Randall (cross-country skiing; four-time Olympian)
Dear U.S. Youth Olympians,
Congratulations on representing Team USA at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer! I still remember the rush of adrenaline I felt walking into my first Opening Ceremony in Salt Lake City as the home team in 2002. My heart felt like it was beating out of my chest when I started my first Olympic race. This is sure to be an incredible experience for you!
You are about to play an integral role in the Olympic Movement, inspiring people around the world to achieve their best efforts and come together in peace and friendly competition. There is an electric energy in the air that one can only experience firsthand at the Games. Take a moment to absorb that energy and share your enthusiasm and passion for sport with those around you.
When it comes time for the competitions, you might feel the butterflies buzzing around in your stomach. Just remember that you’ve worked hard to get to this point and be confident in your ability to lay down your best effort. Tell those butterflies to get in formation and have fun out there!
We will be anxiously watching and cheering you on from back home in the USA. Wishing you all the best!
Jessica Schultz (curling; two-time Olympian)
Congratulations, fellow Team USA member!
Take a deep breath. You did it, you are here. This will be an experience that will last a lifetime. Wearing red, white and blue while competing at the highest level in your sport is a tremendous honor. Think about it. You are representing your country, your friends and most importantly your family. How cool is that?! You will do a great job; you have already done a great job.
This is your passion, your dream come true. How does it feel? Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Be mindful of every moment. During the Opening Ceremony, look around you. Take in the people: the other countries, the fans and your teammates from all over the country. Take a deep breath, this is your moment. Get comfortable in the village, make new friends, try all the food. Be thankful to the staff and volunteers, they helped make this possible. Go sightseeing, go to other events and support our fellow Team USA members. Have some fun.
Now, it’s time to play. Those butterflies can be hard to manage. This is a normal feeling; we all have them. Try not to squash them – accept them and channel that energy to empower you. Focus on your playing field and the aspects of the sport you can control. You have played your sport hundreds, thousands of times. Trust your preparations and let your body go through the motion. That’s what got you here. The most important thing to remember while you are out there is to have fun... because winning is definitely fun.
Wishing you the best on your journey. These are the moments you will never forget.
Kick some butt out there.
Go Team USA,
Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (figure skating; 2014 Olympians)
Dear Youth Olympians,
Congratulations! What an exciting and incredible honor for you to be a part of the team heading to Lillehammer, a place with an incredible Olympic history.
For many years, we know that you have been training hard in order to have the opportunity to represent your country. By now, you are all seasoned competitors. As you know, nerves are natural. Having those feelings of anticipation are a good thing! It means that you care about what you're doing. Trust your training – the work you've done to get to this point will continue to serve you well.
Now, take a moment to reflect on your journey thus far. Your path may have had its challenges, but you have overcome those moments to be in your current unique position. Be grateful and proud of yourself for how far you've come.
Competing at this event is a fulfillment of a dream – it is a career milestone. Be thankful for all of the people that believed in and supported you. Surrounding yourself with good feelings will enable you to be confident when it comes time to compete and you will naturally enjoy and appreciate your experience even more.
While you're at the Games, live in the moment. We experienced firsthand in Sochi that the Olympic Movement has the power to bring the world together through sports. Seize the opportunity to meet Team USA athletes from different sports, as well as athletes from all over the world. You will find that while you may come from different backgrounds, the amount of dedication it takes to be an elite athlete is something you all have in common.
Of course focus on your competitive events, but realize that being a part of the Youth Olympics can open up your view of the world. Be brave and embrace the entire experience as it has the power to inspire you for the rest of your life.
Finally, remember that you are now in a special position of responsibility. You are now a role model who can inspire future generations. As members of Team USA, we know you will do your utmost to represent yourself, your event and your country with good sportsmanship. Commit to upholding the high standards embodied by the ideals of the Olympic Movement. In doing so, you will encourage the building of a peaceful and better world through friendship and solidarity.
We’re looking forward to cheering you on. Good luck!
Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani