Loren Scharver said she’s not the kind of person who usually wins things.
When she found out about the Team USA Countdown to the Olympic Games contest on social media, however, she thought it seemed cool and figured it couldn’t hurt to try to win some Team USA merchandise.
“I never expected to win the whole thing,” said the 20-year-old from Richmond, Virginia.
That’s exactly what happened. Scharver won the grand prize of two tickets for her and a guest to attend the Team USA Awards presented by Dow, Best of the Games in Washington, D.C., with lodging and travel covered.
The show, which was held at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts on April 26 and hosted by NBC sportscaster Mike Tirico, was recorded and will be shown as a 90-minute televised feature for the first time ever at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 12, on NBCSN.
Scharver said she’s always been a fan of the Olympic Games. Growing up, she remembers her parents watched whenever the Games were on, and now she does the same. She watched the PyeongChang Games in February, particularly the figure skating and snowboarding competitions. Chloe Kim and Shaun White are among her favorite Olympic athletes, along with swimmer Michael Phelps.
She happened to be home sick from her job as an accounting assistant at a heating and air conditioning company when she saw a call from a number she didn’t recognize. The person on the other end said he was from Team USA, and that she’d won the grand prize to travel to the nation’s capital.
“At first I was like, ‘Are you serious?’” she said. “I thought someone was messing with me, but the more he explained I realized I’d actually won. I’ve never won anything like this.”
She decided to take her boyfriend, who’s also a big fan of the Olympics.
Loren Scharver (R) and her boyfriend meet Olympic gold medalist curler Matt Hamilton.
Scharver called the experience of attending the awards and the after-party “surreal.”
“The venue was beautiful,” she said. “It was at this performing arts high school and I couldn’t believe it was actually a school it was so pretty. We missed the red carpet because we got stuck in traffic, unfortunately, but we got there for the awards. Our seats were very good, we could see really well, and everything was put together so nicely. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never been to anything like that before.”
Scharver didn’t have just one favorite part of the ceremony, but enjoyed all the stories the presenters told about the athletes and the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games as well as video clips from the Games. And although Best of the Games winners Kim and White couldn’t make it in person, she enjoyed their prerecorded messages.
After the ceremony, they went to the after-party and were able to meet and mingle with some of the athletes.
“All those amazing athletes were there, and everyone was so nice,” she said. “Everyone was happy to talk to us, and they were fine with taking pictures and signing autographs. They even had a curling rink and I got to curl with Matt Hamilton, which was so cool.”
Hamilton was easy to talk to, she said, and offered a few curling tips as well as stories about the Games. Scharver also got to take a photo with one celebrity she never expected to meet — Mr. T. He became a vocal supporter of both the Olympics and Paralympics, and curling in particular, during the Games, tweeting often with the hashtag #curlingiscoolfool.
“I didn’t know he was going to be there,” she said.
After they returned home, Scharver said her friends and family were all dumbfounded that she got to experience everything she did.
“I just want to thank Team USA so much for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “I’m so glad I got to go.”