Before Missy Franklin won four Olympic gold medals, she took home four medals in another competition — the Rocky Mountain State Games.
In 2008 at age 13, Franklin won four medals in the same pool at the U.S. Olympic Training Center where she would later train to represent her country. At that time, Franklin’s enormous star was just beginning to rise.
Others can begin their respective ascents as the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. opens the entry process Tuesday for the 2013 state games.
But while stars like Franklin, skeleton slider Katie Uhlaender (who competed in weightlifting) and shot putter/discus thrower Mason Finley (who Sports Corp. senior media consultant Mike Moran says is a “very, very hot prospect for 2016 in Rio de Janeiro”) show up, the state games are geared more for the more ordinary athlete.
“It’s for people of all ages and skill levels,” Sports Corp. president and CEO Tom Osborne said. “We want the weekend warriors to come out and participate as well as the elite athlete.”
More than 7,000 athletes have competed in each of the past two years and participation has grown since the games were begun in 2002 with 2,016 participants and 14 sports.
The 2012 games drew 7,103 athletes representing 133 cities and towns. The “Downtown Celebration”, which included an Olympic opening ceremony were attended by 20,000.
“For a lot of these athletes and their families this becomes their first ever visit to Colorado Springs,” Moran said. “They make this a mini vacation. They get to see things in Colorado Springs for the very first time.”
This year’s games, which will be held July 19-21 and 26-28, will feature 34 sports, most of which will be divided into multiple categories based on age and skill level. It will also include competition for physically disabled, visually impaired and Paralympic athletes.
To pull off such a large event, the Sports Corp. relies on 800-plus volunteers. These are drawn from all over the community and from the organizing bodies of the various sports.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of people’s jobs that depend on how well their volunteers do, but ours definitely do,” Doug Martin, the Sports Corp.’s chief operating officer, said. “We have to have the best volunteers we can get to run these events. The volunteers are critical.”
But most crucial are the participants themselves, and they span all skill levels and age ranges. As the Sports Corp.’s tag line says — “from 6 to 96 years old.”
“What’s really great about the state games it that it’s a family event,” Osborne said. “The father can be in the 5K, the kids are in the swimming events, the mother’s playing tennis and then at the end of the day they get together and it’s, ‘Oh, how’d you do?’”
If you’re Missy Franklin, you answer “pretty well.”
The Rocky Mountain State Games will feature 35 sports with multiple competitive categories in each based on age and skill level.
Soccer (high school)
Track & field
* New for 2013
Register at RockyMountainStateGames.org