V.I. Olympians Gearing Up for August in Rio

A full week of events has helped the V.I. Olympic Committee as it continues to raise funds to send seven local athletes to this summer’s games in Brazil, including a ceremony to unveil the contingent’s new uniforms and on Sunday, a golf tournament at Mahogany Run on St. Thomas.

Representing Team Virgin Islands at this year’s game will be: swimmers Caylee Watson and Rex Tullius, amateur boxer Clayton Laurent Jr., sailor Cy Thompson, and runners Muhammad Halim, Eddie Lovett and Laverne Jones-Farette.

Olympic Committee marketing director Brigitte Berry on Friday said the athletes are so far “all excited about going,” and should be on site in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for most of August.

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“Starting out each time, we have a lot of athletes who want to compete, so we start out with a broad list of who can make it and when it comes to qualification time, that’s when you get a final list of who gets to go,” Berry said. “And working with them is a process for the committee. You can’t make an Olympian in a year, so it has been years for us supporting many of them, and working with them to get to the programs they want to go to.”

The team took another step forward when they unveiled Tuesday drawings for their new uniform, which will be worn during this year’s opening ceremonies. Stepping up to support the effort was McDonald’s, which donated $3,000 to the V.I. Olympic Committee.

“McDonald’s is actually one of the big sponsors for the International Olympic Committee, they are a big part of the entire set of games, and they do their best to encourage their local franchises to support their respective committees,” Berry explained. “For our region, the headquarters is based in Puerto Rico, so they take care of about 20 different places, and they actually reached out to us to see how they could help.”

The uniforms bear the emblem of the committee, the soaring bird, and are matched with yellow shirts, and navy blazers, along with straw hats and madras headbands that are meant to showcase the U.S. Virgin Islands. The bands are sandy colored, while the team’s shoes are blue to signify the waters of the Caribbean.

Berry said McDonald’s will sell a Triple Winner burger in the weeks before the games, along with commemorative Olympic cups.

To continue the fundraising efforts, the V.I. Olympic Committee and champion Laurent will head to Mahogany Run this Sunday for a “Scramble to Rio” tournament that will allow four-person teams to compete on the famous course.

“This raises general funds for the athletes as they prepare to head off,” Berry said. “We are all very excited about what they are doing, and Clayton, who is the only athlete on island right now, will also be there participating. He’s definitely considered a contender going in.”

Berry said the organization continues to pass along news about water quality issues and other concerns surrounding this year’s games, and said that so far, no one has said they would withdraw.

Since last year, concerns about Rio’s water being affected by high levels of pollution and bacteria have been repeatedly reported in the news, but so far, many of the athletes – including Thompson, the team’s sailor – have already gotten in some training time on site and still remain determined to compete.

“The water quality issues only affect those athletes competing in open water,” Berry said. “Our swimmers are in pools, so there’s not a worry there, and Cy was there training for two weeks in June, has since come back and is feeling good."

"We are being cautious, we are giving them all the information we can get, but so far, no one has said that they would not be going.”

Those who want to get involved or get more information about the team can visit the website at http://www.virginislandsolympics.org/. 

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