How Two Mustachioed Men Left A Legacy For The Pikes Peak Region

*Note: This audio essay first aired on KRCC (Colorado Springs’ NPR affiliate, 91.5 FM) on March 4, 2021. The link to the program is here; the audio file and the text from the essay are below.

William Jackson Palmer and Pierre de Coubertin would have gotten along like two hogs in the cool mud on a hot day. 

Both were visionaries, both walked the earth at the same time, and both left us a legacy we can still appreciate here in the Pikes Peak region.

Coubertin is the “father” of the modern Olympic movement, which gave us in Colorado Springs the opportunity to add our most cherished nickname, “Olympic City USA.”

Visitors who spend time at the United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum (USOPM) are likely blown away by what a titan the 5-foot-3-inch Coubertin was. His personal motto declared to the world, “see farther, speak frankly, act firmly” — and that he did.

The evidence is right in front of us. 

The home of the U.S. Olympic movement is here in Colorado Springs, a home base for the more than 12,000 athletes that have ever worn the U.S. uniform. According to the USOPM, 191 of them have been Coloradans, and so many more have trained here. 

There’s the support team too. At the museum, you’re treated to a wall-spanning, life-sized image of the training staff, including coaches, docs and dieticians, and even a “team mom” for the onsite dorm, who looks like she’s trained her entire life for that role.

Pinned on the nearby wall map is the Manitou Incline, which has become a rite of passage for athletes like Apolo Ohno, the women’s gold medal-winning hockey team, and some of America’s most determined, like Paralympic skier Tyler Walker, who climbed it on his hands, as he put it, “just because it’s there.”

Palmer passed in 1909, and Coubertin died in 1937.

Palmer built us a city. Coubertin then came along and inspired our Olympic City’s soul. 

Until our next mountainside chat—be good, be well, and no matter what, climb on.

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