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Track & Field Hall of Fame Opens in New York - 2004-03-20

New York, home to some of the world's most famous musuems, welcomes another one, a sports hall of fame. Although the recently opened National Track & Field Hall of Fame in New York pays homage to these top athletes, its message is aimed at a much wider audience.

They are the men and women who have sprinted, jumped and thrown their way to athletic victories. Now their achievements are being celebrated in a new National Track & Field Hall of Fame in New York.

From the moment visitors enter the Hall of Fame, they are immersed in the world of track and field. Painted onto the floors are a track, as well as world record distances in long jump, triple jump and the shotput.

The museum's theme - "A Sport for Everyone" - is prominently displayed just past the entrance. Keats Myer, director of the Hall of Fame, says the life-sized photographs of people, ranging from Olympians to everyday athletes, pay tribute to the inclusiveness of sport.

"We want people to come in and be turned on to not only track and field but being healthy," said Keats Myer. "So a child can come in and they can see other people their age running. But they can also see, whether its running or whatever it is, there's a spirit of achievement."

That spirit of achievement is highlighted in several interactive exhibits.

There's the History Gallery, showcasing track and field's greatest moments through the decades. Sprinkled throughout the Hall of Fame are artifacts from the sport's most-celebrated athletes. Here visitors can see the javelin belonging to Olympic decathalon and pentathalon champion Jim Thorpe, a singlet or tank-top owned by Wilma Rudolph, the first American woman runner to win three Olympic gold medals, and the Nike shoes that Carl Lewis, who is considered one of the greatest track and field athletes ever, wore when he won the long jump gold medal at the 1996 Olympics.

One of the most popular features of the museum is an interactive exhibit called "What Makes a Champion," which takes visitors through the physical, mental, emotional and nutritional preparation of top athletes. There is an interactive video, where visitors can ask their favorite athlete questions. Take Olympic running champion Marion Jones, who talks about what she eats and drinks before a competition.

"I try not to eat anything for four hours prior to a competition," she said. "Four hours prior to a race, I like my system to be totally empty, totally flushed out when i'm standing behind the blocks so I feel the lightest."

Other video exhibits give visitors a tour inside the minds of top athletes

And from Hall of Famers themselves, like Larry Young, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist in the 50-kilometer walk.

"This is certainly inspiring," he said. "I wish I had had something like this when I was growing up as a young athlete, you betcha."

The names of Hall of Fame inductees like Larry Young, are etched onto a glass wall overlooking a track where young athletes practice and compete.

Keats Myer from the Hall of Fame explains how this connects track and field's past glories with future achievements.

"The idea is that you're looking at past generations into the future," said Keats Myers. "So the kids out there, someday, are gonna be on this wall."

For the not so competitive, there is a interactive map which celebrates the history of marathons in the United States. A 13-meter- long floor map, with the New York City Marathon outlined on it allows visitors to experience this world-famous race as they walk the course and hear the sounds, just as if they're running in the actual marathon.

This is the Hall of Fame's third home in its 30-year existence. It was founded in Charleston, West Virginia, moved to Indianapolis and finally settled New York in an historic Armory building, which also houses a track and field center. Renovations to the 100-year-old building to create the 1,400-square-meter Hall of Fame took three years and cost more than $8 million. But the result, a juxtaposition of state-of-the-art high-tech design elements with old architecture, reflects the mission of museum - to celebrate sports history and inspire future generations of sportsmen and women.