Team USA Looks to Gain National Attention at the 28th World University Games

Team USA Looks to Gain National Attention at the 28th World University Games

By: Lizzy Whitbeck | FISU Young Reporters Program

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Gwangju, South Korea marks the site of the 28th Summer World University Games, July 3- July 14. It is a celebration of competition, education, culture and sportsmanship of student-athletes from respected universities all over the globe organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU).

Gwangju has promised to deliver an ‘EPIC’ experience for athletes, spectators, and for the city itself. The Universiade will be a reflection of the ‘Eco-friendliness, Peace, IT and Culture’ that embraces the history and dedication Gwangju has for the games.

The 12-day competition will include 20,000 athletes, coaches, staff, and volunteers from 170 countries. Because Gwangju is the host city, they hold the rights for all media and major decisions, including what sporting events will compete. This year’s games will be the first time in history the USA Team will have representation in all 21 sports that have been selected by the host city.

Representation in every sport was not always the case for the US. Prior to 2011, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) had the duty of reporting to each National Governing Body (NGB) in request for a team to be put together for the games. Depending on funds and various other factors, the NGB’s ultimately decided if the USA would be represented in a sport.

In an effort to increase representation, the United States International Sports Federation teamed up with BTI Events, located in Seattle, Washington. Partnering with BTI Events was a game-changer for USA Teams, increasing both awareness and participation of the games. Today, representation for a sport is not lost if the NGB cannot send a team. Instead, BTI Events sends out a request for athletes or a team to universities, conferences, and all-star teams across the country.

“This new process opens an opportunity for smaller sports,” said Nels Hawkinson, Executive Director of BTI Events. “The World University Games are an opportunity for athletes to compete at an international level, who otherwise would not have had the chance.”

Student-athletes are able to compete internationally, thanks to the efforts of BTI Events collaborating with the NCAA. This change in rules and regulations allows student-athletes to compete at an international level without violating NCAA eligibility, saying that student-athletes may only take one international tour every four years.

“Gwangju will be the third time the USA Team will send teams and individuals through this new structure,” Hawkinson said. “With an increase in participation we are hoping that awareness of the games will pick up momentum in years to come.”

Athletes eligible for participation must between the ages of 17 and 28 who are currently enrolled in at least three credit hours, have been enrolled within the past year, or are working towards advancement in their degree. The US will have a representation of 550 people, which will be the largest team in US history yet. The previous Games hosted in Kazan, Russia brought a group of 400 athletes and staff.

Second to the Olympics, the World University Games has been a platform for many famous American athletes. Elite athletes who have represented the US in the past are Michael Johnson (track), Charles Barkley and Larry Bird (men’s basketball), Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps (swimming), and Lisa Leslie (women’s basketball).

Coverage of the World University Games will be on ESPNU and ESPN3. Viewers can also follow @WUGUSA on Twitter for updates on the games.