The 2014 Winter Olympics begin in Sochi on February 7th and end February 23rd. Sochi expects over 2,500 athletes representing 90 different countries to compete in fifteen sports. Team USA is made up of 105 women and 125 men, including 106 returning Olympians and thirteen Olympic champions. Returning American stars Shaun White, Shani Davis, Julia Mancuso, Kelly Clark and Ted Ligety and newcomers Mikaela Shiffrin and Sarah Hendrickson will all be competing for the Olympic Gold.
The Paralympic Winter Games will also be held in Sochi from March 7th to March 16th. Nearly 700 athletes will compete over nine days in five sports. The US enters the Games with two of the top-ranked men in the world, Evan Strong and Mike Shea, for the inaugural snowboard cross competition.
We have an amazing team of athletes, in part, due to the efforts of several charities. For example, the United States Olympic Committee is responsible for the training, entering and funding of the US Team for the Olympic Games; the US Bobsled and Skeleton Federation fields and supports the bobsled and skeleton teams for the Winter Olympic Games; and the Adaptive Sports Foundation provides a twelve-week residential competition program for Paralympic eligible athletes.
Beyond those charities that help promising athletes fulfill their Olympic dreams, there are many that exist to promote engagement in specific sports and others that use sports as a way to transform and improve lives. For example, the International Mountain Bicycling Association works to create, enhance and preserve trails for mountain bikers. The National Ability Center helps build self-esteem, confidence and physical development among people of all ages and abilities, including those with orthopedic, spinal cord, neuromuscular, visual and hearing impairments. Similarly, the various chapters of the Special Olympics provide children and adults with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship.
The list to the right includes the above mentioned charities and many more examples of charities that support Olympic competitors, promote specific sports and encourage physical fitness.