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Local news — St. Thomas
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VIOC Prepares for London Games

With the London Olympic Games drawing near, the Virgin Islands Olympic Committee is scrambling to finalize its delegation, and thanks to a contest by Choice Wireless, two regular Virgin Islanders will be joining them as fans.

The Virgin Islands Olympic Team is a special source of pride for the islands. The territory has been competing independently from the mainland U.S. since the 1968 games, and has sent over 200 athletes to compete.

Hans Lawaetz, President of the VIOC, says the territory is allowed to compete separately due to a rule instituted to include colonies of the British Empire during the early part of the 20th century.

“If you're not full citizens of your country, then you’re permitted to have a separate Olympic Committee,” he added. “The fact that we can’t vote for the president of the United States puts us in a separate category.”

Currently, the VIOC has six athletes qualified for the games. They are Cy Thompson (Laser Class Sailing), Branden Whitehurst (Swimming 200m), Muhammad Halim (Triple Jump), Allison Peters (200m), Laverne Jones-Ferrette (100m), and Tabarie Henry, who is currently ranked fourth in the world in 400 meter. There are several other athletes within reach of qualifying, says Lawaetz, who also thinks Jones-Ferrette and Henry have the best chance of winning a medal at the London games.

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The territory has only medaled once previously: a silver in yachting won by Peter Homberg. Still, Lawaetz argues that, given that there are only 120,000 people in the VI, that medal is quite an accomplishment.

“In 1988 we won our first medal in sailing,” he says. “At that time we were ranked number one in the world for medals per capita.”

Lawaetz also believes that growing up in the territory offers our young athletes a special opportunity. Even if they never make it to the Olympics, it is comparatively easy to make our national team and compete in tournaments around the world.

One of the VIOC’s main missions is to secure funds to help Virgin Islander athletes travel to tournaments in pursuit of their Olympic dreams. They receive funding from several sources, including the Virgin Islands government, the International Olympic Committee, and the Pan American Sports Organization.

Lawaetz says that the VIOC has not traditionally received a great deal of support from private entities, but recently Choice Wireless has stepped in as a local corporate sponsor.

“As an Olympic sponsor, we wanted to create excitement for the games to assist the Virgin Islands Olympic Committee (VIOC) to raise funds for athlete training and travel to the games” said Tony Shepherd, CEO and General Manager of Choice Wireless.

The company is selling 2012 Olympic t-shirts at all of its locations in the territory and donating 50% of all activation fees through August to the VIOC.

Choice is also holding a drawing for two trips to the London games, including airfare, accommodations, and tickets to Olympic events. The contest is free to enter and open to residents of the Virgin Islands. You can enter your name at Choice Wireless stores or online at choice-wireless.com.

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