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US Olympians Train at Beijing University

Many of the U.S. Olympic athletes are training at Beijing Normal University, a facility that is outside the control of the official Olympic organizers. As VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer reports, the large downtown campus provides great flexibility and comfort for the Americans when they are not competing.

For the second straight Summer Olympic Games, the United States Olympic Committee has rented space at a local university not only to provide housing for staff, personal coaches and training partners, but more importantly better practice opportunities for American athletes.

"It's kind of a home field advantage away from home," USOC's Bob Condron explained. "We started it in Athens at the American College of Greece, but not to this extent. We have 22 teams training here in Beijing. It's [a] place for them to train on their own time, at their own pace. It's good, excellent facilities at Beijing Normal University."

Local students are still going to class, but it's a brand new recreation center that the Americans are using. It includes such things as a gymnasium, for both basketball and volleyball, a modern weight room, and a swimming pool. The Americans are also using the athletics track and soccer field.

U.S. women's basketball star Lisa Leslie, a three-time gold medalist, told VOA the university is an ideal place to prepare for their games.

"It's just been really good," she said. "We've had a chance to get in the ice tank, obviously, and have some snacks here, and the people have just been so awesome. So this facility has been really great for us. It enables us to practice without interruption."

U.S water polo player Moriah van Norman says there are other benefits to training at Beijing Normal University.

"It's a huge advantage for the U.S. athletes to have our own facility, considering we can practice plays," she said. "We can have a normal practice like we would back at home, whereas the other teams are sharing pool time, they don't have has much pool time. It's a huge, huge advantage for the U.S. athletes in all areas."

Bob Condron said the cost to the USOC to house about 200 people and use of the recreation complex was about $3 million, but it is well worth it.

"It's a fantastic site," he said. "We could house here. The training partners stay here. It's a great training facility. It's probably pretty close to a Division I University in the United States. So easy, a very easy choice for the U.S. Olympic Commmittee and BNU to be a partner."

No doubt some of the U.S athletes who are winning medals will credit the use of Beijing Normal University for part of their success.