Going for the gold | August 8, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Newsfront - August 8, 2008

Going for the gold

Danville trainer at Beijing Olympics to keep U.S. athletes fit

by Meghan Neal

Last week Danville resident Derek Gallup, leading a group of trainers from all over the country, left for a 10-day trip to Beijing to help train Olympic athletes.

Gallup, vice president of fitness operations at 24 Hour Fitness, heads up the company's Beijing Olympics Fitness Ambassador program, which is sending 21 topnotch trainers to the Olympic Games, which begin today.

"It's one of those times when it's an opportunity to do something larger than yourself," he said shortly before leaving.

The trainers are there representing 24 Hour Fitness and representing the United States of America, he said. The company is an official sponsor of the 2008 games and a partner with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Out of 4,000 trainers nationwide, only the most educated, experienced and committed were chosen for the program. San Ramon resident Jennifer Avelino, an employee at 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport, was one of the lucky few.

She and her fellow applicants were asked to submit a testimonial of how they've changed people's lives through fitness. Gallup said in his 14 years with the company, "it was probably the most inspirational day that I've had - going through those stories."

Once the staff was chosen the group attended an intensive three-day preparation at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where they got to learn from the best instructors in the industry.

Some of the U.S. Olympians were there at the training center so the group got to mingle with them before the trip to Beijing.

"The athletes really welcomed us," said Gallup.

The trainers studied everything from sports psychology to cultural sensitivity, to prepare them for the trip halfway around the world.

There are many cultural differences to be mindful of, they learned. For example, in China the colors of the clothes a person wears are meaningful. The trainers' original uniforms were black and white, which signifies a death in the family.

"We quickly made some adjustments!" Gallup said.

The group learned to communicate carefully through the translator, because the same word spoken with a different tone can mean two different things, making it easy to accidentally offend someone. They were also introduced to the exotic side of Chinese food, like scorpions on a stick.

When the three days were up it was off to the High Performance Training Center in Beijing.

"It kind of has this look of a 24 Hour Fitness, but it's Olympic style," Gallup said.

The group of 21 shipped out in three shifts of seven, with a one-day overlap between crews.

The athletes arrived at the center in teams - swimming, boxing, sailing and so on - with their coaches leading the way. A tri-athlete himself, Gallup said he was excited to meet the tri-athlete Olympians, but added that he and the rest of the crew aren't there to be star struck.

"We are there to help the athletes stay as focused as possible on winning gold medals and achieving their dreams," he said. "That's what it's all about."

Gallup said he's always been passionate about fitness and encouraging others to live an active and healthy lifestyle.

"To me, other gyms are not the competition. The competition is the couch," he said.

Back home in Danville he gets up at 5 a.m. to bike or jog to work - part of trying to be a "greener athlete" - and he coaches his kids' soccer teams.

This year, he'll be watching the Olympic Games in a whole new light, having had a personal connection with the athletes, he said.

If all goes well, the company will host the program in 2010 at the Games in Vancouver and 2012 in London. So far, Gallup said he's only heard positive feedback from the Olympics committee.

"You can't ask for anything more than that," he said. "Except maybe gold medals."


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