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USOC Announces Kristi Yamaguchi As Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award Winner; Tom Kelly Selected For Building Dreams Award, Presented By USG

By United States Olympic Committee | April 19, 2018, 3:01 p.m. (ET)

Kristi Yamaguchi poses for a photograph at the Sierra Club's 125th Anniversary Trail Blazer's Ball at Innovation Hangar on May 18, 2017 in San Francisco.


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The United States Olympic Committee today announced two honorees that will be recognized during the Team USA Awards presented by Dow, Best of the Games, including Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi as the third annual Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award recipient and Tom Kelly, vice president of communications at U.S. Ski & Snowboard, as the recipient of the Building Dreams Award, presented by USG. The awards ceremony – which will celebrate the awe-inspiring performances from the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 – will be held April 26 at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C.

More than 200 members of the 2018 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams are expected to attend the awards ceremony, which will be hosted by NBC’s Mike Tirico and televised as a 90-minute feature for the first time from 6-7:30 p.m. ET May 12 on NBCSN. In total, 10 awards will be presented, including Olympic and Paralympic female, male, teams and coaches of the Games.

The Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award recognizes an individual(s) who has served as a powerful force for good in society, inspiring others by contributing to a better world, uniting people or leading a cause. Established in collaboration with the Owens family on the 80th anniversary of Owens’ record-breaking performance at the 1936 Olympic Games, the award looks to celebrate his spirit and legacy, and to recognize their presence in others.

Yamaguchi embodies that legacy, both in her athletic achievements and dedication to giving back to the community. Since being crowned the women’s figure skating Olympic champion in 1992, she has continued to define excellence and inspire others through many philanthropic efforts. Yamaguchi’s personal motto inspired her to establish the Always Dream Foundation in 1996, which aims to support disadvantaged children in her native Bay Area. Later, she launched the Always Reading program, which focuses on the development of early childhood literacy skills by integrating e-tablets and digital & traditional books in the classroom. Currently in its seventh year, the program annually serves more than 2,000 students in nearly 80 classrooms and has expanded to Arizona, California and Hawaii.  

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In addition, Yamaguchi’s impact also extended to helping children fulfill their potential through fitness and recreation. Her Always Dream Play Park was designed to help disabled youth and their caregivers address common barriers to physical activity by offering play equipment to fit their needs. And in her ongoing efforts to inspire the next generation, she established the Always Striving scholarship, awarded annually to an individual or figure skating team that reflects the dedication, potential and character of an Olympic hopeful.

“I thank the USOC and the Owens family for this immense honor,” said Yamaguchi. “It is such a tribute to be included in the same breath as Jesse Owens, who inspired everyone with his strong commitment for positive change, equality and excellence.  He remains an inspirational force and I am honored to be included within that sphere.”


Tom Kelly poses for a portrait at the Team USA Media Summit ahead of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Sept. 26, 2017 in Park City, Utah.


In another nod to inspiring greatness, the Building Dreams Award honors an individual, group or community that has gone above and beyond in its support of Team USA. In a career that has spanned 32 years and nine Olympic Winter Games, Kelly has dedicated his life’s work to telling the incredible stories of Team USA athletes and highlighting the historic milestones that have made U.S. Ski & Snowboard a perennial power on the world’s biggest stage. In a pioneering move that reimagined media coverage at the Olympic Games, Kelly was the mastermind behind the USOC’s Managing Victory tour, which is designed to help Olympic medalists capitalize on their success and promote their sport in the immediate aftermath of their podium performance. Now a cornerstone of both summer and winter versions of the Games, Team USA celebrated the sixth installment of the official program at the PyeongChang Olympics, which also marked the final Games for Kelly in his current role with U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

Kelly’s unparalleled enthusiasm for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard community was on full display in PyeongChang, where he fulfilled a promise to dye his beard hot pink – the signature color of the U.S. women’s cross-country ski team – after Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall won Team USA’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in the sport.

“It’s an honor to play a role in telling the story of our Olympic athletes,” said Kelly. “But this award is really reflective of the thousands of individuals who are part of the Olympic Movement in America and give tirelessly to support the dreams of aspiring Olympic athletes.”

Both Yamaguchi and Kelly will be available for interviews on the red carpet and will make acceptance speeches during the awards show.

In addition to Dow, the presenting sponsor, the Team USA Awards are supported by DICK’S Sporting Goods and USG.