NMU’s USOEC converts to U.S. Olympic training site

MARQUETTE – The United States Olympic Education Center is no more, however, Olympic hopefuls aren’t leaving Marquette anytime soon.

Northern Michigan University and the U.S. Olympic Committee announced Friday an agreement to keep the NMU campus as an Olympic training site for men’s Greco-Roman wrestling and men’s and women’s weightlifting, but will leave the USOEC name behind.

“We are pleased to continue playing an important role in the development and education of elite athletes training for the Olympics,” NMU interim president David Haynes said in a press release issued Friday. “While the training site has changed over the years, the goal to provide high quality educational opportunities to world-class athletes has not.”

The contract renewal and name change from USOEC to Northern Michigan University Olympic Training Site comes as the USOC reorganizes into separate Olympic training sites for individual sports, rather than all-encompassing training centers.

Once one of four U.S. Olympic training centers, the NMU Olympic Training Site, which currently houses 43 Greco-Roman wrestlers and 26 weightlifters, becomes one of 16 U.S. Olympic training sites across the country.

“NMU has a long history of supporting the U.S. Olympic movement and we’re happy to have the university continue to play a role in developing American wrestlers and weightlifters for national and international competition,” said Alicia McConnell, USOC Director of Training Sites and Community Partnerships, in a statement. “Marquette and the university community have been very supportive of the Olympic sports programs and athletes who have trained at Northern over the decades.

“Additionally, NMU continues to offer an outstanding educational opportunity for young athletes who want to earn a university degree while training at the elite level.”

Northern’s rolling contract with the USOC and national governing bodies for wrestling and weightlifting are renewed and reviewed on a yearly basis, according to NMU Director of Communications Cindy Paavola. For most Olympic training sites, that process takes place in the fall, Paavola said.

Northern’s contract with the USOC that was announced Friday must be renewed prior to Oct. 28. Paavola said the university doesn’t anticipate that being a problem.

“The USOC and NMU have been working on a continuation agreement as the details of transitioning from an Olympic Education Center to an Olympic Training Site were being worked out, as well as contracts with USA Wrestling and USA Weightlifting were reworked to reflect changes at the NMU site,” Paavola said.

Since opening in 1985, the NMU training site played host to 29 sports with resident-athlete programs for short-track speedskating, boxing, women’s freestyle wrestling, weightlifting and Greco-Roman wrestling.

Under the title of USOEC, NMU hosted numerous Junior Olympic boxing championships, plus the Berry Events Center was home to a short-track speedskating World Cup stop in 2003 and the 2006 short-track speedskating Olympic trials.

Since opening in 1985, 66 athletes with ties to the NMU training site have competed in the Olympic games and another 24 have medaled.

Today, weightlifting and Greco-Roman wrestling are all that remain at the NMU Olympic Training Site, with athletes training inside the Superior Dome, attending NMU and living inside the university’s Meyland Hall.

Paavola said NMU is not actively seeking out other programs at this time to train on campus.

“The United States Olympic Committee is now focused on having Olympic Training Sites, not Olympic Training Centers, and by definition sites usually focus on just one sport,” Paavola said. “If the USOC or one of the national governing bodies came to NMU with a proposal in the future, we would consider it.”