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With 100 days before the Paris Olympics, Team USA hopefuls meet the press

Boxer Morelle McCane speaks to reporters at the Team USA Media Summit on Monday in New York City.
Dustin Satloff
/
Getty Images for the USOPC
Boxer Morelle McCane speaks to reporters at the Team USA Media Summit on Monday in New York City.

NEW YORK — In 100 days, Paris will kick off the 2024 Summer Olympic Games with the opening ceremony. As the host city enters the final stretch of preparations, much has yet to be finalized.

The plan for an ambitious opening ceremony on July 26 — in which athletes float down the iconic Seine River bisecting the city — is set to be the first held outside a stadium, although it could move locations for security reasons. And only a small fraction of athletes have found out whether they are headed to Paris.

Buzz around the Games grew louder in New York this week, where U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials and athlete hopefuls gathered to talk about how they're preparing during the countdown.

Here are some other takeaways from the Team USA media summit.

Athletes prepare for a moment that may never come

Hopefuls spend years training but most won't know until after qualifying events — for some, in the final few weeks before Paris — whether they've secured their spot on the Olympic team. Andrew Capobianco, a diver who competed at the Tokyo Games in 2021 is trying not to focus on the potential heartbreak.

"I probably would have been more overwhelmed if it was maybe before my first one," he said. "But I guess, for me, it's just — stick with the plan and train hard every day."

For some veterans, unexpected hurdles since past appearances have forced a reset of regimens and time-intensive training. A year after Tokyo gold medalist gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee learned she had two types of kidney diseases, she says she is now "in remission."

"I'm feeling really good," she said. "We have it under control now and like, now I know what to do and right medicine to take in order to keep going."

To get her health sorted out, she took a break from her sport, which meant time spent regaining the strength she had lost. "I couldn't do any exercising and I couldn't even get out of bed most days," she said.

Gymnast Suni Lee speaks during the Team USA Media Summit on Monday. "I couldn't do any exercising and I couldn't even get out of bed most days," she said, discussing her kidney disease diagnosis.
Dustin Satloff / Getty Images for the USOPC
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Getty Images for the USOPC
Gymnast Suni Lee speaks during the Team USA Media Summit on Monday. "I couldn't do any exercising and I couldn't even get out of bed most days," she said, discussing her kidney disease diagnosis.

She and Simone Biles, Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey are among those hoping to clinch a spot in Paris.

Athletes harped on their need for consistency in their workouts, diets and sleep in the run-up to the Games. But that's easier said than done when most athletes don't make a living in their sport. Beyond the high-level competitions, many athletes hold day jobs and side gigs.

But this year, some athletes will see a return on their investment with a new opportunity to cash in. Each track and field gold medalist will be awarded $50,000 by the sport's governing body World Athletics — the first time an international federation has offered prize money to Olympic medalists.

An emphasis on security

Athletes who say pandemic restrictions dampened their experiences in Tokyo and Beijing are looking forward to having back family, friends and fanfare.

This year, officials said they're imposing no COVID restrictions or vaccination requirements for American athletes, beyond the normal health protocols for things like flu.

Officials say security is top of mind this year. Paris has been the target of terror attacks in the past. Heightening safety fears, these Games will happen against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as well as Israel at war in Gaza fighting Hamas.

USOPC Chief of Security Nicole Deal says there are no current specific threats against American athletes, but that security will be comprehensive and tight. Athletes, who will be competing in events across France, will get security briefings and have access to apps with security alerts, she added.

Sarah Hirshland, CEO of United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, speaks during the Team USA Media Summit on Monday.
Dustin Satloff / Getty Images for the USOPC
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Getty Images for the USOPC
Sarah Hirshland, CEO of United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, speaks during the Team USA Media Summit on Monday.

A big push for gender equality

The International Olympic Committee has made an effort to make the Games more inclusive. As of Monday, only about 15% of the Team USA roster has been named, USOPC officials said. But already the IOC has touted unprecedented achievements in gender equality for the 2024 games. Paris will see an even split of male and female participants, officials said.

Meanwhile, yet another stir over athlete uniforms has renewed charges of prevailing double standards. Nike's unveiling of this year's U.S. women's track and field uniforms reignited criticism over designs that sexualize female athletes. Fans and athletes panned the high-cut bodysuit.

Gold medalist pole vaulter Katie Moon expressed concern for the revealing silhouette but clarified that the design is just one of the uniform options available to women. During the Tokyo Games, German gymnasts traded their bikini-cut leotards in favor of long-legged unitards, in a statement about women athletes choosing what they're comfortable in.

Criticizing an outfit design that other athletes may prefer is not the answer, Moon said in a social media post. "The point is we DO have the choice of what to wear, and whether we feel the best in a potato sack or a bathing suit during competitions, we should support the autonomy."

Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the USOPC, addressed the issue on Monday, saying she supports athletes having attire options.

"We want to make sure athletes have choices that they're comfortable in," she told reporters.

In an institution known for its curveballs as much as tradition, one thing is certain. Asked about pregame superstitions on a panel of female athletes, soccer player Emily Sonnett said banana pancakes areher "must-have."

"If you don't have bananas that day, what are you gonna do?" asked her teammate Crystal Dunn.

"But we always have bananas," Sonnett retorted.

NPR's Brian Mann and Juana Summers contributed to this story. contributed to this story

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Members of the U.S. Men's and Women's Soccer teams, including (L-R) John Tolkin, Rose Lavelle, Crystal Dunn and Emily Sonnett, discuss their preparation and planning ahead of the Paris Olympics.
Dustin Satloff / Getty Images for the USOPC
/
Getty Images for the USOPC
Members of the U.S. Men's and Women's Soccer teams, including (L-R) John Tolkin, Rose Lavelle, Crystal Dunn and Emily Sonnett, discuss their preparation and planning ahead of the Paris Olympics.

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