Kate Anderson is a self-confessed “Olympics nerd”. An athletics manager with the US Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) for the last four years, the 26-year-old from Minneapolis has been steeped in the values of the Olympic Games from a very early age, thanks to her sport-loving father.
Her love for all things Olympic knows no bounds. Whether it is watching the marathon on TV, seeing snowboard legend Shaun White win gold in the flesh, or checking out the respective merits of candidate cities, Kate lives the Olympic Games with a passion, one she has been able to pursue as part of her job with the USSA.
A Young Change-Maker (YCM) for Team USA at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Lillehammer 2016, Kate was also on duty at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 as part of the USSA’s Family and Friends Programme, and will be returning to the YOG in Buenos Aires later this year.
More than sport
In making a valuable contribution to the Olympic Movement, Kate has been able to marry her values and interests with her love of sport. A keen volleyball player and a lover of travel, she is also a firm believer in community spirit and helping others.
She has been putting those ideas into practice by participating in a YCM+ initiative with US-based non-profit organisation Hope Sports, taking a group of athletes to Mexico every year to build new homes for underprivileged families.
Explaining what the Olympic Games and Olympism mean to her on a personal level, she says: “Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of giving back and bringing people together, and that’s why the Olympics are something that I’ve always really connected with, that spirit of bringing people together and the idea of the whole world stopping for this one event.
“It’s always been really fascinating to me. The Olympics takes it further than just sport. It’s about sharing cultures and helping others, which has always resonated with me. It’s all about using sport to bridge gaps and cross cultural divides.”
As part of her activities with the USSA, she has also seen how the Olympic Games can impact on others, even in theatres of conflict: “At our annual meeting we had a retired army ranger come speak to us about how when he was in Iraq and in Kuwait they would stop for the Olympics. So it’s not just people sitting on their couch at home; it’s servicemen and women out risking their lives. It’s important to them. They look up to the athletes and the Olympic Movement as well.”
“My first real Olympic Movement memories came when I was growing up. My dad went to see the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo and that was always my favourite story. He was living in London at the time and he and his buddy just said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s hop on the train, go behind the Iron Curtain’. They spent USD 20 on tickets and went to every ice hockey game they wanted.”
Perhaps Mr Anderson was hoping for a repeat of the “Miracle on Ice” of four years earlier in Lake Placid, when an amateur USA side defied the biggest of odds by beating the mighty Soviet Union to gold. He had, after all, got his hands on one of those very gold medals, as Kate explains: “I’m from Minnesota, as are some of the players from the team. My aunt married one of them, Eric Strobel, and I have pictures of my dad when he was a teenager wearing his gold medal. Miracle (which tells the story of that epic triumph) also happens to be my favourite movie of all time.”
Watching the greats
In attending her first Games in Lillehammer, Kate had the good fortune to see the incomparable Chloe Kim soar to glory in the snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle. That experience has been bettered only by seeing the great Shaun White claim his third halfpipe gold at PyeongChang 2018, her favourite Olympic moment of them all, along with the Miracle on Ice of course.
“He was one of the first Olympians that I looked up to, and I connected with his story,” she explains. “So to be there in person to see someone who had been a childhood idol of mine, and to see him win, was pretty amazing.”
Like father, like daughter
Kate already has her sights set on a trip to Beijing 2022: “I would love to be there and we’re already talking about it in our office. It’s a long way off, but not in our minds. And I can’t wait to see where the Games go for 2026. I always watch that closely too. My dad and I are total Olympic nerds and we have conversations about what candidate cities have to offer. For me, the Olympics have always been a family affair.”
Though her father has always been a track and field aficionado, Kate now has him following skiing and snowboarding too. The two are also confirmed Usain Bolt fans. And as you might expect, Mr Anderson is proud that his daughter is very much a part of the Olympic Movement: “He always wants to know the ‘behind the scenes’ stories and he enjoys hearing about what some of the top athletes are like when they’re not competing or on-camera. Spoiler alert: they’re all really genuine and fun people.”
She adds: “At the end of the day, he’s just really proud of me for chasing my dreams and it feels great to know I have both his and my mum’s complete support.”
“Being in Lillehammer and PyeongChang has absolutely given me a different perspective on life,” continues Kate, reflecting on what the Games have brought her. “I think that being exposed to so many different types of people and cultures has taught me to be more open to change and taking risks. I’m also inspired on a daily basis by the amazing things Olympians are doing, both on and off the field of play. They raise the profile of their sport and bring attention to causes they are passionate about. I try to bring that same passion and level of excitement into everything I do.
“I feel fortunate to have discovered my true passion at such a young age, and to be able to live it every day. I see myself remaining in the Olympic world for years to come, and I can’t wait to see what new opportunities arise.”
I’m also inspired on a daily basis by the amazing things Olympians are doing, both on and off the field of playKate Anderson
In the immediate future, however, comes Olympic Day on 23 June, an occasion she will be celebrating, like many others around the world: “I’ll be heading to the Utah Olympic Park, which is the major training venue for a lot of our athletes and has the 2002 Museum. They have a lot of local Olympians that come on Olympic Day to give speeches and meet the public.
“They always have a really fun celebration going on and it’s really awesome to see local Olympians get involved and see them inspire the next generation. Usually I’d want to be involved, but it’s fun sometimes to just step back and be a fan.”
As 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of Olympic Day, this year the International Olympic Committee is celebrating through United By, which recognises the people who make sport happen every day for themselves, their families, friends and communities.