By Alex Kartman | BSU at the Games
The sounds of children laughing and screaming for joy usually echo throughout playgrounds at recess.
However earlier last week, those joyful noises flooded the USA Track and Field team’s training grounds in Birmingham, England, as thousands of local primary school children flocked to a local field day with the athletes.
Children and some of the world’s elite athletes played sports ranging from lawn tennis, javelin, soccer and boxing.
Three Olympians – Craig Kinsley (javelin), Jarred Rome (discus) and Lance Brooks (discus) – joined Birmingham primary school children, playing games while also signing autographs.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity for the kids to get out and meet other kids and just be active,” Brooks said. “That’s a big part of growing up. It’s fun to see their faces as you walk around and participate with them.
“They don’t really know what do at first. Then you play with them a little bit and it’s like I’m a cool kid. A big little kid.”
Kinsley participated in several English sports before he found familiarity in the form of his native Olympic sport – the javelin.
“I see people throwing foam javelins and I knew I was in my comfort zone,” Kinsley said. “It was a good time. We had a good little competition.”
One might expect the athletes to be in the heat of their actual training, but fun and games have their place.
As hundreds of U.S. athletes arrive into the United Kingdom, it sometimes takes days to adjust to the new time zone. Most athletes battle jet lag before returning to normal routines, making activities around the community great transitional events into the Olympic Games.
“You’re going to be about a week in before you get back into your routine,” Brooks said. “That’s why we come over so early so we can have fun, do stuff like this, see the locals, and interact with everybody.”
According to Kinsley the relationship between Olympians and communities around England are mutual.
“Great Britain is appreciating me significantly more than I have ever been appreciated, so this is unbelievable. They really know their track and field, and they’ve been incredibly hospitable.”
The entire country’s appreciation shined through the smiles of the school children.
“We come out here and actually get to be appreciated by a bunch of kids,” Kinsley said. “Hopefully they are enjoying the experience as well.”
By early next week, the laughs and the chants of children will fade, but these Olympians soak in every moment England provides.
“It’s natural,” USA Track and Field assistant coach Tom Pukstys said. “What you’re seeing is natural from our guys. They’re really enjoying it. I think it’s imperative that they to come over with that mindset. They are grateful to be Olympians, but these moments keep you in touch with the community and ground you to make you understand how special it is to be an Olympian.”
Events in track and field are slated to begin August 3 at Olympic Park in London.