Just because New York lost its Olympic bid a few years ago doesn’t mean the city lacks Olympians or Olympic spirit. There are several spots around town where you can get close and personal with the kind of grit, courage and athleticism the Games require. Here’s our six favorite spots to find Olympians and catch the Olympic spirit in New York. By Jessica Allen.
More: Best Public Pools In NYC
The city’s largest public pool is located in Astoria Park. Qualifying events in swimming and diving for the Summer Olympics of 1936, 1952, and 1964 were held here, and swimmers Jack Medica and Adolph Keifer went from Queens to Berlin to capture the gold in 1936. Although the diving pool is under construction/renovation, the swimming pool and stadium-style seating remain, offering amazing views of the Robert F. Kennedy and Hell’s Gate Bridges.
Home to the New York Knicks and the New York Liberty, Madison Square Garden hosts more than its fair share of extraordinary athletes (and musicians and comedians and performers) just about every day. Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony will be representing the United States in men’s basketball in Rio, while the Liberty’s center Tina Charles will play on the U.S. women’s team for the second time. Learn more about the arena by taking an all-access guided tour (reservations and tickets required).
What do Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Joie Ray, and Fortune Gordien have in common? They’ve all been inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. Located at the New Balance Track & Field Center, the museum is a testament to the athleticism of runners, jumpers, shot-putters and others. You can wander the 40-foot-long Wall of Fame or take a stroll around the miniature replica of the New York City Marathon’s 26.2-mile course. Great for kids and die-hard fans alike, the museum talks at length about the hard work and dedication required to compete at this level.
In 1991, Olympic medalist and saber fencer Peter Westbrook created a foundation “that uses the sport of fencing to enrich the lives of young people from underserved communities in the New York metropolitan area.” Since then, more than 4,000 kids have learned the fine art of wielding a very, very sharp stick, among them Ibtihaj Muhammad and Nzingha Prescod, who will represent the US in fencing at the 2016 Summer Olympics. A devout Muslim, Muhammad is thought to be the first American Olympian in any sport to compete while wearing a hijab.
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After they represent the U.S. in Rio, tennis greats like Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, CoCo Vandeweghe, Brian Baker, Steve Johnson, and Jack Sock will be heading to Queens, along with a slew of other tremendously talented individuals. This year’s U.S. Open, the fourth and final tournament in the Grand Slam, will take place from August 29 to September 11 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (tickets are required, and sell out fast). If you can’t make the tournament, head to one of the stadium’s regularly scheduled walking tours.
It’s not too early to sign up for “Freezin for a Reason,” the annual December fundraiser for Special Olympics New York. The Special Olympics seeks to “provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-style sports for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities[,] giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of skills and friendship.” Check the calendar for other events throughout the year.