Why there are so many Arizonan Olympic athletes

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A number of Arizona athletes have earned medals at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. Indeed, many Olympic athletes train in Arizona due to the state’s climate, altitude changes and training facilities. We talked about Arizona’s place in the Olympics with ASU sports historian Victoria Jackson.

We started by asking why Arizona is such a hot bed for Olympic athletes.

“I think that the cities that have the universities that make up the pack12 conference are especially hot beds for developing Olympians,” Jackson said. 

We asked if the climate might have something to do with this trend.

Jackson said that they used to joke by saying, “how do athletes on their recruiting visits not instantaneously commit, especially when they’re coming from the northeast or midwest when their visits are in January.”

Jackson believes that this is a great place for so many Olympic sports to train. 

“There’s an opportunity to train alongside post colligate Olympians,” Jackson said. 

Jackson explained that two of their coaches from the swim program did compete in the Olympics in previous years and earned medals in Tokyo. 

“One of the best approaches to distance training is to live high, train high, but also train low,” Jackson. “For that setup, there’s nothing better than what we have here.”

Jackson explained that it’s a quick drive down to Sedona from Flagstaff for middle training, and another quick drive down to Phoenix for something closer to sea level. We see a lot of post-collegiate athletes come to these different areas to work on their training at all different altitudes.

We asked if Arizona is a model for other states.

“The four Pac-12 schools in California are a bit ahead of us, that’s not to say that Arizona shouldn’t be right alongside that,” Jackson said. 

Jackson explained that many of the world’s athletes are coming to develop through our systems now. 

ASU sports historian Victoria Jackson

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