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Olympians look to ASU as top training site

Several Rio-bound Olympians chose ASU as the perfect place to train.
August 4, 2016

Swimmers, other athletes refined techniques in Tempe before heading to Rio

There was no mistaking the hyper-attenuated form of Michael Phelps on the pool deck at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center, but he was not the only Rio-bound Olympian on campus this past year.

Phelps, the greatest swimmer ever, helped to draw attention to Arizona State University as a perfect place to train for the Olympics, telling ASU Now in January: “I swam indoors my whole career. Once we moved here, that’s when it sunk in that I have a clearer head when I’m outside. Being able to see the sun every day is something that’s beneficial.”

Phelps — who has been chosen as the U.S. flag bearer for the opening ceremony — is in Rio de Janeiro now for his fifth Olympic games, where he will compete in the butterfly and 200 individual medley. Three of his U.S. swimming teammates also trained at ASU: Chase Kalisz, who will compete in the 400 individual medley, and Cierra Runge and Allison Schmitt, both in the 800 free relay.

Besides the great facilities, the swimmers came to ASU to work with Bob Bowman, the personal coach of Phelps who is the head coach for the Sun Devils and the U.S. Olympic swim team. Another ASU coach who drew an Olympian to train here is Cliff English, who heads the Sun Devils’ new triathlon program. He is the personal coach of Australian triathlete Ashleigh Gentle, who came to ASU in July to train for two weeks before heading down to Rio.

Morghan King

Weight lifter Morghan King trained at ASU before heading to Rio de Janeiro to represent the United States at the Olympics. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Morghan King, a member of the U.S. women’s weight-lifting team, is from Washington state but spent the past few months training with the weights every day in the Carson Student Athlete Center at ASU with her Phoenix-based coach.

“When you’re in a place that looks like this, it’s hard not to succeed,” King said.

Top photo: Swimmer Michael Phelps prepared to compete in his fifth Olympics by training at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center at ASU with his coach Bob Bowman, who is the head coach of the U.S. swim team.

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Sprinting toward innovation at ASU

ASU graduate Jamol James earned a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics in London.
James ran for Trinidad and Tobago and was part of the 4x100 relay team.
August 4, 2016

Olympic medalist Jamol James has recently graduated magna cum laude and designed a new, customizable track shoe

In his time at Arizona State University, Olympic medalist Jamol James has graduated magna cum laude and designed an innovative track shoe with a spike pin that can be customized for any athlete.

It’s all part of a multifaceted approach that flourished at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, where James learned “to have an open mind about learning, since the ideas to address many real-world problems don't come from the tools themselves but your attitude, which affects your perception, which affects your capacity for knowledge retention, which further affects the outcome reality.”

James, a sprinter from Trinidad and Tobago, came to the U.S. as a student-athlete four years ago. His freshman year, he made his home nation's 2012 Olympic team and was a reserve on the 4x100 relay team that took bronze in London. He later transferred from the University of Tennessee to ASU as a junior and raced to multiple first-place finishes as a Sun Devil. In May, at the age of 23, he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in what is now called the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, James concentrated on design studies and digital culture, both of which are within the Herberger Institute.

Fittingly, James’ capstone project focused on track and field. He looked at shoes for track and came up with a way of designing a spike pin that can be customized “for everybody,” depending on their needs and the surface on which they’re running. He went to an orthopedic specialist, who pointed him in the direction of a company that manufactures pressure-sensor socks “that can sense where the different pressures in your feet are most dominant.” That way, the user can determine where the spike should go.

The shoe is now in the process of being manufactured, James said.

“The company I am working with, called Gear Up, is working on making it available to the public this coming January," he said. "So be on the lookout!”

In addition to being a designer, inventor and track star, James is also a music engineer and producer in his spare time.

James hopes to earn a professional track-and-field contract “sometime in the future. It's difficult when you are not able to get a contract as a means to support your training and continued development, so therefore it is on me to work and compete.”

He’s no stranger to putting his focus into multiple areas at once.

“Just know that even if I say I’m going to go do architecture after this, I don’t mean I’m going to just do architecture,” he said. “I’m going to be probably designing chairs, you know? Because I don’t want to just be seen as just a one-direction person.”

And because if there’s a better way to approach or design something, James is interested.

His website is j-sprint.com.