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Preserving the past: USOPMuseum partners with StoryCorps

As she retired from competitive diving following the Munich 1972 Olympic Games, Micki King saw that fellow American Jennifer Chandler as the heir apparent. But King never spoke to Chandler about it – until this week, when the two Olympic gold medalists sat down with longtime U.S. Diving Team coach Ron O’Brien as part of an oral history project at the U.S. Olympian & Paralympian Reunion in Colorado Springs.

In conjunction with the Reunion, the soon-to-open U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum partnered with nationally-recognized StoryCorps to conduct and preserve meaningful conversations between the athletes, coaches and/or family members.

StoryCorps interviews are 40 minutes of uninterrupted, meaningful conversation between people who know each other or share common experiences. The conversations are then archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Select stories will be shared with the public through StoryCorps’ weekly podcast, NPR broadcasts and more.

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame Class of 2019 members Candace Cable and Erin Popovich review a list of potential conversation topics as they prepare for their StoryCorps conversation.
U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame Class of 2019 members Candace Cable and Erin Popovich review a list of potential conversation topics as they prepare for their StoryCorps conversation.

“What a wonderful way for these amazing athletes to share their stories so that the next generation of athletes and those that follow can learn from their successes and triumphs,” U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum Chief Executive Officer Christopher Liedel said. “We are very appreciative of our partnership with StoryCorps and thankful for our athletes being generous with their time and stories.”

That was the thought that resonated with King, who noted that her conversation with Chandler and O’Brien flowed easily and provided the opportunity for them to discuss their experiences. O’Brien was part of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame Class of 2019 that was inducted at a ceremony on Friday night.

“Seeing Jennifer years after and talking about how that worked was really fun,” King said. “I hoped that it would be as casual as it was. Clearly it was easy and because it was easy and comfortable, we were able to let our feelings come without feeling like we had to be careful with what we said.”

Preserving history is important, King said.

“It’s actually critical,” King said. “Too much of what is going on today could get lost or forgotten. And let’s just say it, people aren’t reading as much as they used to. Having this taped and having it reachable is really important. Today’s young kids need to know what was laid in front of them, to prepare to move forward. So this is really big.”

Swimmers John Naber and Gary Hall Sr. competed together in the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games and participated in a StoryCorps conversation together.

“I learned stuff about Gary that I had no idea about,” Naber said. “It made me realize this is a bigger deal than I thought it was going to be. This isn’t just a guy with a tape recorder. This is someone with a mission of getting a recording of real-life happenings. Being interviewed by a friend allowed me to really open up.”

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