Sharon Evers (right) attends the torch lighting ceremony at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation's VIP Weekend at the Olympic Training Center.
A thousand Olympic pins. Over 200 books on the history of the Olympic Games. A collection of autographs from Team USA’s best and brightest dating back to the 1990s.
Sharon Evers’ collection would no doubt impress even the most seasoned fan of the Olympic Games.
Evers first discovered her passion for the Games back in 1956, when she was the sports editor at her high school newspaper. She wrote an article about the Olympic Movement, detailing what the rings stand for and quoting “the Baron,” Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games.
Four years later, when the Games were first televised, she watched them with her mother. Since 1960, Evers hasn’t missed a single Games.
By 1995, a year before the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, she was a widow with two grown children living in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she worked at a church nursery school as a physical education teacher.
“When we settled in Knoxville and I found out the Olympics were going to be in Atlanta … I said, ‘I’m going to those Games.’ That was my first opportunity to go,” Evers says.
She had purchased her tickets for the Atlanta Games before she learned of a local radio contest for the chance to carry the Olympic Torch. She tried not to get her hopes up, but she could barely contain her excitement at the thought of winning.
Her supervisor at the nursery school was determined to help her live out her lifelong dream. Unbeknownst to Evers, she dropped flyers in each of the children’s school mailboxes, telling them to nominate their teacher.
One day in March, as Evers prepared for class, her boss told her to tune in to the radio. She didn’t think much of it.
“And then I heard my boss say, ‘Miss Sharon, you got it.’ And I started crying,” Evers says. “And all the little ones said, ‘What’s wrong, what’s wrong?’ And I said, ‘No, it’s good!’”
On July 2, 1996, Evers carried the Olympic Torch en route to Atlanta. She passed the Torch to an Olympic bronze medalist, one of the first Olympians she’d ever met.
It was around this time that Evers began supporting Team USA financially by giving to the Team USA Fund, in addition to maintaining her devout fandom. She traveled to Team USA’s training centers in Lake Placid and Colorado Springs, which, to her, “felt like home.”
In 2015, she attended a meeting of the Olympin Collectors Club, an international club for pin traders, in Lake Placid. Over 500 members from around the world converged on the site of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games to appraise collections and conduct trades.
Evers was in heaven.
“They actually lit the big torch that was lit for the Games in Lake Placid,” Evers says. “We were in a van with some other people and I was talking Olympics, and my son goes, ‘You have met your tribe.’”
During each Olympic Games, Evers flies the Olympic and American flags on her front porch. She also hangs homemade medals for each Team USA achievement at the Games, including a whopping 121 medals to mark Team USA’s historic success in Rio last year.
But it’s not all about the medals for Evers, whose love of the Olympic Games began with deep admiration for the values embodied by Pierre de Coubertin. To her, the Olympic Games represent a broader, more powerful movement for positive change.
“I think if you care about the Olympics, you care about a lot of things,” Evers says. “It’s not just about sports. I care about peace. It gives me a purpose.”