About 30 people filtered throughout the exhibit Saturday afternoon as the Olympic Committee gave locals and tourists a preview of what the final product will look like on Monday's opening. The exhibit will be open to the public at Royal Dane Mall until one week after this year's London games.
The committee is working to bring the exhibit to both St. John and St. Croix as well.
“We’re dedicating the exhibit to help educate Virgin Islanders and visitors to the Virgin Islands about the Olympic movement,” said Yuri Gaspar, exhibit organizer and committee member.
The exhibit came about when the committee realized Virgin Islanders know very little about their Olympians, Gaspar said. The exhibit gives community members an opportunity to come together to learn about the athletes representing them, he said.
The seven Olympians representing the territory are training all over the world, said Lyn Reid, committee vice president for St. Thomas. Some athletes travel to places such as Germany and Australia to participate in qualifying races.
This year, the territory is represented by four track and field participants, two sailors and one swimmer. The athletes are Cy Thompson and Mimi Roller for Laser Class Sailing; Branden Whitehurst, swimming the 100 meter freestyle; and Tabarie Henry, running the 400 meters, Laverne Jones-Ferrett and Allison Peter doing the 100 meter and 200 meter run, and Muhammed Halim taking part in the triple jump.
“The amount of talent we have in the Virgin Islands says a lot about our athletes and what we’ve done to nurture it,” said Gov. John deJongh Jr. at the exhibit.
Hans Lawaetz, president of the Olympic Committee , also applauded the athletes. Qualifying standards have become more difficult over the years because every sport is limited in the number of athletes it can accept. Having seven athletes from a small territory is a great achievement, he said.
“We have fantastic athletes who qualified with A times, and that’s an accomplishment in itself,” said Gaspar, noting that athletes with A-standard times had the best qualifying times within their sports.
Lawaetz was proud of other milestones the territory has accomplished in the past, such as bringing the first black skier and luger to the Olympics.
Future Olympian in training Katie Tannenbaum, a skeleton competitor, explained the difficult and rigorous training athletes must go through to be an Olympian. Although Tannenbaum’s sport calls for her to lay on her stomach on a sled, her training also includes sprinting and weight training. She praised the dedication of Olympians and shared her hope to join athletes in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Committee member Vernon Araujo recently traveled to Greece for the Olympic Academy, where young people from all over the world gather to learn about and participate in traditional Olympic games. He said the academy allows participants to learn about the Olympic movement and spread the word to try to get communities more involved.
The Virgin Islands Olympic committee represents 22 sports federations in the Virgin Islands. The 2012 Olympics in London represents 205 countries and more than 10,000 athletes.
Further information can be obtained by calling the Virgin Islands Olympic Committee at 1-340-719-8463.