Building Bridges Forms V.I. Junior Olympic Team

Building Bridges began in summer 2002 after the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. It was my best attempt to thank my first sponsors, the St. John Rotary Club and some of its members, for helping launch my Olympic Skeleton career. I wanted to take talented athletes from the V.I. to Europe and Japan and enroll them into Olympic sports camps and see what winter sports these V.I. summer athletes could master. Having traveled to 52 countries during my eight-year skeleton career, I wanted other athletes to have the Olympic opportunities I was blessed with and to experience all the facilities and venues throughout the world that I had seen.

Since then, almost six years now, we have moved 78 athletes to 12 different countries to participate in 36 Olympic Camps by means of 18 trips to America, Europe and Japan. We’ve also hosted Olympic athletes from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, America and Japan here in the Virgin Islands, including 2002 Skeleton Gold Medalist Tristan Gayle, for a two week sailing trip.

Since this time the need for future athletes to represent the Virgin Islands in upcoming Olympic Games has grown greater. With over 72 Olympic events, we are involved in only six. Every country that is represented in the Olympics has an Olympic Development Program or a Junior Olympics Team except the Virgin Islands.

Building Bridges was the closest thing to this kind of program. So it was decided that after this race season we will work toward creating an official Virgin Islands Olympic Development Program or a Virgin Islands Junior Olympics Team. The athletes rewarded with participation in this International Sports School will be the Athlete of the Year from each high school in the territory. By using this selection process we are assured of the student’s age, 16-18; athletic skills (the best in their school); academic level (which must be A-B average); and most important, their desire to make a career in sports and/or represent their nation the V.I. in the Olympic Games. Building Bridges (soon to be the V.I. Junior Olympic Team) is designed to build international athletes from our talented students of the Virgin Islands.

Troy Billingtom