BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — When high jumper Ty Butts was growing up, her favorite athlete was U.S. track and field star Jackie Joyner-Kersee, winner of six Olympic medals from 1984 to 1996.
Now, after competing in the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and entering 2020 as an Olympic hopeful herself, Butts was waiting in line alongside her husband, Paralympian Roderick Townsend, at the seventh annual Gold Meets Golden event at the Virginia Robinson Gardens and Estate in Beverly Hills, California, when she met none other than Joyner-Kersee.
“That was exciting,” Butts told TeamUSA.org from the red carpet. “This is something new to me. I’m just kind of riding along and going with the flow … excited to be here and meet new faces and being around all these great energies.”
Those kinds of encounters are what Gold Meets Golden is about. Traditionally there’s not a lot of interaction between the worlds of Hollywood and athletics – or in Butts’ case, legendary Olympians and hopefuls – though the groups have mutual admiration for each other.
When celebrities took to social media to send shout-outs to their favorite athletes during the Olympic Games London 2012, athletes were surprised. That’s where the idea for Gold Meets Golden started.
The annual event, launched in 2013 by celebrities, including Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Jon Bon Jovi and Stacy Keibler, brings together Hollywood entertainers, professional athletes and Olympians to generate awareness and support for sports-related causes.
This year’s event, held prior to Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards, celebrated youth and equality in sports. The afternoon benefitted Angel City Sports, an LA-based adaptive sports organization that provides access to equipment, coaching and training for aspiring young Paralympic hopefuls. The event also allowed Hollywood royalty to wish dozens of athletes luck for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“This is always one of my favorite events of the year for any award show,” said actor Matt Bomer. “I grew up watching the Olympics and being a huge fan of it and feeling it was so far away from me living in, you know, a small town in Texas, and now I get to come here and geek out and meet all my idols from over the years.”
During the event, Bomer called to the stage someone he said was one of his “all-time idols”: Olympic champion diver Greg Louganis.
“I want to introduce somebody who has a very special birthday coming up this year, somebody who has exemplified what it means to be an incredible athlete and also an incredible role model, both in the world of sports and off the sporting stage as well,” Bomer said, before leading the crowd in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Louganis, who will turn 60 at the end of January.
“For me (he) was an inspiration and out there leading and showing by example, how to live an incredible life and be open in the public eye.”
Bomer was joined by other entertainers, including actors Chris Evans, Jon Voight, Lou Ferigno, Naomi Watts, Ginnifer Goodwin, Rami Malek and Ben Platt, and model Sistine Stallone, at the event, hosted by none other than Academy Award- and Golden Globe-winning actress Kidman.
Kidman, who arrived to the event shortly after receiving word her house was at risk of burning down in Australia, said “I’m just so distracted right now with everything that’s happening in Australia” on the red carpet, before moving to the party.
The Gold Meets Golden stage featured an array of entertainment, from wheelchair dance group the Rollettes to Golden Globe nominee Cynthia Erivo performing John Lennon’s “Imagine” and “X-Factor’s” Emmanuel Kelly honoring the Paralympic community with a song.
Athletes were invited to join in a fashion show hosted by legendary Olympic swimmers Donna de Varona and John Naber, featuring clothes provided by Fashwire.
With the event’s focus on equality in sport, it was no surprise that many members of Team USA’s Paralympic community were present, including swimmer Mallory Weggemann, who hoped to meet Kidman, among other celebrities.
“Gold Meets Golden is such an incredible opportunity to bridge two great worlds,” Weggemann said. “I think it’s just such a fun way to bring the two worlds together, and having Angel City sports as the beneficiary of today is incredible because it’s bringing the next generation of athletes in and showing them what's possible and what they can aspire to be, especially here in LA. With the 2028 Games coming into the U.S. it's all very exciting.”
Hillary Jackson is a writer based in Los Angeles, who has covered the last four Olympic Games for various media outlets. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.